Cinedigm Touts Cloud-Based Tech for Pending Chinese AVOD Channel

Cinedigm April 11 gave a shout out to a cloud-based technology company it is in the process of acquiring.

The home entertainment distributor recently entered into an agreement to acquire Future Today for $45 million in cash, and $15 million in common stock. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2019.

Cinedigm said it would use Future Today’s cloud-based technology and ad-based monetization platform for the June launch of its Chinese-themed ad-supported VOD channel Bambu.

Future Today owns and operates more than 700 content channels with more than 60 million app installs, and managing 200,000-plus film, television and digital content assets Cinedigm claims receive 85 million video views per month.

Using their advertising technology and sales capabilities, Cinedigm says Future Today will play a crucial role in the monetization of Bambu, which includes television, set-top boxes, mobile apps and online services.

With a primary focus on millennial and Gen Z viewers, Bambu offers curated programming spanning far beyond stereotypical martial arts dramas, instead putting the spotlight on actioners, serials, romantic comedies, sci-fi, horror and fantasy, as well as music, reality series and educational programming ranging from instructional Chinese language courses to culinary shows.

Movies include Jackie Chan in the 2017 fantasy Namiya, Ziyi Zhang in the 2013 spy farce My Lucky Star, sci-fi mystery Battle of Memories, supernatural rom-com Beautiful Accident, road trip comedy Breakup Buddies, the noir-inspired crime drama Cock and Bull, cat-and-mouse thriller The Devotion of Suspect Xand father-and-son drama Lost and Love, among others.

TV shows include “Journey to the West,” the most-watched television show in Chinese history; current hit “Diamond Lover,” and the acclaimed documentary series “A Bite of China,” among others.

“[Future Today’s] long-established and highly successful advertising and sales strategies are a truly invaluable resource that will play a vital role in further expanding [Bambu’s],” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement.

iQIYI Embedding OTT Video into Chinese-Built Ford Vehicles

With President Trump’s trade war with China making it economically unviable for Ford to export American-made vehicles to the world’s most populous country, the Detroit icon has ramped up auto production within the People’s Republic.

As a result, Chinese online video company iQiYi April 3 announced that its streaming video platform will now be offered as part of Ford’s new in-vehicle infotainment system – dubbed SYNC+, and jointly developed by Ford China and Baidu.

iQIYI Provides In-Vehicle Entertainment Solution for Ford’s New SYNC+ Infotainment System, Powered by Baidu

Starting later this year, SYNC+ will be rolled out in a range of new Chinese-built Ford and Lincoln models in China.

Synchronized with the FordPass app and featuring a range of functions, including voice assist, customized recommendations, in-vehicle online video streaming, smart navigation and vehicle-to-smart home connectivity, SYNC+ is designed to provide Chinese car consumer with an upgraded in-vehicle entertainment experience.

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Users will be able to access all copyrighted content from iQiYi’s content database. In addition, by logging into their iQIYI accounts using the car’s interface, users can access their viewing history and receive user-customized content recommendations.

“Intelligent vehicles are becoming a major part of our new way of life, as we embrace trends like connectivity, autonomy, electrification and the sharing economy,” Duan Youqiao, SVP at iQiYi, said in a statement.

Youqiao said the partnership with Ford represents iQiYi’s aim to strengthen “cooperation” with automotive industry players to better optimize in-vehicle entertainment solutions.

Indeed, the company has inked partnerships with numerous national and international companies (i.e. Google) to expand digital entertainment distribution.

“iQiYi is currently one of the largest online video sites in the world, with nearly 6 billion hours spent on its service through mobile devices each month and over 560 million monthly active users on mobile devices,” Brian Baker, senior director at Google, said in a statement last November.

 

 

Netflix Snags Chinese Blockbuster ‘The Wandering Earth’

Netflix has secured the streaming rights to the Mandarin sci-fi thriller The Wandering Earth.

The film has generated more than $600 million at the Chinese box office in just a few weeks, making it the top worldwide box office earner in 2019 without a wide global release.

Wandering Earth tells the story of a future in which the sun is about to expand into a red giant and devour the Earth, prompting mankind to make an attempt to save planet by rocketing it to another star. The movie is based on the novella of the same title by Liu Cixin, the first Asian novelist to win the Hugo Award for science fiction.

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The film was directed and written by Frant Gwo, and features Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat and Zhao Jinmai, with special appearance by Wu Jing.

Post-production and special effects on the film spanned two years, undergoing more than 3,000 conceptual designs, and featuring more than 10,000 specifically-built props, while employing more than 2,000 special effects shots and a substantial amount of computer graphics shots.

“Netflix is committed to providing entertainment lovers with access to a wide variety of global content,” Jerry Zhang, manager of content acquisition at Netflix, said in a statement. “With its high-quality production and story-telling, we believe that The Wandering Earth will be loved by sci-fi fans around the world.”

Cinedigm Inks Content License Deal with China Lion

Cinedigm Jan. 23 announced it has entered into a non-exclusive content licensing agreement with China Lion to release more than 40 Chinese-language movies on the home entertainment distributor’s pending streaming channel, Bambu.

“This deal delivers dozens of very strong and well-known films, and perfectly complements the [China International TVCorporation]deal we recently announced, which was more TV episodic content,” Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group and worldwide distribution, said in a statement. “We are particularly pleased that the titles are all subtitled, allowing for the best representation of the original film versions and adds to the authentic high-profile content foundation for Bambu.”

Bambu’s primary focus is Gen Z demo (ages 16-24), and Millennial viewers (ages 25-35). Together, those viewers represent more than 27% of the U.S. population.

“When we started China Lion back in 2010, Cinedigm was our first strategic home entertainment partner,” said China Lion CEO Yanming Jiang.

The titles expected on the launch of Bambu include:

 THE ARK OF MR CHOW

  • BATTLE OF MEMORIES
  • BEAUTIFUL ACCIDENT
  • BREAKUP BUDDIES
  • BUDDIES IN INDIA
  • BULLET VANISHES
  • COCK AND BULL (2016)
  • DETECTIVE CHINATOWN
  • THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X
  • DOUBLE TROUBLE
  • THE EX-FILE 3: THE RETURN OF THE EXES
  • EXPLOSION (2017)
  • FALL IN LOVE LIKE A STAR
  • FLEET OF TIME (aka BACK IN TIME)
  • A FOOL
  • FOR A FEW BULLETS
  • FOREVER YOUNG (2015)
  • THE GOLDEN ERA
  • GO AWAY MR TUMOR
  • GOODBYE MR LOSER
  • I BELONGED TO YOU
  • A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME WITH ANTHONY
  • THE LAST WOMEN STANDING
  • LET’S GET MARRIED
  • LOBSTER COP
  • LOST AND LOVE
  • MR DONKEY
  • MR SIX
  • MY LUCKY STAR
  • NAMIYA
  • THE NEW YEAR’S EVE OF OLD LEE
  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK (2016)
  • ONLY YOU (2015)
  • OOLONG COURTYARD: KUNG FU SCHOOL
  • OUR TIME WILL COME
  • SO I MARRIED AN ANTI-FAN
  • SO YOUNG
  • SO YOUNG 2: NEVER GONE
  • SWEET SIXTEEN (2016)
  • TILL THE END OF THE WORLD
  • THE VIRAL FACTOR
  • THE WASTED TIME
  • THE WITNESS (2015)
  • WOMEN WHO FLIRT

The deal follows Cinedigm’s recently-announced partnership with China International TVCorporationto bring more than 500 hours of Chinese content to the U.S. through Bambu, including “Nirvana in Fire,” TV ratings hit in China in 2015; documentary A Bite of China; “Journey to the West,” the most-watched show in Chinese television history, and current series, “The Advisors Alliance” and “Diamond Lover.”

A partnership with Youku to distribute 30 original Chinese feature filmsin North America on all platforms including Bambu, digital, DVD and Blu-ray Disc, and across all OTT platforms, with a primary focus on major streaming platforms and niche outlets.

A content licensing agreement with Starrise Media Holdings Limited to release several Starrise productions on Bambu. The titles have not yet been announced.

TCL, Roku Partnering for Branded 8K Televisions

Roku and TCL Corp. Jan. 7 announced that they plan to release branded 8K TCL Roku TVs in late 2019. TCL will incorporate its latest Gen 11 LCD panel factory with Roku’s 8K hardware reference design. Additionally, Roku is expanding its 4K and HDR hardware reference design to include far-field microphones for voice search and control.

The 8K units pledge to deliver more than 33 million pixels compared to 8.3 million in today’s UHD 4K TVs. More pixels mean more clarity and detail, especially in the largest TV screen sizes. As more consumers adopt 65”, 75” and even larger screens for their homes, TCL and Roku believe consumers will choose the greater screen resolution of 8K for those displays, as evidenced by the prior trend in 4K TV purchases.

China-based TCL was one of the first TV manufacturers to incorporate Roku and produce a line of branded TVs. It claims to be the No. 2 smart TV in the U.S.

“We are thrilled to continue to break boundaries as we plan to build televisions that push the limits of picture quality and offer TV models with built-in voice control,” Chris Larson, SVP, TCL, said in a statement.

Since launching in 2014, the Roku TV licensing program has grown to be the No. 1 licensed TV OS in the U.S. The program provides OEMs with hardware reference designs and the Roku OS to build smart TVs. Roku manages the software updates, including delivering new features, regular channel updates and more. During the first nine months of 2018, more than one in four smart TVs sold in the U.S. were Roku TVs.

“In designing and delivering 8K TCL Roku TVs we will reach new heights by offering beautiful picture quality combined with America’s No. 1 TV streaming platform,” said Chas Smith, GM, Roku TV & Players.

 

 

China’s Tencent Partnering With Paramount on ‘Bumblebee’ and ‘Top Gun’ Theatrical Releases

Tencent, the Chinese multinational entertainment conglomerate, Dec. 5 announced a partnership and co-financing deal with Paramount Pictures for the studio’s upcoming Bumblebee theatrical release, in addition to next year’s Top Gun sequel featuring Tom Cruise.

Tencent, which operates numerous entertainment ventures in China, including Netflix knockoff Tencent Video, separately filed a $1.4 billion IPO for its Tencent Music branded streaming service.

As an investor and co-marketing partner, Tencent Pictures will assist with the marketing and promotions of Bumblebee in mainland China. Hasbro, creator and owner of the Transformers brand on which the film franchise is based, is also a co-financier on Bumblebee.

Starring Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 3The Edge of Seventeen), John Cena (Blockers, Trainwreck), and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Love, Simon, Spiderman: Homecoming)Bumblebee is an Autobot character set in 1987 as a prequel to the Transformers franchise.

Bumblebee represents Tencent’s first international project after Warner Bros.’ Venom and its first collaboration with Paramount. Other Hollywood domestic collaborations include Warcraft, Kong: Skull IslandWonder Woman, La La Land and Ready Player One.

“Tencent’s involvement in many high-profile international projects has demonstrated its strong capacity in marketing campaigns in China,” Jim Gianopulos, CEO, Paramount Pictures, said in a statement.

 

Roku, Apple, Amazon See Early Market Bounce Following U.S./China Trade Truce

Wall Street Dec. 3 reacted favorably early to tech stocks following weekend news the Trump Administration and China had reached a 90-day truce regarding proposed tariffs (taxes) on Chinese manufactured goods and raw materials.

Stocks for Roku, Apple and Amazon all climbed higher in pre-market trading as many — if not all — consumer electronics products, including the Roku Stick and branded televisions, Apple iPhone, Apple TV, Apple iPad, and Amazon Fire TV Stick are majority-made in China.

Trump had pledged to impose tariffs — beginning Jan. 1 — on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made steel and raw materials. Tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese goods (i.e. consumer electronics) have been postponed as well.

Trump said the tariffs would be held off as trade negotiators between the two countries attempt to hammer out new trade agreements. In a Dec. 3 tweet, Trump wrote:

“My meeting in Argentina [at the G-20 summit] with President Xi [Jinping] of China was an extraordinary one. Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward! Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain, if and when a deal is completed.”

That was good enough for Tom Forte, analyst with D.A. Davidson, who upped from “neutral” to “buy” on Roku shares.

Meanwhile, Sacha Tihanyi with TD Securities, remained cautiously optimistic, writing in a note, reported by CNBC that “overarching concerns in the U.S.-China economic relationship remain … [and] are not ones that we believe can be easily tackled in a 90-day period.”

‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’ Gets Streaming Deal in China

“The Late Late Show with James Corden” (especially “Carpool Karaoke”) is going where Netflix can’t: China.

CBS Studios International and Chinese online video platform iQiYiNov. 14 announced a licensing agreement for the late night talk show hosted by British comedian Corden. This is the first time the series has been made available in China, with current and past episodes available on-demand on the iQIYI platform.

Since launching in 2015 with Corden, “The Late Late Show” has generated 475 clips on YouTube with more than 1 million views each, resulting in more than 5 billion overall views and over 16 million subscribers for the show’s YouTube channel.

The show’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment – reportedly the most popular late night TV trend on social media – has more than 1.95 billion views on YouTube since its inception a year ago.

Segments featuring Adele and Justin Bieberare currently the #1 and #2 most-watched “Late Night” clips on YouTube, along with Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Wonder, Gwen Stefani, Elton John and One Direction.

A spin-off of the segment, “Carpool Karaoke: The Series,” was acquired by Apple with Corden as executive producer.

“We believe … James Corden will be well-recognized by millions of Chinese audiences,” iQIYI said in a statement.

Armando Nuñez, CEO of  CBS Global Distribution Group, said that with mobile viewing dominate among iQIYI’s subscriber base, “inventive content and viral moments of ‘The Late Late Show’” are well-suited for the platform.

“It’s exciting to join forces with iQIYI to bring the supreme talent of James Corden and the star power of his guests to Chinese audiences,” said Nuñez.

 

 

 

Cinedigm Partners With Chinese Streaming Channel Youku to Exclusively Distribute 30 Original Feature Films in North America

Cinedigm has announced a partnership with Chinese streaming service Youku to distribute 30 original Chinese feature films in North America on all platforms including digital, DVD and Blu-ray, and OTT, with a primary focus on major streaming platforms and niche outlets.

The films will also be included in the recently announced China-focused OTT channel Bambu that Cinedigm is launching later this year.

The films, never before seen in the United States or Canada, represent a wide range of Chinese film styles including urban thrillers, relationship-driven films, sci-fi fantasy, horror and costume fantasy, according to Cinedigm.

“We are excited to bring these innovative original films to the broad U.S. population in North America that are seeking new cutting-edge film productions from around the world,” said Bill Sondheim, president of Cinedigm Entertainment Group. “These films offer a unique and exclusive viewing opportunity for fans of new production styles and emerging Asian creative talent that is quickly evolving into an important film genre. Cinedigm is committed to help nurture this growing production style and feel the broadening distribution and availability of Youku’s content in mainstream US streaming outlets will be an important catalyst. We are honored with the opportunity provided by Youku to bring these films to hungry outlets throughout the North American distribution ecosystem.”

“Youku is excited to enter this new relationship with Cinedigm to broaden our distribution into America,” said Doria Dai, Youku Pictures producer. “We continue to make compelling original movies and TV series and expect this new cooperation agreement will allow Youku to build an audience of fans in the high-profile American Market.”

The Youku deal is the latest development in Cinedigm’s strategy to forge relationships with China’s leading content producers and distributors. Other deals that Cinedigm is finalizing include licensing current hit TV shows and movies from CITVC, the international licensing arm of CCTV, China’s largest broadcaster; agreements with Shanghai Media Group, the largest regional producer and broadcaster in China; and a relationship with CICC (China Intercontinental Communication Center), according to Cinedigm.

Well Go to Bow Chinese Films ‘Girls vs Gangsters,’ ‘Detective Dee,’ and ‘How Long Will I Love You’ in November

Three Chinese films, Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, Girls vs Gangsters and How Long Will I Love You, are coming to the home market from Well Go USA in November

Due Nov. 6 on DVD is Girls vs Gangsters, about a bachelorette weekend that spins out of control. After a wild night, three friends wake on a beach, two handcuffed to a locked suitcase, one with a new tattoo, and all of them not knowing what happened the night before. The film features Mike Tyson.

Coming Nov. 13 on DVD and Blu-Ray combo pack is Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings. Director Tsui Hark (The Taking of Tiger Mountain) brings back the popular hero in the hit wuxia fantasy franchise. Set during the Tang dynasty, the third film in the martial arts franchise finds the detective defending himself from the Empress while looking to recover a magical weapon.

Finally, coming to VOD and digital Nov. 13 is How Long Will I Love You. The romantic comedy follows a man and a woman who are living in the same apartment nearly 20 years apart and wake one day to find their timelines have merged.