Alibaba launches Alifun home entertainment cloud service for families
Global Times | Zhao Qian - 2014-07-16 11:28:01 PM

China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group launched on Wednesday a family entertainment cloud plan called Alifun, a move analysts said has a bright future but may also face obstacles from the media regulator.

The Alifun service will enable family members to play online games, watch television programs and online videos as well as shop online at home via a cloud network that can work across any terminal device such as TV sets, mobile devices and set-top boxes, news portal sina.com quoted a press release issued by the Hangzhou-based company Wednesday as saying.

Alibaba did not specify when the service will be available for users.

Alibaba will cooperate with new media operator Hangzhou-based Wasu Media Holding Co and some game developers and operators, including Electronic Arts Inc from the US and France's Gameloft SA, to co-develop its new cloud system, according to the report.

"The family entertainment plan by Alibaba will have a bright future although it will take time to carry out," Wang Jun, an analyst at Analysys International, a domestic Internet consultancy, told the Global Times Wednesday.

He noted that more Internet and high-tech companies will compete to grab the market.

Wang believes that television and games always play an important role in family entertainment.

According to sina.com's report, each Chinese family spends an average of 3.8 hours every day on entertainment, with 12.7 percent of them watching television at home, 40 percent playing with mobile phones by themselves, while 60 percent of them think they have no interactive communication with their family members.

However, the "Alifun plan could change this situation and enable family members to play together," Liu Chunning, president of Alibaba's digital entertainment business unit, was quoted by the report as saying.

Alibaba declined to comment on its new plan, as the company "doesn't want to be put under the national spotlight right after the State media supervising body has started strictly monitoring programs provided by online video providers," an Alibaba PR staff member told the Global Times Wednesday.

In June, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ordered that two Internet television set-top box providers - Wasu Media Holding, cooperation partner of Alibaba, and Shanghai-based BesTV - to stop providing support to its subscribers to download programs provided by video providers which are suspected of containing forbidden content. 

About three weeks later, the State media supervisor started a new round of "cleaning up improper television content," and ordered the operators to delete unauthorized films and TV series imported from overseas within  one week, pending official approval, the Beijing News reported Tuesday.

Video apps that have not been approved by the regulator also could not be installed on the set-top boxes, according to the newspaper.

Calls to the State media supervisor remained unanswered by press time.

"The supervisor's new move will have a big impact on the development of Internet television, and also on Alibaba's family cloud entertainment plan," Xu Hao, an analyst at iResearch, told the Global Times Wednesday,

"If the video apps cannot be installed on the set-top boxes, the Internet television will be less attractive for users," Xu noted.