Alibaba Pictures first half revenue soar on back of online promotion and distribution business

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Alibaba Pictures Group, the entertainment subsidiary of e-commerce titan Alibaba Group Holding, recorded a 313 per cent year on year jump in revenue for the six months ended June 30 amid aggressive moves to build its infrastructure for the mainland Chinese film industry.

“Having laid the foundation for its core business segments over the last two years, the group is expected to advance to a new phase of development,” said Alibaba Pictures chairman Yu Yongfu in a regulatory filing late on Wednesday.

The Hong Kong-listed company reported total first-half revenue of 1.1 billion yuan (US$165 million), up from 257.2 million yuan in the same period last year.

That substantial growth was primarily attributed to the increased contribution from its internet-based promotion and distribution business, Tao Piao Piao.

“As Tao Piao Piao further solidified its market position, it has been able to increase its revenue from both consumers for providing ticketing service, and from film producers for providing promotion and distribution services,” Yu said.

Alibaba Pictures, however, saw a slightly higher interim net loss of 485 million yuan, from 465.9 million yuan a year earlier.

That moderate increase in net loss was due to foreign exchange losses, caused by the mainland’s currency appreciation against foreign currencies like the US dollar, as well as greater marketing expenses of Tao Piao Piao.

Tao Piao Piao offers online ticketing and seat selection services to nearly 7,000 cinemas nationwide, covering more than 97 per cent of the country’s total box office.

Overall box-office revenue on the mainland grew 11.2 per cent to 27.3 billion yuan, up from 24.6 billion yuan a year ago, according to data from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Yu pointed out that Alibaba Pictures will continue to invest in Tao Piao Piao since it is the platform that serves the most critical function of consumer reach for the company’s infrastructure.

Alibaba Pictures posts loss in 2016 on higher marketing expenses

In July this year, Alibaba Pictures increased its equity stake in Tao Piao Piao when it acquired the equity interest of six minority shareholders for about 1.3 billion yuan. The company now owns a 96.7 per cent stake in Tao Piao Piao.

Alibaba Pictures also saw success in film promotion and distribution during the first half of this year, according to Yu.

A Dog’s Purpose, a film developed by the company’s investee company Amblin Partners, generated more than 600 million yuan in the domestic box office, which surpassed its ticket sales in North America.

In film production, Alibaba Pictures said recent releases ‘Mr Pride vs Ms Prejudice’ and ‘This is Not What I Expected’ generated ticket sales of 124 million yuan and 210.4 million yuan, respectively, in the domestic box office.

The company has also been engaged in the production and investment of television drama series. In the first half of this year, it sold the broadcasting rights of several drama series to online video-streaming service Youku Tudou.

Parent company Alibaba owns Youku Tudou as well as The South China Morning Post.

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