Chinese Online Giant Tencent Sets Up Film Unit

Ma Huateng Pony Ma Tencent H

Tencent Movie Plus will make four or five films a year

Online giant Tencent, which owns the incredibly popular WeChat and QQ messaging services, has become the latest Chinese tech firm to enter the film business with the launch of a film subsidiary Tencent Movie Plus.

The company will aim to make four or five films a year, local media reported, and the first project it will work on will be Nobel Prize-winner Mo Yan’s novel The Treasure Map, which the company says will be made with input from Hollywood.

Tencent Movie Plus will focus on making movies out of Tencent’s intellectual property including cartoons, novels and games such as QQ Race Car, an online race game that has more than three million users.

It’s a natural move for Tencent, which last year produced an animated series based on its online game Roco Kingdom which took $24.4 million box office.

One analyst told the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper that Tencent was forming its own film company because it kept costs lower and reduced risk. Tencent was founded by Pony Ma and is emerging as one of the biggest rivals to Alibaba, the e-commerce company poised for a major listing.

Many Chinese online firms are already involved in the entertainment industry to varying degrees.

The search giant Baidu, which owns iQiyi, recently launched an in-house production outfit called iQiyi Pictures which will make seven domestic movies and one Hollywood film next year.

Alibaba recently formed a film and TV production unit called Alibaba Pictures, by incorporating ChinaVision, a Hong Kong listed company. They have since discovered a possible accounting fraud there.

Alibaba has also teamed up with Lionsgate on a streaming service to launch in China called Lionsgate Entertainment World, to be exclusively available on Alibaba's set top boxes.

China’s biggest online video company Youku Tudou last month formed a film division, Heyi, to produce a slate of films.