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Korean tech giant invests in K-pop’s SM Entertainment

South Korean technology firm Naver is investing in K-pop management company SM Entertainment, in a deal believed to be worth over €70 million.

SM Entertainment, one of the largest entertainment companies in Korea, is home to K-pop acts including EXO, Red Velvet, Super Junior, BoA, NCT and Girls’ Generation.

Naver Corporation, which operates Korean search engine Naver, mobile messaging service Line and live broadcasting app VLive, is not the first tech giant to show interest in SM, in which Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba took a 4% stake in 2016.

South Korean technology firm Naver is investing in K-pop management company SM Entertainment, in a deal believed to be worth over €70 million

Naver is believed to be acquiring shares worth approximately ₩100 billion (€71.2m), or just over 12% of the company, making it the second largest shareholder after SM Entertainment founder, Lee Soo-man.

According to AllKpop, Naver plans to use the intellectual property owned by SM Entertainment, which is home to acts including, to bolster content across its own platforms.

The deal follows a similar investment by Naver in fellow K-pop giant YG Entertainment, home to acts such as Blackpink, Big Bang and iKon, in 2017.

Founded in 1995, SM Entertainment is one of the big three Korean entertainment firms, along with YG Entertainment and BTS home Big Hit.

Last year, SM became the first K-pop company to join forces with a US talent agency, signing with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) for company-wide representation.

Photo: mang2goon/Wikimedia Commons via YouTube (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)


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Alibaba founder buys Barclays Center

After months of negotiations, Joseph Tsai, executive vice-chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has bought the 19,000-capacity Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The deal sees the Alibaba co-founder take control of the arena – home to basketball team the Brooklyn Nets – from Russian entrepreneur and politician Mikhail Prokhorov.

Tsai, who already owned 49% of the Nets, also purchased Prokhorov’s 51% controlling interest in the team. Prokhorov had held the stake through his company Onexim Sports and Entertainment.

Bloomberg reported that Tsai paid around US$3.5 billion in total for the arena, team and debt.

Granted the NBA [National Basketball Association] board of governors approves the sale of the team, Tsai will become chairman of the board of directors for the Barclays Center and NBA governor of the Nets.

“I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which puts the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful,” says Tsai. “We are committed to maintaining Barclays Center’s iconic status by bringing together culture, community, and entertainment for our fans and everyone in New York.”

The Barclays Center, which opened in 2012, is operated by AEG Facilities in conjunction with BSE Global (previously Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment).

BSE Global also operates Webster Hall, in partnership with AEG Presents/ the Bowery Presents, and the 16,800-capacity NYCB Live (formerly Nassau Coliseum), which is owned by Onexim.

“We are committed to maintaining Barclays Center’s iconic status by bringing together culture, community, and entertainment for our fans”

Brett Yormark, BSE Global chief executive, is stepping down following the sale. Yormark is the only executive expected to leave the organisation.

“It has been a tremendous honour leading BSE Global, and working alongside some of the most brilliant professionals in the industry,” says Yormark. “I have always envisioned beginning my next chapter when Mikhail and Dmitry [Razumov, Onexim chief executive] sold the arena and the team, and with today’s announcement, that time has come.”

Yormark adds that he will oversee a “smooth transition” of the Barclays Center and the Nets to new ownership and will “continue to oversee Mikhail’s other Onexim assets”.

The potential buy-out by Tsai was first reported by the New York Post in March. At the time, the Post stated that Tsai’s purchase of the Barclays Center would be welcomed by the National Basketball Association, due to the potential for growth in China.

Upcoming shows at the Barclays Center include Kiss, Shawn Mendes, Mary J Blige & Nas, Chris Brown and Blink 182 & Lil Wayne, as well as hip-hop and Latin festival Soulfrito Music fest.

Alibaba has shown a growing interest in the music industry in recent years, launching artist management, booking and entertainment ticketing businesses.

Tsai co-founded the online marketplace in 1999 along with 17 others and continues to hold the second largest individual stake in the company, behind executive chair Jack Ma.

 


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Ex-Alibaba Music exec appointed Live Nation China chair

Live Nation China has appointed Song Ke, formerly head of Alibaba Group’s music streaming service, Alibaba Music, as chairman.

Based in Beijing, Song (pictured) will lead Live Nation’s overall business in China, with a focus on domestic artist touring, artist management and venues. Live Nation China managing director Edward Lui, based in Shanghai, will continue to oversee the company’s international concerts business.

Song Ke, a 20-year veteran of the Chinese music industry, most recently served as chairman of Alibaba Music, a division of world-leading ecommerce giant Alibaba Group (which is also active in event ticketing, booking and artist management). He founded Rye Music, one of China’s biggest record labels, in the late ’90s, and then, after a spell at Warner Music China, established Taiha Rye Music in 2004, where he worked with some of the biggest names in C-pop.

He is also the current chairman of the China Music Industry Committee (CMIC), which organises the annual CMIC Awards.

“Song Ke’s vast experience in the Chinese music industry will now help propel our business forward”

Alan Ridgeway, chairman of Live Nation Asia Pacific, comments: “We have made great inroads into China over the last few years by building up our international touring volumes, especially at the club and theatre level, and introducing both EDC and Creamfields festivals to multiple cities across China. Song Ke’s vast experience in the Chinese music industry will now help propel our business forward into the domestic artist touring business and other growth areas.”

“China is a rapidly growing live entertainment market, and Live Nation with its expertise and international knowhow is already contributing to the country’s live music ecosystem,” adds Song. “I look forward to helping Live Nation strengthen its core business and expand into new areas and opportunities.”

Recent Live Nation China shows include Troye Sivan, Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, OneRepublic, Tom Odell, Chris Botti and Kodaline, with upcoming dates including Kacey Musgraves, Jason Mraz and Lany.

 


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Alibaba founder in talks to buy New York arena

Joseph Tsai, co-founder and executive vice-chairman of ecommerce giant Alibaba Group, is reportedly in talks to acquire New York City arena Barclays Center.

The 19,000-capacity Barclays Center – home to basketball team Brooklyn Nets, of which Tsai already owns 49% – was 2018’s eighth busiest by ticket sales, according to Pollstar, selling nearly 817,000 tickets. It opened in 2012, and is currently owned by Brooklyn Events Center and operated by AEG Facilities and BSE Global (formerly Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment).

Both Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets have denied rumours of a takeover by Tsai, which was first reported by the New York Post. According to the Post, “a sale to Tsai would be embraced by the NBA [National Basketball Association], which is anxious for him to take control of the Nets so he can help the league grow in China.”

The arena hosted music stars including the Killers, Bruno Mars, Phil Collins and Muse in 2018, with shows by Twenty One Pilots, Ariana Grande and Iron Maiden planned for this summer.

Taiwanese-born Tsai co-founded Alibaba, which turned over nearly US$40 billion in 2018, with Jack Ma in 1999. The Hangzhou-based company dwarfs Amazon and eBay in online sales globally, and has in recent years staked a claim in the music industry, expanding into artist management, booking and entertainment ticketing.

 


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Fan takes over Damai as Alibaba integrates ent businesses

China’s Alibaba Group has appointed Fan Luyuan, the president of its Alibaba Pictures film division, as president of the Damai event ticketing platform, as it seeks to better integrate its various music and entertainment properties.

The reshuffle – which also sees Yang Weidong, president of video platform Youku, become president of music streaming service Ali Music – forms part of a “push for a unified entertainment strategy and stronger synergies” between the three platforms, says the company.

Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, turned over nearly US$40bn in the 2017–18 financial year. It acquired Damai, China’s largest seller of music, sports and theatre tickets, last March, and also has plans for an artist management company and booking agency, both largely tailored towards funnelling content to Youku (‘China’s YouTube’).

Alibaba kicks live plans into gear with Damai buy

Last September, Alibaba’s $7.2bn Digital Media & Entertainment Group announced the launch of a dedicated live entertainment division, to encompass ticketing, content creation and the live experience.

In a letter to employees, Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang says: “In the year and a half since Alibaba Digital Media & Entertainment Group was established, all of the business units have strengthened and made advancements in their respective fields. The digital media and entertainment matrix is on its way to fighting with stronger coordination.”

Zhang Yu, the former president of Alibaba Music and Damai, will move to a new, unspecified position within Alibaba Group.

Elsewhere in the ticketing space, Alibaba owns movie ticketing platform Tao Piao Piao, which has more than 290m users, or a roughly 44% marketshare. The company says it hopes to capitalise on the synergies between it and Damai to provide a one-stop shop for the consumption of entertainment.

 


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Major players bid to awaken China’s “sleeping giant”

The past week has seen a flurry of activity in the fast-growing – but still largely untapped – Chinese live music business, with two global players launching of new ventures with the potential to shake up a market already predicted to grow by ~7% annually through 2021.

Ecommerce giant Alibaba Group, which turned over ¥158.3 billion (US$23.9bn) in the 2017 financial year, and claims to be the world’s biggest retailer, on 19 September announced the launch of a dedicated live entertainment division, to encompass ticketing, content creation and the live experience.

According to Yu Yongfu, president of Alibaba’s Digital Media and Entertainment Group, the new company, described only as the live entertainment business group (阿里文娱现场娱乐事业群), is a “key part” of Alibaba’s strategy to grow its presence in the entertainment market, where it already has interests in film distribution and production, artist booking and management, and streaming music and video.

Ticketing for the new venture will be handled by Damai.cn – China’s largest entertainment ticketing platform, acquired by Alibaba in March – with its subsidiaries MaiLive and Maizuo, hitherto largely involved in online movie ticketing, leveraging Alibaba’s data to produce live shows, reports TechNode.

Alibaba’s long-awaited move into live events – predicted by IQ as far back as May 2016 – comes as Australia’s TEG announces what it calls a “game-changing” partnership with major Chinese ticketer YongLe to launch a cloud-based ticketing platform in China. The platform, expected to be launched in 2018, will be branded YunTek, which translates as “cloud technology”.

“This is a game changer. We believe YunTek will disrupt the entire Chinese live entertainment market”

TEG, which owns leading Australian ticketer Ticketek, as well as promoters TEG Live, TEG Dainty (formed last July following the acquisition of Paul Dainty’s Dainty Group) and Life Like Touring, last month launched a new division, TEG Asia, focused on expanding its activities in the continent. TEG says YunTek, a self-service platform, will be “one of the most sophisticated end-to-end ticketing and live event management platforms that have ever been developed”.

“This is a game changer, as we believe YunTek will disrupt the entire Chinese live entertainment market,” says TEG CEO Geoff Jones. “Not only are we delivering a new and innovative ticketing solution to the Chinese market, we are upending the traditional live events value chain.”

Ren Wang, CEO of YongLe, adds that the JV represents a “combination of the largest ticketing and entertainment businesses in the region”. “We are pleased to be joining forces with TEG, one of the largest and most respected ticketing companies globally,” adds Wang. “We believe TEG’s experience in both ticketing and live entertainment will ensure the success of the YunTek platform.”

The movement in the live market follows huge growth for the Chinese recorded music industry; 20.3% in 2016, according to IFPI, driven by an increase of 30.6% in streaming. In terms of revenue, China has yet to break the global top ten, with piracy still a problem – although analysts believe rising incomes and a government crackdown on piracy is slowly changing that, with many pointing to China as a ‘sleeping giant’ music economy ready to explode.

According to PwC’s Global entertainment and media outlook 2017-2021, the Chinese live music industry was worth US$217 million in 2016, and is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.721%, reaching $301m in 2021.

“Australia currently has a greater music market on account of its superior live industry. Not for long: China’s music market is sprinting”

“For a nation with some 1.38bn residents (and further population growth on the horizon due to the relaxing of the one-child policy), the legitimate market has until now been tagged as a sleeping giant,” reads the report. “Australia, with a population of just 24m, currently has a greater music market in terms of total revenue on account of its superior live industry. Not for long: China’s music market is sprinting.”

Writing for MBW in July, Modern Sky founder LiHui Shen estimated there are around 365m people in China who “will happily buy into culture and entertainment – young people that have newly disposable income to spend on leisure. It may not be the entire 1.2bn population, but it’s still the equivalent of the entire USA buying into music. Imagine that.”

As for the live business, it is “flourishing,” said Shen, “with plenty of big festivals, venues and opportunities for touring. Modern Sky has seen success on that front as China’s largest promoter, presenting over 15 Strawberry Music Festivals every year in China – but many companies still aren’t equipped to make the most of the live world.”

He suggested the key to success in China is – just as TEG has done with YongLe – “working with partners who understand the territory and can make things happen”.

 


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Alibaba ent. investment continues with new booking agency

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba today announced the launch of a new talent agency, as it continues to invest in the global entertainment business.

Alibaba – which, with a market value of over US$475 billion, is believed to be the world’s largest retailer – also plans to form a “variety show production and distribution” company, according to a new filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Both companies, simply described as the “Variety Show JV” and the “Talent Agency JV”, are joint ventures between Alibaba Pictures and 1 Verge Information, both Alibaba subsidiaries.

The launch of the new businesses follows the announcement of an artist management company – also a JV between Alibaba Pictures and 1 Verge, which owns ‘China’s YouTube’, Youku – in March.

Alibaba to launch artist management operation

While the term “variety show” brings to mind live entertainment, the filing says the Variety Show JV will produce broadcasts which “provide information, reviews and commentaries about movies and drama series, with plenty of amusement”.

Equally, it seems likely the new booking agency will focus on film, although it is more generally described as being for “nurturing and managing entertainment talents”.

Alibaba has committed to investing more than $7.2bn in entertainment over the next three years, with part of that investment believed to be in the live industry. It last month acquired China’s leading music, sports and theatrical ticket agency, Damai.cn, following an earlier partnership that coincided with the rebranding of its own in-house ticketing platform, Tao Piao Piao.

 


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China secondary ticketer Ferris Wheel raises $15m

Chinese secondary ticketing site Ferris Wheel Ticketing has secured US$15 million in series-B funding from a consortium of Chinese and American investors.

The funding round is led by Liaoning-based venture-capital firm Blue Lake Capital, with Chinese companies Matrix Partners China, Nanshan Capital, K2VC and Zhen Fund and California-based DCM Ventures also participating, according to Chinese media.

According to China Money Network, Ferris Wheel Ticketing – until recently known as Niumowang Ticketing – currently sells around 60,000 tickets, with a transaction value of ¥30m (US$4m), per month.

Concert ticket sales were worth $158m in China in 2016

The investment in Ferris Wheel follows Matrix Partners, Nanshan Capital and DCM pumping US$10m into another online resale marketplace, Tking, in November.

In the primary market, meanwhile, ecommerce giant Alibaba recently acquired China’s leading ticket agency, Damai.cn, as it sets into motion its long-rumoured expansion into the live entertainment business.

The most recent PwC Outlook reveals the Chinese live music market was worth US$217m in 2017, with ticket sales accounting for $158m.

 


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Alibaba kicks live plans into gear with Damai buy

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba appears to be setting into motion its long-awaited expansion into live entertainment, today announcing the acquisition of China’s leading music, sports and theatrical ticket agency, Damai.cn.

On its page on Chinese social network Weibo, Alibaba says the buy-out, for an undisclosed sum, “continues an earnest three-year romance” with Damai.cn, in which it has had a minority interest since 2014.

Alibaba – whose Alibaba Pictures business last May announced a strategic partnership with Damai.cn, launching new ticketing operation Tao Piao Piao – adds in a statement the new acquisition “forms a strategic part of the value chain in our media and entertainment business”.

“Damai.cn will be a powerful platform to distribute our media content, as well as expand our user reach and engagement”

“Damai.cn will be a powerful platform to distribute our media content, as well as expand our user reach and engagement,” reads the announcement. “There will be extensive collaboration opportunities with our other entertainment assets, including Alibaba Music, Alibaba Pictures and [online video platform] Youku.”

Damai, which has sold tickets for more than 1.8 million events since its launch in 2007, has a marketshare of roughly 70% in China. It is not yet clear whether Alibaba will merge Damai.cn with Tao Piao Piao.

Jack Ma-led Alibaba, worth an estimated US$14bn, earlier this month announced the launch of an artist-management company as a joint venture between Alibaba Pictures and Youku.

 


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Alibaba to launch artist management operation

China’s Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, is to launch an artist-management company as part of its ongoing investment into the global entertainment business.

A new Hong Kong Stock Exchange filing by Alibaba Pictures reveals it and fellow Alibaba brand Youku – a video-hosting site frequently dubbed ‘China’s YouTube’ – “propose to establish an artist-management to provide talents for both parties’ film and television and other relevant content production”.

Of particular interest to the live music industry is the “relevant content production” part, which could potentially tie in with Alibaba Pictures’ long-rumoured expansion into live entertainment.

It may also point to a move into managing the careers of young Youku vloggers, similar to Kilimanjaro’s Free Focus with YouTubers in the UK, although no further details are yet available.

Alibaba has committed to investing more than $7.2bn in entertainment over the next three years

The company’s ticketing operation,Tao Piao Piao – formerly Taobao Dianying (‘Tabao Movie’) – was rebranded last May with the launch of a strategic partnership with China’s leading live entertainment ticket agency, Damai.cn, through which Alibaba it is expected to move beyond film ticketing into live events.

The launch of the as-yet-unnamed management agency comes amid the signing of a wide-ranging strategic partnership between Alibaba Pictures and its controlling shareholder, the Alibaba Group proper, which establishes a “value-chain ecosystem for the cultural and entertainment industry, [in which both] parties will integrate their respective resources and jointly develop high-quality content projects on the basis of mutual benefit and reciprocity”.

Alibaba has committed to investing more than US$7.2 billion in entertainment over the next three years, although it has yet to provide specifics on investments.

 


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