China's Youku Inks Licensing Deals With Sony, NBCUniversal

Jumanji  Welcome to the Jungle - Still 3 - Photofest-H 2017
Columbia Pictures/Photofest

The Alibaba-owned Chinese streaming service will get early access to studio tentpoles like 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' and 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.'

Youku, the flagship streaming video service of Chinese internet giant Alibaba Group, revealed a pair of major licensing partnerships Thursday with NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures Television.

The pacts will give the Chinese company's users access to hundreds of film titles from the two U.S. studios. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

"By cooperating with NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures Television to show famous Hollywood films on our platform, we can bring richer global content into Alibaba’s entertainment ecosystem," said Yang Weidong, president of Youku. "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 OTT (over the top) businesses to greater heights."

Youku, which Jack Ma's Alibaba acquired for $4.2 billion in 2016, is available to users in China via various channels, including the company's flagship online platform, SmartTV solutions and set-top boxes. The company says its content — both licensed and in-house originals — reaches 580 million devices and achieves some 1.18 billion daily video views.

The deals will give Youku users early access to the latest and upcoming tentpole movies from each of the two studios, including Sony's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Blade Runner 2049, and NBCUniversal's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Darkest Hour. Both studios also have licensed to Youku the streaming rights to a raft of their biggest and most popular library titles in the country, such as the entire Fast and the Furious and Despicable Me franchises from Universal and the Resident Evil, Smurfs and Spider-Man movies from Sony.

"With Youku's broad reach in the market and the high-caliber titles in our portfolio, this deal will ensure that we will continue to provide Chinese audiences with a fantastic entertainment experience for years to come," said Belinda Menendez, president of global distribution at NBCUniversal.

Beyond the licensing arrangements, the pair of deals also includes additional cooperation agreements.

NBCUniversal will work with Youku to produce entertainment variety shows, Hollywood entertainment news content and celebrity interviews — all for Youku platforms. The company also will collaborate with Universal on a range of special marketing offers for Youku users, ranging from Universal Studios travel packages and tickets to Hollywood award ceremonies. Youku is partnering with Sony on a 2018 summer marketing campaign that will include award offers spanning PlayStation VR and PlayStation 4 gaming systems to limited-edition movie memorabilia and travel packages to Hollywood.

Said Keith Le Goy, president of distribution at Sony Pictures Television: "We are excited about our continued partnership with Youku and Alibaba and are excited to entertain, engage and interact with millions of Chinese consumers through Youku’s and Alibaba's extensive and innovative range of platforms and services."