Warner Bros. is taking on-demand films to China

Consumers in China will, for the first time, have access to Warner Bros. movies on demand starting the summer, after the Time Warner subsidiary agreed to a deal with China's You On Demand Holdings.

Harry Potter

Warner Bros. will offer access to movies like its Harry Potter franchise to China Central TV subscribers.  Source: Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. said some 3 million households in China that subscribe to the pay-TV cable service of state-run China Central TV will have access to movies like its Harry Potter franchise, and it could expand that number through You On Demand's exposure to a market that could top 200 million households. You On Demand has an exclusive, 20-year joint venture partnership with CCTV's China Home Cinema and is in conversations with other cable operators, as well.

"China is developing methods for consumers to view movies outside the cinema in a legitimate fashion," said Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros' International Home Video and Digital Distribution.

The big question, though, is: with pirated copies of movies costing less than $1, and free versions available illegally on the Internet, what will WB earn from its foray?

"One wonders why anyone would pay to see a movie for a single viewing on a home TV," China-based media expert Steve Dickinson told The Hollywood Reporter in an email.  "At any rate, it does show some interest in opening up the China market for audio visual products, which is a good thing."

Warner Bros. has been active in seeking new distribution models and markets. In March it launched an experiment with Facebook, distributing The Dark Knight on-demand for U.S. Facebook us for Facebook credits.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Hollywood Reporter article

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