MGM shares movie catalog, WB deal in the works

SYDNEY — Asia’s leading video-on-demand supplier, Intertainer Asia, has signed output deals with two U.S. majors and is closing a pact with a third.

MGM has agreed to make its movie catalog available to Intertainer Asia’s services in Singapore and Hong Kong, while a deal for Universal Studios’ library covers Hong Kong.

The company is in advanced negotiations with Warner Bros. for both territories and a deal is imminent, Intertainer Asia’s L.A.-based chairman, Greg Coote, told Daily Variety Tuesday.

Territorial expansion

Coote expects all three majors to come aboard as Intertainer rolls out in the other 13 Asian markets for which it has the rights to deploy U.S. VOD operator Intertainer’s technology, including South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. All deals are nonexclusive.

Movies will be offered on Singapore telco SingTel’s Magix broadband network and on Hong Kong telco PCCW’s Now web.

To cater to local tastes in both markets, roughly half the 250 titles available in the first stage will be Chinese-lingo, primarily from Shaw Bros. Intertainer also has licensed films from Village Roadshow for Singapore. The subscriber fee per title will be about the same as an overnight video rental.

“Audiences in both countries are movie-crazy,” Coote said. “We see VOD as the next big step in home entertainment. It will eventually put an end to the corner videostore.”

Coote declined to put a value on the company’s investment in the service, but predicted it will be self-sufficient at the end of year two in each territory.

Broadband boom

“Asia’s fast-growing broadband industry provides a great platform for distributing Hollywood’s blockbuster movies on demand,” he said. “Driven by the Asian consumer’s demand for high-speed access, major Hollywood movies will provide fuel for the next wave of broadband subscriber growth in Asia.”

Intertainer Asia is a joint venture of Intertainer, producers Coote/Hayes, Australia’s Macquarie Bank and Singapore-based hotel and property developer YTC Corp.

Coote said he expects its Singapore service to launch Aug. 1, while Hong Kong’s will happen in stages over the next few months. Plans are to kick off in Taiwan in August and in Korea and New Zealand in the fourth quarter. He said Australia is on hold, pending Telstra’s willingness to expand its broadband network.

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