SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Warner Bros Entertainment will distribute on-demand movies in China starting this summer, through an agreement with China’s YOU On Demand Holdings Inc, Warner Bros said in a statement on Wednesday.
Warner Bros, a unit of Time Warner Inc, will be the first studio to offer films in China via this method and will have the potential to reach 200 million cable households through YOU On Demand’s pay-per-view and video-on-demand platform.
Warner Bros, which distributes the popular Harry Potter movie franchise, could be available to as many as 3 million households by the end of the summer.
“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.
Foreign movies are available in cinemas through a quota system that limits the number of foreign movies screened in China each year. Otherwise, foreign movies are widely accessible to the public on pirated DVDs that can be bought on the black market for less than a dollar.
The problem of rampant piracy has robbed Hollywood studios and music production companies of millions in profit in the world’s most populous country.
Strict media controls also disallow foreign studios from having their own channels, forcing some media companies such as Walt Disney Co to concoct creative methods, such as teaching English to children, to reach the populace.
“I’m excited for the millions of Chinese consumers that will be able to experience and enjoy the very best content that Hollywood has to offer through the YOU On Demand platform,” said YOU On Demand Chief Executive Shane McMahon.
Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Chris Lewis