Alibaba makes further entertainment moves

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Chinese internet giant Alibaba is continuing to push deeper into entertainment business territory by acquiring local internet TV company Wasu Media.

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma is paying $1.05bn for a 20% stake in Wasu Media. In a separate deal, Alibaba and Wasu Digital TV Media Group will cooperate on online content and internet TV projects.

“Alibaba and Wasu Group are optimistic about the future development of China’s media industry and will support each other in areas such as original content development, video communication, games, music, education, cloud computing, big data, as well as other areas of future exploration and investment in the media industry,” Alibaba said in a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Best known for its Taobao e-commerce site, Alibaba has recently been ramping up investments in China’s content and entertainment sectors. Last month the company announced that it was acquiring a 60% stake in film and TV producer-distributor ChinaVision Media Group for $804m. ChinaVision was a major investor in the top-grossing movie in China last year; Stephen Chow’s Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons.

Just a few weeks ago, Alibaba also launched movie crowd-funding service, Yu Le Bao, which enables Chinese netizens to make micro-investments in upcoming movies via their smart phones. Upon launch, the service met its funding target of $11.77m (RMB73m) in five days. An estimated 223,800 investors bought into a slate of hot upcoming movies includes Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Wolf Totem and the next two installments in the Tiny Times franchise.

Alibaba also launched the Ali TV operating system last July and was already collaborating with Wasu on the launch of a digital TV set-top box. With an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange expected soon, Ma and Alibaba are likely to become major players in China’s booming entertainment business.