Cracking Digital Ticketing in China
Interview with Luke Xiang, Vice President, WeYing Technoloy
Established in 2014, WeYing Technology is a Chinese marketing and distribution platform specializing in connecting consumers in the country’s rapidly expanding entertainment industry. Weying operates two independent ticketing platforms called Yupiaoer and Gewara. Covering over one billion users, Weying is able to sell tickets for more than 6,200 cinemas across five hundred cities in China. The group has also expanded beyond movie tickets and has partnered with over two thousand theaters, stadiums, and exhibition pavilions for other entertainment events. According to the company, one out of every three movie tickets in China is currently sold by Weying. With the support of the Wanda Group as a strategic investor and a recent partnership with the Vista Group, Weying is well situated to explore a global expansion. Boxoffice corresponded with representatives of the company ahead of CineAsia to find out more about the e-ticketing giant.
What sets the Chinese market apart from others when it comes to digital ticketing?
China is the world’s fastest-growing market and still has huge growth potential. The average age of our moviegoers is declining; this trend requires our movies to focus their stories and way of storytelling to embrace young audiences. It also demands the communication and marketing efforts to be youth oriented. There is a high penetration of mobile social networks in China, with functions such as the mobile wallet, boosting usage because of a very convenient and social user experience. Online ticketing contributes to 75 percent of our box office, which also creates a great opportunity for targeted marketing and promotions for movies and related brands.
Would you attribute the high rate of adoption and quick growth of digital ticketing in China to any market or cultural forces?
More young audiences, mobile social networks, and mobile wallets have deeply and broadly engaged with people’s lives, growing the theatrical market due to increasing content, screens, and capital.
How sustainable is the current digital-ticketing environment? Do you foresee a long period of intense competition by many players, or is consolidation around the corner?
It will be more consolidated, and we’re seeing it happen now. With data, technology, and experience, online ticketing will add more value to audience, cinema, and distributors. The market and the growth potential are big enough to allow several players to compete in a healthy way.
If I understand correctly, many consumers in China have been drawn to third-party ticketing because of the discounted tickets it offers. How much longer can prices keep dropping? Are price increases inevitable? And if so, is there a danger that companies might lose significant market share once prices level off or go up?
The average movie ticket price in China is $5 USD, compared to $8 in the U.S., yet it’s still double that of many developing markets. Like any other consumer good, the Chinese care about value very much—they calculate and compare. Price promotion is an important tool when adapting the moviegoing habit; now the value focus is moving more to a film’s quality and related services like concessions, merchandise, joint promotion with brands, and social media. We practiced lower pricing in the past year yet still grew our business twice as much as others.
What does your recent partnership with Vista mean for the future of the company?
Vista is the leading exhibition- and distribution-management service provider, with a successful global establishment, deep relationships, and rich experience in these areas. Partnering with Vista will help Yupiao serve exhibitors and distributors better, leveraging our coverage and data, and will also help us with international expansion.
We’ve seen many Chinese companies expand internationally in recent years with very strong global ambitions. How would you describe your ambitions in this market?
We are expanding our ticketing service alongside Wechat’s global expansion. We are building access and relationships with studios and filmmakers to offer them direct access to our resources and potentials in China to help them market and distribute films in China. For our production business, Nextainment Pictures, we would like to access the talent and resources from around the world to ensure the best for the pictures. In summary, we want to—and have to—provide value to users, exhibitors, and distributors.