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China’s Alibaba sets entertainment deal with Lionsgate

File photo of Alibaba founder Jack Ma/AFP

File photo of Alibaba founder Jack Ma/AFP

Alibaba and US-based entertainment company Lionsgate on Tuesday announced plans for a movie and television streaming service in mainland China, as the Chinese Internet giant expands beyond its e-commerce core.

Alibaba, whose flagship site Taobao holds more than 90 percent of China’s online consumer-to-consumer market, is preparing for a multi-billion-dollar stock offer on the New York Stock Exchange that could rival Facebook’s flotation.

The Chinese company will offer Lionsgate content, which includes the television series “Mad Men” and the movie franchise “The Hunger Games”, through its set-top boxes with an expected launch next month, the companies said in a statement.

It did not specify what content would be available. China censors material authorities deem politically sensitive or obscene.

The service is subscription-only and higher-level VIP membership will include screening invitations and merchandise offers, the statement said.

Movies and TV programmes are widely pirated in China through DVD copies and illegal downloads.

Alibaba last year started selling television set-top boxes under the name Wasu Rainbow, offering domestic and foreign television shows on demand and allowing users to shop on its group buying platform.

“This cooperation signals our ongoing commitment to advance our vision of making digital media entertainment available to our customers anywhere, anytime,” Patrick Liu, president of Alibaba Group?s digital entertainment business unit, said in the statement on the Lionsgate deal.

Alibaba and a private equity fund backed by its founder Jack Ma said in late April they will pay $1.22 billion for a stake in China’s leading online video platform Youku Tudou.

In March, Alibaba also bought a majority stake in Hong Kong-listed ChinaVision Media Group, which is engaged in media-related businesses and movie production.

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Lionsgate, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, currently has more than 30 television shows on more than 20 networks, as well as business interests in motion picture production and distribution.

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