Fortune Star sez ‘WEI’ to new media

Co. launching two skeins targeting mobile, Internet users

HONG KONG — “Yes, hello” or “Wei,” as it translates in Cantonese, is the not-particularly-subtle joke behind the new direction for Fortune Star, News Corp.’s Hong Kong-based home entertainment and library business.

Under the World Entertainment Infinity (WEI) label, Fortune Star is launching two skeins firmly targeting mobile phone and Internet users.

To be unveiled at this week’s Mipcom TV mart in Cannes, “The Heyman Hustle” is a wireless broadband series built around Paul Heyman, a leading light of the 1990s extreme wrestling phenomenon.

WEI is also launching “Medicine Trail,” an adventure-cum-health series positioned between Animal Planet and MTV. Presenter Chris “Medicine Hunter” Kilham voyages to exotic lands in search of natural healing secrets.

Both have been developed by Fortune Star with Gotham’s Mitchell Stuart-headed HQ Prods. Fortune Star will license the shows to buyers for digital download in either sell-through or rental packages and for streamed video.

Fortune Star had planned to unveil its new-media programming at last year’s Mipcom, but content was more rudimentary and more was derived from company’s 730-title Chinese movie library.

“The launch has been slower than anticipated,” says Fortune Star general manager Peter E. Poon. “We’ve been negotiating deals with launch customers, and at the same time watching for 3G mobile network testing and subscriber numbers to become real. We believe the coming year this market will finally start to grow and develop.”

And if forecasting the takeoff point of the 3G market has tripped up industry experts before Poon, Fortune Star is being careful to present shows in a Web-based format suitable for broadband Internet consumption.

“Trail” is presented as 60-second mobisodes (“Medicine Trail Minutes”), longer-format webisodes and two TV specials, each an hour long.

“Our aim is the world market and we thought it important to work with talent from the West to start this off. Other content for East and West markets is in the pipeline,” Poon says.

Company, which was founded five years ago and is housed one floor below James Murdoch’s old office on the spectacular Kowloon waterfront, has this year hit its stride.

In May Fortune Star inked with the Weinstein Co., its U.S. home entertainment licensee, to bow its library of digitally restored pics starring Bruce Lee, Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh in the new Dragon Dynasty video collection.

Last month it grew its library to 735 titles when it paid $18 million for the 100-movie catalogue and principal assets of China Star Entertainment.

Company is readying a couple of remakes based on pictures in its library and is also expanding its slate of low-budget and made-for-TV movies.

To date it has made five with “Infernal Affairs” co-director Andrew Lau as producer and three with “One Night in Mongkok” helmer Derek Yee.

Its investment in five First Cuts digital features alongside China Star and Focus Features, gave it a piece of this year’s surprise Chinese hit “Crazy Stone.”

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