Alibaba Video-Streaming Chief Steps Down Amid Probe


Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. The company has ramped up spending in online video content.

Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. The company has ramped up spending in online video content.


Photo:

aly song/Reuters

BEIJING—The president of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s video-streaming unit has stepped down amid an investigation by Chinese authorities into “alleged acceptance of improper payments,” an Alibaba spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Yang Weidong, 44 years old, had headed the Youku Tudou streaming service. He has been replaced by Fan Luyuan, who last month succeeded Mr. Yang as the rotating president of the Alibaba’s Digital Media and Entertainment business group, the spokeswoman said.

A person familiar with the situation said Mr. Yang was being questioned by police. Mr. Yang couldn’t be reached for comment, and the Alibaba spokeswoman said she couldn’t provide more details on the nature of the investigation.

The shake-up comes as Alibaba and rival Chinese tech giants

Tencent Holdings
Ltd.

and

Baidu
Inc.

have ramped up spending in online video content. In its third quarter ended Sept. 30, the Hangzhou-based company said operating losses from its digital media and entertainment division had widened to 4.8 billion yuan ($698.2 million), up 42% from the same period a year ago.

Mr. Yang made a public appearance last week at an industrial conference in Chengdu, according to the event organizer’s website.

He also published a bylined article in the party-run People’s Daily last month, describing how video content should promote mainstream social values instead of purely pursuing the business values.

Alibaba completed the purchase of Youku in 2016 as the e-commerce giant raced to gain a share of the fast-growing online video market. Together with mobile browser UCWeb and Alibaba Pictures Group, Youku is now under the group’s digital media and entertainment division. The sales of this division rose 24% to 5.94 billion yuan by the third quarter of this year.

Write to Shan Li at shan.li@wsj.com



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