China's $500M Blockbuster 'The Mermaid' Getting TV Adaptation

Courtesy of Sony Pictures
'The Mermaid'

Beijing-based iQiyi has paid an historic $61.8 million for exclusive streaming rights to the show, which sources in China say will be scripted and produced by Stephen Chow.

China's biggest movie ever, Stephen Chow's blockbuster The Mermaid, which earned an astonishing $527 million in 2016, is set to be remade for television.

Chinese production company Shanghai New Culture Media Group revealed in a regulatory filing that it has sold the exclusive online streaming rights to the forthcoming show to Beijing-based SVOD company iQiyi for $61.8 million (420 million RMB) — a record for streaming video rights in the country.

Local Chinese media sources are reporting that Chow will script and produce the TV drama adaptation himself.

New Culture Media also said in a second filing that it has sold to iQiyi the exclusive broadcast and online streaming rights to another forthcoming TV drama based on a Chow blockbuster — 2017's Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back, which was released over Chinese New Year in late January and earned $240 million in China. iQiyi paid $42.4 million (288 million RMB) for those rights, the filing said. Both of the new shows will be developed and produced by New Culture Media.

A representative from iQiyi declined to comment.  

In early 2017, Shanghai New Culture Media Group, whose stock is listed on the Shenzhen exchange with a market capitalization of $1.3 billion, acquired a 51 percent stake in Premium Data Associates Limited, a production and rights management company founded and owned by Chow, for $195.7 million (1.33 billion RMB). Chow retained a 49 percent stake in the entity.  

iQiyi, a subsidiary of Chinese search giant Baidu, has been on a Netflix-like buying spree since raising $1.5 billion in February. While the company continues to beef up on high-value local content like the new Chow shows, it also has been buying prestige U.S. content aggressively.

In March, iQiyi acquired exclusive Chinese online rights to 2017 Oscar favorites La La Land and Moonlight (it's unclear whether the latter will be able to clear Chinese censorship, however). And in April, iQiyi inked an output agreement with Netflix, which has been barred from setting up its service within China by Beijing's regulators. iQiyi said it hopes to import such Netflix originals as Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Mindhunter, BoJack Horseman and Ultimate Beastmaster — as soon as the necessarily government approvals are granted. 

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