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July 28, 2016

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LeEco to pay US$2b for TV maker Vizio

CHINESE video streaming company LeEco is breaking into the US TV market by buying Vizio, a manufacturer of budget-priced sets. The combination promises a marriage of hardware and content as tightly linked as your smartphone is to your monthly voice and data plan.

The US$2 billion deal marks another ambitious foray by LeEco. The company’s Chairman and CEO Jia Yueting is also behind Faraday Future, an electric car company building a huge plant near Las Vegas.

At an event in Los Angeles, Jia promised “disruptive pricing” reminiscent of how it bundles video subscriptions with smartphone and smart TV purchases in China. He also said the company would launch its US presence in a few months with an event in Silicon Valley, where it has opened its US headquarters in San Jose.

Vizio has been the No. 2 TV brand in North America behind Samsung for the past seven years, according to research firm IHS Markit. Vizio will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary, and its brand will remain. Vizio founder and CEO William Wang will leave to run a spun-off data company called Inscape. The deal is to close by year’s end.

The deal will help Vizio expand to markets beyond the US, Canada and Mexico. Meanwhile, with some 24 million Internet-connected TVs combined, including some 8 million LeEco has sold in China, LeEco gains a larger audience for movies and TV shows that it produces or licenses. It is sometimes called the “Netflix of China,” although it plans to allow US customers to access Netflix on its smart TVs.

Winston Cheng, LeEco’s global head of corporate finance and development, said the company will need to expand its content offering to appeal to non-Chinese customers.


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