China Giants Alibaba, Tencent Invest in CMC’s Smart-TV Startup

Chinese Internet giants Alibaba and Tencent have both announced investments in Whaley Technology, a smart-TV startup founded by Li Ruigang’s China Media Capital.

The news was announced by state news agency Xinhua, which did not specify the amount of the investments. Other sources say that Whaley (aka Wei Jing) has raised capital of RMB2 billion ($312 million at a conversion rate reflecting the recent devaluation of the Chinese currency).

Alibaba, with its roots in e-commerce, and Tencent, with its roots in social media, are rivals in many business areas. That has increased as they (and others) attempt to integrate vast numbers of services into their ecospheres, and as they move into the offline space. One of their few other alliances is in taxi hailing app Kuadi Didi.

The Whaley move appears however to be a considered bet by both companies that smart- or Internet-connected TV sets are a major growth area for the future. (Xiaomi and LeShi Internet Technology, parent of streaming video platform LeTV / LeVision, have similarly expanded into smart TVs.)

Whaley unveiled its first product at an event on Thursday evening, a 55-inch, 4K resolution smart TV, that will sell for RMB3,799 ($595). Alibaba’s TMall will be taking pre-orders from the weekend.

CMC said that Whaley will focus on technology, while CMC, Alibaba and Tencent will provide content. CMC has ownership or business ventures with companies including IMAX China, Time Warner, Oriental DreamWorks, STAR China, China Sports Media and Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasts (TVB).

Tencent, which operates streaming platform Tencent Video, also has business relationships with the National Basketball Association and National Geographic. It was a major investor in recent hit “Monster Hunt,” and is a backer of animation company Original Force, which this week announced an expansion into Hollywood.

Alibaba, which controls Alibaba Pictures Group, and is an investor in “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation” has entertainment investments that include Huayi Brothers Media, Enlight Media, Wasu Media and Youku Tudou.

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