If mimicry is the ultimate form of flattery, then Netflix and HBO should feel mighty complimented right about now. China's online retailing giant, Alibaba, announced on Sunday its plans to launch a streaming video service modeled directly on Netflix and HBO.
"Our goal is to become like HBO in the United States, to become like Netflix in the United States," Patrick Liu, president of Alibaba's digital entertainment group, said at a seminar in Shanghai.
The service, called TMall Box Office, and TBO for short, will diversify the home shopping company's bounty of product offerings with premium on-demand video content that customers would largely pay to watch. The move would undoubtedly plump up Alibaba's $4.2 billion revenue, which soars well above Netflix's $1.57 billion revenue.
Digital content is just one more arrow in massive Alibaba's quiver. The e-commerce heavyweight already operates portals to music and games, and owns a majority stake in film production company, Chinavision.
It's possible that the success of Alibaba's TBO-streaming service, combined with the company's impressive assets, could pave the way for Alibaba to one day launch an original scripted series of its own, just like Netflix and HBO.
For now, Alibaba remains content to treat US streaming services like an inspiration rather than rival. Executive chairman and founder Jack Ma has insisted that he's focused on, particularly when it comes to selling US goods online.