Warner Bros. to distribute films in China via on demand, pay per view TV
Warner Bros. Entertainment said late Tuesday that it planned to offer movies via cable television in China, allowing the studio to potentially reach millions of viewers in a country where access to Hollywood entertainment has traditionally been limited.
Chinese consumers will be able to watch the studio's newly released films and older titles as soon as this summer through pay-per-view and on-demand services. It is unclear whether movies that are still being shown in theaters would be offered through this new service.
The studio's joint venture in China, CAV Warner Home Entertainment Co., struck the distribution deal with technology provider You On Demand Media.
You On Demand has an exclusive, 20-year joint venture partnership with Central China Television's pay television arm, China Home Cinema. A spokesman said that You On Demand is in conversations with a number of cable operators, but hopes to roll out the service initially to 3 million cable TV homes by the end of the summer.
The ultimate goal is to reach 200 million households in China.
"China is developing methods for consumers to view movies outside the cinema in a legitimate fashion," said Jim Wuthrich, president of International Home Video and Digitial distribution for Warner Bros. "Through You On Demand's platform, millions of potential consumers will be able to view our films. They will make it easy for consumers to see the latest films, including 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1.' "
The on-demand offering would help Warner Bros. combat movie piracy, which is rampant in China. Bootleg copies of movies that are showing in theaters can be purchased on DVD from street vendors and in stores, or obtained on the Internet.
Warner Bros. has made other attempts to make headway against film piracy. The studio reached a deal in 2008 to offer newly released films as rentals online in China.
-- Dawn C. Chmielewski
Photo: Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in Warner Bros. Pictures' "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1." Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros.