Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and American entertainment company Lionsgate announced on Tuesday they will launch a subscription streaming service on the Chinese mainland that will offer content including the Twilight and Hunger Games films.
The service, named Lionsgate Entertainment World, will be available from August exclusively through Alibaba's Internet television set-top boxes, according to an Alibaba statement.
Alibaba's TV set-top box was introduced last July and has been sold at 298 yuan (48 U.S. dollars) since September.
The pricing of Lionsgate Entertainment World was not disclosed in the announcement.
The move is part of Alibaba's expansion beyond its e-commerce core. In March, it paid 6.24 billion HK dollars (804 million U.S. dollars) to buy a majority stake in Hong Kong-listed entertainment company China Vision Media Group, which was later renamed "Alibaba Film Group Co., Ltd."
The service will include the Chinese premieres of TV shows "The Royals," expected to debut in the United States early next year, "Nashville," entering its third season on ABC, and recent NBC miniseries "Rosemary's Baby," according to the statement.
It will also enable Alibaba subscribers to enjoy exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, features and other premium content not available anywhere else in China along with access to VIP membership benefits such as screening invitations and special 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.
Alibaba is preparing for its listing in the United States this year, with market watchers expecting it to be the biggest ever tech offering.
The 15-year-old Alibaba, which is part-eBay and part-Amazon, is the world's largest online and mobile commerce company. It had a gross merchandise volume of 248 billion U.S. dollars in 2013 on its three major trading platforms.
It operates Taobao Marketplace, China's largest online shopping destination, Tmall, the country's largest third-party platform for brands and retailers, and Juhuasuan, the nation's most popular group buying marketplace.
However, Alibaba is also branching out from online retail into shopping malls, home appliances, mapping services, as well as media and financial services through a series of acquisitions in the past year.
In April, it bought an 18.5-percent stake in Chinese video streaming website Youku Tudou Inc. in partnership with affiliated private equity company Yunfeng Capital.
Alibaba then announced in June that it will invest 1.2 billion yuan (about 192 million U.S. dollars) to own a 50-percent stake in Guangzhou Evergrande, China's top soccer club