WB joins H.K. VOD market to combat piracy

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HONG KONG -- Warner Bros. International Television Distribution has entered Hong Kong's growing video-on-demand market via a multiyear agreement with ViDeOnline Communications in a move that could help the Hollywood giant test a new distribution outlet in piracy-plagued Greater China.

Warner Bros. said in a statement released late Tuesday that it has agreed to sign over VOD distribution rights in Hong Kong to all its current feature-length motion pictures to ViDeOnline, a company with offices in Hong Kong, China and California.

"Making our movie content available to ViDeOnline's Hong Kong consumers is an important step in our global digital distribution strategy," WBIT president Jeffrey Schlesinger said.

The deal comes as movie piracy flourishes across the border from Hong Kong in mainland China, where the government is facing increased international pressure to enforce intellectual property rights and defending itself against multiple recent complaints filed with the World Trade Organization.

ViDeOnline, whose O8 Media network supplies digital content to Internet service providers, broadband carriers, IPTV, digital TV providers and mobile phone carriers, will kick off its deal with Warner Bros. by offering subscribers in Hong Kong about 100 Warners titles including such features as "V for Vendetta," "Superman Returns" and "Lady in the Water."

Priscilla Lu, founder and chairman of ViDeOnline said that the company "is committed to working directly with Hollywood studios in protecting their copyright assets and has instituted sophisticated video watermarking, digital rights management and other advanced security measures to ensure the complete protection of copyrighted films and television content."

Data about how much movie downloading ViDeOnline's O8 Media portal is facilitating was not available. The Hong Kong offices of Warner Bros. and ViDeOnline were not available at press time.

Launched in Hong Kong on March 29, the portal appears to have quickly become Hollywood's online distributor of choice in the territory of seven million residents.

In April, Buena Vista International Television Asia Pacific signed the first deal to offer Hollywood film titles to Hong Kong via VOD when it inked a deal with ViDeOnline for library titles from Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures and Miramax Films.

"Currently, new media platforms account for a small percentage of our overall revenues but we foresee this increasing significantly over the next few years," a Buena Vista spokesperson said at April's MIPTV conference in France.
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