Chinese Streamer Huanxi Premium Acquires Hit U.K. Miniseries 'Quiz' (Exclusive)

'Quiz' Still - H - 2019
Credit: Left Bank Pictures

The deal adds to the ambitious streamer's international content pool as it continues to carve out a niche as a high-end destination in China's vast online video landscape.

Chinese streaming platform Huanxi Premium has acquired exclusive local online rights to Stephen Frears' hit U.K. limited series Quiz.

The company will release all three of the show's hour-long episodes in China early next year. Huanxi acquired Quiz, originally produced by ITV, from Sony Pictures Television.

The acquisition adds to Huanxi's growing collection of high-end international TV content, much of it British. The company has previously picked up exclusive China rights to ITV hits like Bodyguard and Snowpiercer, as well as the BBC miniseries World on Fire.

Written and created by British playwright James Graham, Quiz tells the story of how Charles Ingram, a former army major, unexpectedly won the 1 million pound jackpot on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2001, but was soon pursued by criminal charges alleging that he and his wife had cheated their way to the success. The show is based on Graham's play of the same name, which in turn was based on the book Bad Show: the Quiz, the Cough, the Millionaire Major by Bob Woffinden and James Plaskett.

Directed by two-time Oscar-nominee Frears (The Queen, Philomena), the miniseries stars Matthew Macfadyen (Succession), Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon), Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders) and Sian Clifford (Fleabag). It was met with rave reviews upon its release in the U.K. and U.S. — via AMC stateside — earlier this year. THR's critic described the show as offering "ethical ambiguity served up with zippy pacing and a tremendous cast."

The pickup fits in with Huanxi's stated strategy of leveraging prestige film and TV content from at home and abroad to fill a high-end niche within China's streaming landscape — the world's second-largest video market by both revenue and subscribers. The studio also produces tentpole theatrical films through an array of partnerships with leading Chinese filmmakers, such as Ning Hao (Crazy Alien), Xu Zheng (Lost in Russia), and Peter Chan (forthcoming volleyball biopic Leap), among others.

Huanxi's dual-channel business model — split between big-budget theatrical film production and subscription video — proved keenly advantageous earlier this year amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after Chinese cinemas shut down in late Janurary, derailing the country's usual Chinese New Year box office bonanza, Huanxi inked a $90 million deal with Chinese video powerhouse ByteDance, the company behind TikTok and its wildly popular Chinese counterparts, to jointly release Xu Zheng's holiday tentpole Lost in Russia online for free, sharing the ad revenue.

Huanxi's swift pivot from theaters to streaming for the much anticipated movie generated some heated blowback from Chinese exhibitors, but Lost in Russia went on to attract more than 600 million views in its first week of online release. Huanxi and ByteDance described the deal as a first step in a planned further integration of their long-form video offerings.