Youku Signs Licensing Deals With NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures TV

Youku has signed licensing agreements with Hollywood mega studios NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures Television that will give subscribers to the Chinese online video hub’s paid service access to hundreds of movies at no additional cost.

The deals will bring to Alibaba Group-owned Youku more hit franchises, such as The Fast and the Furious, Despicable Me and The Mummy from NBCUniversal, and popular titles, such as Resident Evil, The Smurfs and The Spider-Man from Sony Pictures TV.

Previously, NBCUniversal’s content was available to Alibaba users through Tmall’s set-top box following a deal signed in 2015. Youku had reached an agreement for Sony movies three years prior, but subscribers paid a fee to access those films. Now, subscribers get the expanded library from both studios as a part of their regular paid service on Youku. They can also access the movies through multiple distribution channels, including as SmartTV solutions and set-top boxes and Youku’s flagship online platform.

Youku, which reaches 580 million devices each day and gets about 1.2 billion views, already has similar licensing deals with Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount and Fox, among others. The string of agreements is part of a larger effort by Alibaba’s entertainment arm to deliver more global content to consumers in China.

“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 President Yang Weidong said.

More recent titles, such as Sony’s Bladerunner 2049, and new releases, including NBCUniversal’s Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom, which is slated for release next June, will also stream on Youku.

NBCUniversal has agreed to provide exclusive programing to Youku, such as variety shows, Hollywood news and celebrity interviews. Viewers will be able to interact with the shows in real time, similar to Alibaba’s 11.11 Countdown Gala Celebration, and have the opportunity to win prizes, such as Universal Studios travel packages and tickets to Hollywood award ceremonies. Its agreement with Youku is an expansion of a previous deal signed in 2015.

“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 and chief revenue officer in NBCUniversal’s global distribution unit.

Sony Pictures TV will hold another “So酷 So Cool Summer Rewards” campaign in partnership with Youku, rewarding China-based viewers for watching Sony films online and engaging with the brand through the platform. (酷 means “cool” in Chinese.)

Last summer, more than 300,000 participants accumulated a total of 24 years of movie-viewing time during the campaign. They earned chances to win a PlayStation VR, PlayStation 4, limited-edition movie memorabilia and a trip to Hollywood. More prizes and enhanced interactivity are planned for this year.