Chinese online video giant Youku Tudou is eyeing a bigger slice of the film industry with the formation of its own movie production company.
Heyi Film, with Youku founder Victor Koo as chairman, plans to produce eight films per year for the big screen and a further nine aimed to premiere on the internet, according to BBC News.
It bills itself as China’s first online and offline film company.
The group, which last week announced a loss of US$26 million for the second quarter despite increased revenue, has not revealed how much it plans to spend on the project.
The China film market is in its early stages and the field is wide open for new participants, Koo said.
“The US film industry is highly developed. It tends to be either blockbusters or franchise films. But in China you’re talking about small to mid to large budgets. All those different budgets work. It’s a much earlier phase in terms of the development of the film industry, and growth is much faster,” he said.
Youku Tudou, formed by the merger of China’s two largest video sites in 2012, claims 500 million users.
Youku has US$1.6 billion in cash to spend after a US$1.2 billion investment in April by ecommerce group Alibaba, whose stake in Youku is 16.5 percent. “We’re very strong,” Koo said.
Youku had been making its own content since 2009, starting with “microfilms” lasting a few minutes, and last year helped produce eight feature films.
Slated for release in the coming months are, among others, Golden Era, a film about China writers in the 1920s and The Taking Of Tiger Mountain, a 3D epic.
Youku Tudou is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization exceeding US$3.2 billion.
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