Alibaba Is in Talks With U.S. Movie Studios to Stream in China

Goes shopping for rights after big IPO

Alibaba founder Jack Ma, fresh off his company's record-breaking $22 billion public stock offering, is shopping for U.S. movies to stream online in China. Ma and a group of Alibaba executives are meeting with studio chiefs next week to get the rights to content to sell to Chinese consumers hungry for TV and movies from Hollywood, according to Bloomberg.

Ma’s reported wish list includes Walt Disney, Viacom, Lions Gate Entertainment, Warner Bros., Sony, 21st Century Fox and Comcast.

In July, Alibaba struck a deal with Lions Gate to stream the Hunger Games franchise and TV show Mad Men to Chinese audiences. The New York Post reported that Ma wants to buy chairman Mark Rachesky’s controlling shares in Lions Gate, when he steps down as early as next month. Rachesky’s shares are worth about $1.6 billion.

China is the No. 2 film market in the world, making the convenience of online subscription content a natural fit for Alibaba’s e-commerce network.

However, China is not a straightforward place to do business. Last month, Chinese regulators announced they would cap the amount of foreign TV programs local providers could stream to online subscribers. Neftlix’s House of Cards, which attracts millions of Chinese viewers, was rumored to be in jeopardy. In April, Chinese regulators yanked NCIS, The Practice, The Good Wife and The Big Bang Theory off video streaming services without giving a reason. The Big Bang Theory was reportedly pulling in 120 million viewers a month.

It remains to be seen if Ma’s clout and business savvy will overcome Chinese regulators and net him another lucrative revenue stream. Alibaba’s stock has been soaring on news of its interest in movie streaming.

Publish date: October 24, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT