Alibaba video arm signs deals with NBC Universal

By BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK • Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s video streaming service, Youku Tudou, has signed content licensing deals with NBC Universal and Sony Pictures Television, marking a deeper foray into entertainment for the Chinese e-commerce giant.

The multiyear agreements give Youku subscribers access to hundreds of films from the studios, the service said yesterday in a statement.

Users will also have faster access to new and recently released movies, including “Blade Runner 2049” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, Youku said.

The deal comes as China’s tech giants are spending aggressively to acquire entertainment content and create original programming. Youku is competing with Baidu Inc’s iQiyi streaming platform — which recently teamed up with Netflix Inc — and Tencent Holdings Ltd’s video service. Rising content costs are weighing on the tech companies’ bottom lines, as they pursue user and subscription growth.

“I am confident that expanding our relationships with more international studios will further enhance our platform’s penetration into the home entertainment business and push the online video” and over-the-top businesses to greater heights, Yang Weidong, president of Youku, Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group, said in the statement.

The licensing deal also helps NBCUniversal and Sony make further inroads in the Chinese market as the domestic home video sales decline.