Alibaba Pictures Group is making what it calls a “comprehensive organization and business model upgrade” that it hopes will morph it into a “content-based Goldman Sachs-type organization” that looks to be “hard-nosed” rather than “an adventurer.” In step with the newly stated goals, the film and TV division of Jack Ma’s Chinese online giant has appointed fast-rising tech exec Yu Yongfu as CEO and shuffled Zhang Qiang and Zhang Wei from the respective posts of CEO and President to a shared Co-President role.
Yu, who joined Alibaba in 2014 and is also Chairman of the Board of Alibaba Pictures, wrote to employees today explaining the company’s aim which “is not to become a film and television production company in the traditional sense. … The future is so bright, but reality is tough,” he added in an email distributed to the press.
Predicting contraction in the Chinese market, Yu wrote: “The domestic film and television industry, following three years of savage growth, is entering a phase-out and upgrade cycle. A great number of film and television production companies will be opting out or will be edged out of the market next year. … It is both a challenge for film and TV adventurers and an opportunity for entrepreneurs. … The market needs a hard-nosed film and television production company instead of an adventurer with tremendously abundant resources. We need to devote concrete and thorough efforts to developing the larger and stronger business.”
One effort will be to “flatten the business operation and upgrade the organization towards partnership in terms of form and mentality, and aim to become a competitive platform appealing to talents,” Yu said.
In its short existence, Alibaba Pictures has become a major player in China and is expanding its reach globally. Last week, it made a strategic investment in Hehe Pictures Corporation, which was itself an investor of the country’s biggest film of all time, The Mermaid. It also owns online movie-ticketing platform Tao Piaopiao and has made a steady series of investments in films from Paramount including Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and Star Trek Beyond. In October, it took a minority equity stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners to co-produce and finance films for global and Chinese audiences and more recently joined forces with Harry Potter producer David Heyman on Warriors, a live-action film based on the hit series of young-adult novels.