You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

New Chinese Online Platform Makes Bold Claim of Quota-Free China Releasing (EXCLUSIVE)

A new Chinese tech startup is launching what it says will be a digital distribution hub that can feed foreign films and TV shows to non-theatrical outlets across China – without fear of import quotas – while offering an attractive revenue-sharing model to foreign content providers.

The company, MEIFine, boasts that it has government approval for its unusual approach, even though Chinese authorities have generally been cracking down on the volume and kind of online content allowed into the country. The company’s CEO, Zhao Jian, said that MEIFine “represents a paradigm shift in China.”

But some industry executives have expressed skepticism about MEIFine’s assertions. Others likened the company to a previous consortium that made similarly bold claims about finding a new way to operate on China’s notoriously difficult entertainment landscape, only for the initiative to collapse weeks after it was announced.

MEIFine says that, since it’s a digital platform, the rules governing imported content on cinema screens and free-to-air TV networks do not apply to it, especially the quota system restricting the number of foreign movies that can be released theatrically in China each year. MEIFine says its cloud-based hub will feed non-theatrical content to platforms, including IPTV, VOD, cable TV and OTT streaming companies, that have a combined 700 million users.

While it’s true that foreign titles can theoretically be shown on Chinese TV and online platforms, government regulators have increasingly imposed censorship and volume restrictions over the last couple of years. That has brought the booming streaming sector into a regulatory regime closer to that of the theatrical sector.

MEIFine says the company is 75% owned by “six veteran copyright operating professionals and financially well-endowed investors.” The other 25% belongs to Chengdu Audio & Visual Publishing, a state-owned firm headed by a senior Communist Party apparatchik and broadcast official in Chengdu, in central China.

MEIFine plans to source its international content from Los Angeles-based Worldwide Business Team (WBT), headed by Steve Wang, and Great Eastern Intl. (GEI), headed by Craig Santy, who operate in partnership. The two firms said that they would be buying at Sundance and the Berlinale and that they would aim to have acquired 100 titles for MEIFine by the end of February.

However, no acquisitions have been named, which the firms say is because of non-disclosure agreements. WBT and GEI have also not disclosed any of the companies that have licensed content to them.

MEIFine has also not outlined any potential revenue-sharing models for its foreign content providers, although Zhao, the CEO, said that “our real-time revenue sharing system offers U.S. and worldwide content providers unprecedented market access, accounting transparency and copyright protection.”

Several executives in the Chinese and international film industries told Variety that they had not heard of MEIFine. One executive said he could not see why Chinese regulators would open up a quota-free side door to foreign media firms via MEIFine while at the same time starting sensitive negotiations with Hollywood and independents on revising the quota and revenue-sharing rules.

More than one executive said MEIFine’s launch reminded them of what happened in March 2014, when a cluster of companies, including the Chinese government-backed China National Culture Group and Hong Kong-listed China Railsmedia, announced that they were expecting to become the second state-owned enterprise with a theatrical releasing license.

At a high-profile event in Hong Kong they announced more generous revenue-sharing terms than are currently available and competition between Chinese agencies for imported content. But the new initiative collapsed weeks later when Chinese authorities decided to maintain the status quo.

More Biz

  • Bob Bakish Variety Cover Story

    Inside Bob Bakish's Aggressive Turnaround Plan for Viacom

    Bob Bakish was days into his job as CEO of Viacom in late 2016 when he began convening meetings with senior executives to execute a triage effort to save the once-mighty media giant. Paramount Pictures had just posted a $445 million annual loss. Viacom’s cable networks were in danger of being dropped by major distributors [...]

  • Craig Hunegs WB

    Craig Hunegs to Exit Warner Bros. TV Group and Digital Networks (EXCLUSIVE)

    After nearly 25 years in the Warner Bros. family, Craig Hunegs is exiting his post as head of business for Warner Bros. TV Group and president of the studio’s digital networks wing. Hunegs said he has been discussing his exit with Warner Bros. chairman-CEO Kevin Tsujihara for the past several months. At a time of [...]

  • 'Walking Dead' Profits Dispute Heading to

    'Walking Dead' Profits Dispute Heading to Trial

    The long-running legal battle between Frank Darabont and AMC over profits from “The Walking Dead” will run a bit longer, as a judge ruled Monday that the case must go to trial. Darabont and CAA sued the network back in 2013, arguing he was deprived of $280 million in profit participation because AMC did not [...]

  • Steven Wilson Ron Hofmann Hayley Antonian

    PR Vets Steven Wilson, Ron Hofmann, Hayley Antonian Leave BWR to Form New Agency

    BWR’s Steven Wilson, Ron Hofmann, and Hayley Antonian have announced the formation of a new communications company, Scenario, headquartered in Los Angeles and New York. Together, Wilson, Hofmann, and Antonian will serve as co-presidents while providing integrated communication strategies for clients across the entertainment, lifestyle, and technology industries. Entrepreneur and business strategist Brian Lee will work alongside [...]


    Endeavor Promotes Mark Shapiro to President

    After four years overseeing content operations at IMG, Mark Shapiro has been promoted to president of Endeavor. Shapiro’s elevation to the newly created post comes as Endeavor has expanded dramatically during the past few years, starting with its acquisition of IMG in 2014. Endeavor is now the parent company of WME, IMG, UFC and other [...]

  • Rhapsody, Sony Music to Launch Spotify

    Rhapsody, Sony Music to Launch Spotify Competitor in Japan

    Rhapsody and Sony Music Entertainment today announced a partnership to launch what they describe as the first on-demand, high-resolution streaming music service in Japan. Rhapsody International is providing its “Powered by Napster” platform including a set of systems, tools and APIs to allow SMEJ to quickly launch and bring its on-demand service to market. The service, [...]

  • China's Alibaba to Take Majority Control

    Alibaba to Take Majority Control of Alibaba Pictures

    Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is to take majority control of its films unit Alibaba Pictures. The $160 million (HK$1.25 billion) deal was announced Monday. The companies said that Alibaba would increase its stake in Hong Kong- and Singapore-listed Alibaba Pictures through a share subscription. It will lift the parent company’s stake from 49% to 51%, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content