Tang Media Partners Pacts With China's Tencent on Major Hollywood Film Acquisition Fund

Courtesy of Tang Media Partners
Donald Tang

TMP, Tencent and investment firm China Everbright will work together to acquire 10 to 20 movies per year for distribution in China.

Tang Media Partners, the parent company of growing mini studio Global Road Entertainment, unveiled a series of major growth initiatives in Hong Kong on Monday. 

The company, headed by former investment banker Donald Tang, revealed that it has established a consortium with Chinese Internet giant Tencent and investment company China Everbright Limited to acquire 10 to 20 Hollywood films per year for distribution in China. TMP will manage the consortium's daily operations. The initiative was described as "a key building block for TMP's China distribution business."

Tang also shared some of TMP's financing plans at the Hong Kong gathering. The executive said he plans to take Tang Media Partners public within 18 to 24 months, and that the company is currently holding a D round of pre-IPO fundraising.  

"Where we list will really depend on the market conditions and the way our profit contributions from different regions shape up," Tang said. "We'll then decide as a board on where and how we're going to list."

Among TMP's other growth plans announced Monday was a new strategic partnership with Indian media conglomerate Reliance Entertainment. The two companies have established a joint venture dedicated to the export of Indian films in China, and Chinese films in India. The partners said they also will work together on the development of India-China co-productions. 

Over the past two years, Indian filmmaking has become a force at the Chinese box office, with titles such as Aamir Khan's Dangal ($193 million in China in 2017) and Secret Superstar ($118 million, 2018) performing on equal footing with Hollywood tentpoles. 

Founded in 2015, TMP is gearing up as an ambitious producer and distributor of global film and television content, with an emphasis on bridging the U.S. and Chinese creative industries and markets. Rob Friedman, CEO of the company's flagship entertainment division, Global Road, announced at the Berlin International Film Festival in February that the studio had amassed a $1 billion war chest to spend on film production over the coming three years. 

Friedman also was on hand in Hong Kong on Monday to unveil TMP's first Chinese-themed film project. Global Road and veteran producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (The Transformers, G.I. Joe) have signed a partnership agreement to co-produce action thriller The Last Masters, to be written by Alex Tse (Watchmen). The film, intended as a U.S.-China co-production, will be shot in the Middle Kingdom and other international territories. 

TMP's fourth announcement of the day was a plan to co-finance and produce a high-profile Chinese TV series with Tencent's production arm, Penguin Pictures. The show, Dian Dao Wei Zhi, is an adaptation of a work by popular Chinese online novelist Meng-Ru Shen. Tencent Video, the Internet conglomerate's local answer to Netflix, has already acquired the digital rights to the show. TMP described the production and licensing deals as representing a milestone towards its ambition "to become a major player across the entire Chinese television ecosystem."

TMP made its first big splash in mid-2016 when it bought a majority stake in Stuart Ford's foreign sales, financing and production outfit IM Global, while simultaneously launching a TV production fund with the company's then newly hatched IM Global Television unit (the two transactions were estimated to be worth a combined $200 million). The scope of Tang's ambitions became clearer in August when he completed a long-rumored takeover of North American distributor Open Road, integrating the two entities as Global Road Entertainment. 

While headquartered in Los Angeles, TMP has locally incorporated affiliate offices in Shanghai and Beijing, where some of its biggest backers are based. The company's strategic investors include Tencent, China Everbright, Li Ruigang's China Media Capital, Sequoia Capital's Neil Shen, Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media and India's Reliance Entertainment.

Tang offered a brief overview of TMP's structure and approach to the global entertainment landscape, describing his vision as a "dual-core" strategy. "China and the U.S. are the fastest growing and most established entertainment markets in the world, respectively," he said. "And these two markets are expected to account for a whopping 80 percent of total global box office sales in about five years." 

"Tang Media Partners is the first and only studio with headquarters in both China and the U.S., with established on-the-ground presences and operations in both markets," he added. "We are ahead of schedule in executing our dual core strategy."