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HBO Inks Streaming Deal With Chinese Video Site

25 Nov, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Communist government reserves right to screen, censor and pull content

Shanghai Disney and superheroes are one thing, but “Game of Thrones,” “True Blood,” and “True Detective” are quite another, apparently.

HBO and Tencent Holdings Ltd. Nov. 25 announced a partnership whereby select programing from the premium channel will be exclusively made available on the Chinese operator’s Tencent Video, a subscription streaming website catering to connected portable devices, including PCs.

Financial terms of the license agreement were not disclosed, but in September the communist government’s broadcast regulator announced it would have final say on foreign movies and TV shows posted on domestic sites.

“This partnership with Tencent Video ensures that Chinese fans will now be able to enjoy our dramas at the high level of quality they were meant to be experienced,” Charles Schreger, president of programming sales at HBO, said in a statement.

Schreger was instrumental earlier this year in HBO for the first time licensing catalog programing to Amazon Prime Instant Video — the premium channel’s nascent foray into third-party subscription streaming distribution.

HBO, of course, has announced plans to launch a standalone streaming service in the United States in the first quarter of 2015. HBO Nordics is the channel’s only standalone SVOD service currently in operation.

Corporate sister Warner Bros. recently inked a license deal with Tencent for a subscription video-on-demand business called “Hollywood VIP.” Universal Studios, Walt Disney Studios and separate local content holders also are involved in the project.

HBO and Warner are the latest Hollywood studios clamoring to sell content to China’s burgeoning entertainment consumer (Lionsgate recently signed a pact with e-commerce behemoth Alibaba). The country’s theatrical market is projected to surpass the U.S. box office in revenue as early as 2015.

But in home entertainment, piracy and copyright theft remain rampant. China has been ground zero for bootleg DVDs for years — a dubious distinction it still carries into the digital age, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Indeed, Douban.com, a Chinese movie review site, has streamed unauthorized episodes of “Thrones,” including the show’s current fourth season, generating upwards of 100,000 viewers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Regardless, the lure of China’s moviegoer, burgeoning middle class and insatiable home entertainment market is unrelenting.

“When you look at the theatrical business, you know the appetite is there, you just have to create the right consumer offering,” Warner Bros. Studios CEO Kevin Tsujihara said at a recent investor event. “It has a huge growth potential.”


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