STAR, QJY eye int'l market with 'Wesley' collaboration

Sci-fi series targets Mandarin speakers

A subsidiary of News Corp.'s STAR Group will co-produce 30 epi-sodes of a Mandarin-language, sci-fi series based on the "Wesley" series of novels popular with Chinese communities worldwide.

The move by STAR unit SGL Entertainment and Hangwai Enterprises, a unit of Hong Kong-listed Qin Jia Yuan Media Services Group (QJY), marks their first collaboration in exploring the global market for Chinese TV drama.

It's also part of QJY's larger three-year plan to produce TV dramas, company CEO Anita Leung Fung Yee said late Wednesday. QJY has earmarked HK$300 million ($38.4 million) in funding for the push.

"The collaboration with STAR's strong distribution network will be a definite advantage that is expected to boost QJY's revenue from overseas distribution of TV dramas," Leung said in a statement.

Both companies will invest an undisclosed sum in the "Wesley" series and collaborate on its development, casting, marketing, sales, distribution, packaging and promotion.

STAR will hold the exclusive worldwide distribution rights outside China and broadcast rights in Taiwan for five years after its completion. QJY will hold the exclusive worldwide perpetual rights for the drama.

Hangwai and SGL will cast the project with help from mainland TV networks. The two leading roles will be cast through a talent search on the mainland, in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. Shooting is set to begin in September, with a target completion date of July 2008.