Studios grow VOD plans in China

20th Century Fox latest to make titles available in China

With companies looking to grow the video-on-demand market in China, they’re starting to lock down deals with Hollywood, with 20th Century Fox the latest of the majors to make its homevideo titles available in the region.

Fox Home Entertainment has inked a deal with Joy.cn to provide new releases and library fare to the website’s pay-per-view service Hollywood Theater. Site launched in 2008.

New films can be viewed for 5 yuan (about 80¢), while older pics can be viewed for 3 yuan (50¢).

The price may seem low, but it proved necessary in a country known for rampant piracy. “If you want to take away all barriers to do something legitimate, fighting piracy with a good price point can be pretty effective,” said Jamie McCabe, executive VP or worldwide PPV, VOD and electronic sell through for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

First slate of Fox titles to go live on Joy.cn next month as new releases include “Black Swan,” “127 Hours,” “Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son,” “Cedar Rapids,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Monte Carlo,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “Water for Elephants” and “Win Win.”

There will also be about 100 titles available from the Fox library.

Joy.cn also has films from Sony and Disney.

Fox becomes the third studio in a year to lock down VOD pacts in China, eyeing the 1.3 billion population there as a major potential revenue source for PPV coin.

Until now, the studios had been worried about their films being pirated in the region, which has lost them tens of millions per title in the past. But the VOD offerings have pledged to thwart piracy with anti-piracy technology in order to land more content.

Fox already brokered a deal with Chinese online video service Sohu Video to license 400 films over the next three years.

Sony had a deal with VOD provider Anyplex to provide films via the on-demand service through Internet connected integrated digital TV (iDTV) and a set-top boxes. It’s had a VOD presence in China since 2005.

And Warner Bros., in June, inked a deal with pay-TV service YOU On Demand to provide PPV titles, starting with the “Harry Potter” franchise, through cable and IPTV services in China.

“There are a lot of companies that are in the VOD business in China,” said McCabe, who recently met with 16 of the firms while on a trip to the country. “We wanted to make sure we reward those who are doing the right thing and have a good service,” McCabe said. Joy.cn “checked a lot of the boxes.”

That includes deploying anti-piracy methods.

Piracy once ran rampant in Korea, but when legitimate services launched to take advantage of the high-speed internet available there, the country became “our third or fourth biggest market in the world,” McCabe said.

“Intuitively, you could say, ‘Let’s give up and focus our energies elsewhere,’ but when there are good services, good content and an attractive price,” consumers will show up.

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