As Tencent continues their breakneck expansion into entertainment, it seems they have found the droids they are looking for.
The internet giant has officially signed a deal to become the exclusive online distributor of the first six Star Wars films, inking a deal with their new owner, Walt Disney. It comes as fans are now eagerly counting down the final days before the highly-anticipated seventh installment; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Just three days ago Tencent launched Penguin Pictures, a new movie production unit aiming to produce 10-15 movies per year. Tencent pictures, a similar venture, was established last year. Alibaba established their own film and entertainment arm early this year following the $800 million USD acquisition of Hong-Kong based ChinaVision.
A handful of Chinese internet companies are now vying to hold down paying consumers in the growing video streaming space. Partnerships with popular series are hard fought. Tencent forged an agreement with HBO in November 2014, making them the exclusive distributor of hit shows including Game of Thrones as well as other series. Last year Netflix signed a limited licensing agreement with Sohu to distribute the highly popular House Of Cards.
China has a large market for pirated content that continues to thrive despite government efforts to curb it. Foreign producers have fought back by seeking licensing deals to have more control over their series, and not just financially. Pirated series in China are often subject to sub-par translation or dubbing by netizen volunteers.
Star Wars fans in China will now be able to watch the entirety of the first six Star Wars films for an added premium of 2.50 yuan. Next month, subscribers will be able to watch the films for free while non-members will have to pay double, 5 yuan, to watch each film. A number of streaming services are pushing the same deal for popular series, hoping to boost subscribers.