Chinese online retail behemoth Alibaba has rolled out its streaming video subscription service in China. The move is aimed at further expanding Alibaba’s presence in entertainment. According to Tech in Asia, the Netflix-like streaming service has become available to some users of Alibaba set-top boxes and smart TVs after the company pushed an update to those devices on Tuesday.
TBO to cost $57 a year
Alibaba had announced in June that it would redefine home entertainment by launching Tmall Box Office or TBO. The unlimited video streaming platform would offer a mix of in-house and third-party content. TBO will also offer domestic and foreign movies and TV shows via its partnership with Lionsgate. The e-commerce giant’s entertainment unit Alibaba Pictures has been involved in producing several movies.
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The TBO service costs users 39 yuan ($6) per month for unlimited viewing. An annual subscription would cost 365 yuan ($57). By comparison, Netflix charges $7.99 per month to users in North America. An Alibaba representative said in a statement that the TBO was in beta launch phase, and it was rolled out to some models of the Tmall Box. Users can pay for the service via their Alipay wallet.
Video streaming has been immensely popular in China, but most people in the country watch movies and shows for free. According to Variety, China’s two largest video streaming sites iQiyi and Youku Tudou could convert only 1% of their total viewers into paying subscribers.
Alibaba teams up with China’s Pixar
In April, Alibaba Pictures acquired Guangdong Yueke, China’s largest movie ticketing platform. Yueke will provide TBO valuable insights into what type of content consumers would pay for. TBO’s biggest advantage over rivals would be its original programming.
Earlier this week, Alibaba Pictures teamed up with Light Chaser Animation Studio to invest in the upcoming movie from the start-up. Light Chaser, often seen as China’s answer to Pixar, was founded in 2013 by Gary Wang, who had also founded the online video site Tudou. Alibaba Pictures will be the primary distributor of the animated movie Little Door Gods.