The collaboration between Jack Ma and Steven Spielberg is just the latest proof of Alibaba's (BABA) aggressive digital strategy, as well as of Hollywood's international appeal.
Alibaba's announcement this weekend that it had purchased a minority stake in Spielberg's Amblin Pictures, formerly Dreamworks Studios, follows investments by Chinese conglomerates Dalian Wanda Group and Fosun International in the U.S. movie business. Qatari sports and TV group beIN Media Group, a spin-off of Al Jazeera Media Network, acquired the parent of independent studio Miramax earlier this year. Japan's Softbank (SFTBY) and Sony (SNE) have also been players on Hollywood lots.
For Alibaba, the purchase is about more than the global scrum for premiere films and TV. Ma's conglomerate is targeting content that it can plug into its offerings such as its Youku Tudou online streaming platform and TMall Box Office subscription service, in addition to its hugely popular Taobao Marketplace and other e-commerce shops.
"They have decided to go well beyond their core e-commerce business," said Gil Luria of Wedbush Securities. "They have a multi-screen strategy where they want to participate in every different screen the consumer is going to go to."
The strategy aims to bring new content to its online platforms, as well as to extend its e-commerce reach to new outlets. "They have the ability to use that content to get more engagement form the consumer through watching videos, but also open up abilities to do commerce on different screens that are not desktop or mobile, such as a television," Luria noted.
Alibaba shares rose 2.0% on Monday but were down 2.4% to $105.89 on Tuesday morning.
Ma's e-commerce group made a major play in Chinese media in 2014, when the company spent $804 million to boost its position in ChinaVision Media Group. Now known as Alibaba Pictures, the business trades publicly in Hong Kong.