Celestial names Zhao MD for China

Former News Corp, Apple exec to digitize Shaw films

BEIJING -- Celestial Pictures, the Hong Kong-based film and TV production and distribution company, on Thursday appointed Gillian Zhao Fang as managing director for China.

Based in Beijing, the former News Corp, Apple and Microsoft executive will try to grow Celestial’s TV channel distribution, content licensing, and film and television series production in China, Celestial -- a subsidiary of Malaysian media company Astro All Asia Networks -- said in a statement.

Reporting to Celestial CEO Ross Pollack, Zhao will focus on digital distribution of Celestial Pictures’ Shaw Brothers Film Library, one of the world’s largest collection of Chinese-language films, and try to create new copyrighted assets, such as mobisodes, based on Shaw characters from such titles as director Chang Cheh’s 1978 martial arts classic “The Five Venoms.”

Zhao will have plenty of opportunities in China, where there are more mobile phone and Internet users than anywhere else in the world, but she also will face challenges since Beijing’s government tries hard to monitor all media content and has a track record of making foreign participation difficult.

At News Corp, Zhao handled channel and TV programs distribution in China but did not handle the distribution of the Fortune Star library of Chinese films the company owns.

In August, the company led by founder Rupert Murdoch sold control of its Chinese-language general entertainment channels after years of efforts to make further inroads into China.

Prior to her work at News Corp, Zhao was computer maker Apple’s China country manager and, before that, software maker Microsoft’s deputy general manager.

“In today’s rapidly changing world where media, telecom, the internet and information technology interweave with one another, I believe my rich experience in both the IT and media industries will bring value to [Celestial’s] development in China,” Zhao said.

Zhao also will increase Celestial’s efforts to produce TV series and movies in China with a view to distributing them around the world.

Some of Celestial’s planned made in China films and television will debut on Celestial’s movie and general entertainment TV channels.

Zhao also will buy Chinese content for Celestial’s channels and distribution outside of China.