China’s Streaming Wars Just Got a Little More Interesting With All Major Films Postponing Their Releases Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan, One Company is Taking Advantage of the Masses Staying Indoors.
By Ryan Carroll, Managing Editor
ByteDance the parent company of Douyin the Chinese version of the hit short video app TikTok, purchased the ability stream several comedies and dramas from Huanxi Media, on January 25th. The first day of the Chinese Spring Festival.
The licensing deal was set, at least, 630MMRMB ($90.3MMUSD) for a single day of streaming on January 25th, for an undisclosed number of comedies and drama movies from Huanxi Media. To be streamed across all of ByteDance’s major video platforms from its two major short-form video platform Douyin (TikTok) and Huoshan, to its news aggregator Toutiao, and Xigua Video (ByteDance’s “rebranded” Streaming Video competitor to iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Youku).
NOTE. Huanxi Media’s own Huanxi.com is also allowed to stream it’s own movies during the same period as all of ByteDance’s app.
The reason why I have taken the time to write such a brief article is because there is one important reason why this may be very important news leading out of the Chun jie / Spring Festival holiday. As this is traditionally the most important period in the entire year for the China Box-Office.
The reason why ByteDance paid so much money for a single day of streaming to Huanxi Media is not for a Library of Movies, that they could provide. It was because of one movie they owned, Lost in Russia. The third film in the incredibly popular Lost in series.
According to Patrick Frater at Variety
Under the theatrical minimum guarantee deal with Hengdian Film, Huanxi had expected the film [Lost in Russia] to earn gross box office revenues of RMB2.4 billion ($346 million).Patrick Frater – Variety
With it being the Spring Festival, that is not an unreasonable box-office minimum project to have as a guarantee. Especially since the first entry Lost in Thailand in 2012 made $208MMUSD and Lost in Hong Kong in 2015 grossed $255MMUSD.
Now ByteDance obviously has an incredibly popular film on its hands, and ByteDance may be looking to rebrand Xigua Video aka “Watermelon”, one of its short-video apps (that carries longer formatted short-videos than Douyin / TikTok) into a fully fledged “Netflix-of-China” and rival iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Youku.
As earlier in January on Xigua Video, the BBC’s Dracula (from the creators of Sherlock – it should be noted) had a same-date release in China as it did on Netflix in the United States. Which is rare, and this licensing deal was probably not on the cheap side. Since Sherlock Christmas special The Abdominal Bride grossed $24.39MM at the China Box-Office – in special limited release.
Both ByteDance, with its Xigua Video, and Huanxi Media, with Lost in Russia, together may be making a strategic move during this tragic holiday time. Where so many Chinese families are staying indoors, and everything from the government to businesses are closing down, to forge ahead with;
a second phase deal that follows on from the first and runs until the end of 2022. That sees the pair launch a new online cinema channel and agree to co-invest and co-produce a slate of film and TV content.Variety
Information which had broke while I was putting together this very piece. Honestly, by the time I wake up tomorrow it will already be passed January 25th in China, as it will be January 25th here in these United States. To be honest, I expect more interesting news than just this to come over the next 10 Days of the Spring Festival Box-Office Holiday in China.
Stay Tuned China Watchers!
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About the Author
Born and raised in the Missouri-Ozarks Ryan studied Film Production, and East Asian Culture, at the University of Kansas where he was a UGRA recipient that led him on a seven-year long, Journey From the West, to China. Where he worked with Warner Brothers, the China Film Group Corp. and the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Before returning to the States, where he specializes in Chinese Anime & Comics, China’s Box-Office, and Chinese entertainment-tech industries. He has a dog in China, Abigail, and a dog in the Arkansas-Ozarks, King Blue, who help ease his anxiety of suffering from the “Two-Dimensional Complex” that is trying to understand the Culture Industry landscapes of the Middle Kingdom.