Film and TV arm of Chinese Alibaba group has raised RMB 1.7bn ($260m) in a Series A financing round in order to sustain and further develop its online ticketing service, named Taobao Movie and launched in 2014. The post-financial injection value of the venture is RMB 13.7bn ($2.1bn). The service is also undergoing a re-brand, to Tao Piaopiao, and has agreed a partnership with China’s largest entertainment ticketing provider Damai.cn. The partnership with Damai will allow Tao Piaopiao to offer tickets on Damai’s platform, and the two groups are also aiming to partner on promotional campaigns for film and TV content. Last year, Taobao took part in promotional campaigns for 84 distinct film and TV projects.
Alibaba is a Chinese e-commerce group at its core, and the media venture aims to capitalise on the growing online presence of film and television, as well as the growing success of the Chinese movie industry. Other named partners include HeHe Pictures, Bona Film and Huace Media. Recently, the group invested RMB 1bn ($153m) in Dadi Cinema, a leading cinema exhibition circuit and is also investing in films, such as Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation in 2015 and Star Trek Beyond this year. Alibaba Pictures acquired Chinese ticketing technology outfit Guangdong Yueke Software in June 2015.
Taobao Movie was established in 2014, and is one of the main players in this growing sector although the venture had a market share of less than 10% according to local research firm Analysis making it the fourth largest provider. Taobao allows ticket purchase and seat selection for some 5,000 cinemas, reportedly covering 95% of the country’s box office. The leading service, with a 25% market share is Maoyan Movie, which is a spin-off of group-buying company Meituan-Dianping, followed by Weipiao and Nuomi with 15% each.
Around 70% of all tickets are bought online in China, partly down to the discounting available in these services, and Chinese box office is now worth over $7bn a year. Part of the venture’s strategic logic is to bolster other online to offline activities, such as payment platform Alipay as well as collecting data about shopping habits across a range of verticals.