In reporting its full-year 2017 earnings, Hong Kong-listed Alibaba Pictures Group said it recorded a 162% increase in revenues, to RMB 2.37B ($375M). However, it saw only a 1% improvement in net losses to RMB 950.3M ($150M). For the first time, the company recorded a slight profit in its content production segment, with RMB 4.1M ($648K). Among the titles it released that helped boost the unit was Once Upon A Time which grossed $82.3M at home.
The group has seen hit-or-miss film investments – Louis Koo-starrer Paradox grossed $79.2M while much-touted Korean co-pro Real earned just $3M in Korea. Going forward, Alibaba says it will emphasize the development of family-oriented content and continue to seek out co-investment opportunities.
The company appears to be focusing much effort on the online ticketing platform Tao Piao Piao in which the entertainment arm of Jack Ma’s retail giant increased its equity stake to 96.7% last July. Tao Piao Piao falls under the Internet-based Promotion and Distribution segment. That business strand made great revenue strides in 2017, jumping 189% to RMB1.97B ($311.4M). Losses in the division improved by 42% to RMB351.4M ($55.6M). The overall losses were driven by marketing costs associated with Tao Piao Piao.
The platform was involved in online promotions for such 2017 winners as Dangal, Duckweed and Dunkirk. It also spearheaded the overall promotion and distribution services for Amblin Partners’ A Dog’s Purpose, a success at $88M locally. Alibaba took a minority stake in Amblin in 2016.
An estimated 82% of movie tickets are sold online in China (with a fee that kicks into box office), and Tao Piao Piao is looking to transform from solely a ticketing platform to a social platform revolving around movie content. The group said it will accelerate investment to expand and fortify the platform’s position, in both the consumer and B2B market.
Going forward, the Pictures Group will also work increasingly with Alibaba Group. Ceo Fan Luyuan said the collaboration will not be limited to Alibaba Group’s media and digital entertainment matrix, but also extend to its e-commerce platforms and Ant Financial Services.