Alibaba to Launch Olympic Sports Streaming Service in China

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The Chinese e-commerce giant unveiled a broad-based digital partnership with the International Olympic Committee in Davos that will run through 2028.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has partnered with the International Olympic Committee to bring year-round Olympic programming between the Summer and Winter Games to China.

The pact for a streaming service entirely dedicated to Olympic sports programming follows an earlier deal between the IOC, NBC and NBC Sports to launch a new U.S. linear network, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, in the second half of 2017.

The Alibaba deal will see the Chinese internet giant develop and customize the IOC's existing Olympic Channel, which launched as a digital platform after the Rio Games, for the Chinese market. Financial details weren't disclosed.

The pact with Alibaba follows the IOC increasingly making all things Olympics available to global viewers to meet the changing needs of TV viewers, rights holders and advertisers. That means also boosting viewership via new streaming services.

The Chinese version of the Olympic Channel is expected to use archival footage and documentaries, much of it focused on Chinese athletes and teams to connect to fans of the global sporting event.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has the exclusive rights to the Olympics through 2024.  

"We are founded in China, but built for the world. We have a global vision, and the Olympics can empower our global dream," Ja Ma, founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, told a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos that was live-streamed on Thursday.

The IOC pact, which will run through 2028, will also see Alibaba use its e-commerce platform to sell official Olympics merchandise to consumers worldwide.

"We will leverage our experience in serving a young user base to help connect more young people to the Olympic movement, helping to strengthen our brand through this historic partnership," said Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, said of the deal: "In this new digital world, Alibaba is uniquely positioned to help the IOC achieve a variety of key objectives outlined in Olympic Agenda 2020, while positively shaping the future of the Olympic Movement. This is a ground-breaking, innovative alliance and will help drive efficiencies in the organization of the Olympic Games through 2028, whilst also supporting the global development of digital opportunities including the Olympic Channel."