As Alibaba and Tencent square off for yet another battle — this one over mobile movie-ticket sales — Tencent ally Beijing Weiying Technology has raised $105 million from investors for its WePiao ticket sales service, Tech in Asia reported on Tuesday (April 28).
The Series B round’s funders included Tencent (whose WeChat and QQ mobile chat services have WePiao embedded in them), shopping mall giant Dalian Wanda Group (which operates movie theaters that WePiao sells tickets for), Chinese film investment fund Wenzi Huasha, Shandong Luxin Investment Holdings Group, Shanghai Gangtai Group, and ECapital.
Part of the new money will likely be used to fuel WePiao’s current expansion beyond movies into new ticket-booking areas, including sports and live shows. WePiao also lets users choose seats and pre-order (and pay for) concession-stand items such as popcorn and drinks at 3,500 theaters in 500 Chinese cities. The company also conducted joint promotions for more than 100 movies in 2014.
But another driver for the funding round is probably the fact that last week Alibaba acquired Yueke Software Engineering, which makes ticket-booking and theater-management software. Alibaba already sells movie tickets through its Taobao and Tmall marketplaces and through Alipay Wallet, but Yueke is — or was — a channel partner for WeChat, and several Chinese movie-theater chains are Yueke customers.
And with the rivalry between Alibaba and Tencent getting more combative — for example, over the Chinese New Year Tencent cut off Alipay from its access to WeChat users for hundreds of millions of dollars in Red Envelope digital-cash gifts — that could mean Tencent needs for WePiao to step in and fill the holes left after losing Yueke.
Just how deeply — and quickly — mobile-based services like WePiao have developed can be hard for non-Chinese observers to believe. In 2013, 8 percent of movie tickets in China were sold online. In 2014, that figure jumped to 30 percent, according to business news site Krypton 36. And because chat services already have stored payment information, there’s no separate process required for setting up each service’s payments.
As TechCrunch notes, that’s in contrast to U.S. services like Twitter and Facebook Messenger, which are still in the early stages of offering any mobile commerce capabilities at all. In China, messaging app users can pay utility bills, book taxis, make medical appointments and even file police reports.