Cinedigm has reached an agreement with Chinese video streaming giant Youku to distribute 30 of its original feature films in North America, a significant milestone in Los Angeles-based firm’s efforts to distribute contemporary Chinese-language content in the U.S.
Under their partnership, Cinedigm will attempt to secure online and television distribution for a package of films targeting a millennial audience, and spanning genres, including urban thrillers, sci-fi fantasy, horror and costume fantasy. Youku’s movies also will be included in Cinedigm’s forthcoming Chinese-focused streaming channel, Bambu, which launches later this year.
“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,” said Cinedigm Entertainment Group President Bill Sondheim.
This is not the first time Youku has sought to cultivate American audiences for its original programming. Last year, Netflix acquired worldwide rights outside of China to Night and Day, a gritty 32-episode detective drama series that earned critical praise in China and generated more than 4 billion views since its local premiere.
Youku, which is a division of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has been bringing American entertainment to Chinese viewers for years.
Just last year, it struck content licensing deals that same year with NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures television to bring newly released U.S. movies, like Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and popular franchises including The Fast and the Furious, Despicable Me and The Mummy, to its Chinese subscribers. Earlier this year, it reached a licensing deal with Disney to distribute live-action and animated movies such as Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Frozen and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The Cinedigm deal represents an effort to broaden the distribution and reach of Youku’s original Mandarin-language films in the U.S.
“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,” said Doria Dai, Youku pictures producer.
The Youku deal reflects Cinedigm’s progress in forging relationships with China’s leading content producers and distributors. It is negotiating a deal to license current hit TV shows and movies from CITVC, the international licensing arm of CCTV, China’s largest broadcaster. Cinedigm also is in negotiations with Shanghai Media Group, the largest regional broadcaster in China.