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Lionsgate, Alibaba Teaming on Streaming Service for China

Lionsgate and Alibaba Group are teaming on a subscription streaming service for mainland China that will offer the “Twilight” films, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Divergent” and “Mad Men.”

Dubbed Lionsgate Entertainment World, the service will be available in August exclusively through Alibaba’s latest generation of set-top box. The pricing was not disclosed in the announcement but it’s likely to be similar to other SVOD services.

The venture moves Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce and Internet giant, into entertainment content delivery for the first time.

Lionsgate said the service will include the Chinese premieres of “The Royals,” expected to debut early next year on E!; “Nashville,” entering its third season on ABC; and the recent NBC miniseries “Rosemary’s Baby.”

The service will include AMC’s “Mad Men” and Showtime’s “Weeds” and will be expanded after launch to include additional titles such as “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and the next installment, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.”

The joint announcement came on Monday evening in Los Angeles. Alibaba is expected to provide further details about the partnership during a Wednesday news conference at its headquarters in Hangzou.

David U. Lee, founder and president of Leeding Media, helped orchestrate the agreement. He told Variety that the companies began discussions several months ago and that the talks moved quickly, adding, “Both companies saw eye-to-eye on this.”

Lionsgate has been able to expand its movie and TV operations in recent years, scoring a blockbuster hit with the “Hunger Games” franchise and recently reported annual revenues of $2.63 billion. It’s also been growing its digital and international presence aggressively.

The announcement comes with Alibaba having expanded the size of its imminent initial public offering recently via an update of the draft prospectus on file with the Securities & Exchange Commission. The filing indicated that it might raise as much as $15 billion in the IPO and that its estimation of its own value has grown from $117 billion previously to $130 billion.

“We’re pleased to collaborate with Alibaba, a world-class brand that is well known and respected among consumers throughout China,” said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer. “Alibaba is the kind of entrepreneurial company with whom we like to be in business, and the launch of our streaming service in China underscores our commitment to innovation and leadership in delivering premium content to digital platforms around the world.”

The companies said the new service will also include behind-the-scenes footage, features and other premium content not available elsewhere in China along with access membership benefits such as screening invitations and merchandise.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with Lionsgate to offer this new content streaming service and deliver high quality, entertaining and relevant TV shows and movies to our users,” said Patrick Liu, president of Alibaba Group’s digital entertainment business unit, in a statement.

“We are committed to expanding our ecosystem where our users can meet, work and live, and this cooperation signals our ongoing commitment to advance our vision of making digital media entertainment available to our customers anywhere, anytime.”



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