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U.S. Distributors Are Popping Up Like Mushrooms: Asian Media Rights

by Sydney Levine
November 5, 2010 2:45 AM
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This is the second of three new U.S. distribution companies recently conceived of to give Asian films a platform in the U.S. This article comes from Patrick Frater's Film Business Asia, a free online publication based on data in the Asian film business that is a must-read for anyone in the business.

By Patrick Frater, Fri, 05 November 2010

Video on Demand News




Michael Hong and David Chu (pictured l and r), former heads of ImaginAsian TV, are back in business with North American video-on-demand venture Asian Media Rights.

At this week’s American Film Market they will be acquiring films and expanding their distribution relations ahead of a formal 1 December launch.

The company provides distribution of Asian films and event programming to the video-on-demand platforms that belong to the US’s cable satellite and telco firms. A move into Canada is planned for the second half of next year.

“The decline of DVD means increasing challenges for Asian content [in North America],” said Chu. “But on launch we will be in 50 million households. And it is our long term goal to become the largest Asian film distributor.”

“The paradigm shift is a great opportunity for us – Blockbuster declared bankruptcy, Hollywood Movies went away – we are now introducing Asian content to audiences and the platforms are open to trying new things,” said Hong.

Operations start with a library of 150 titles acquired from content owners including Japan’s Nikkatsu and Bandai; Thailand’s Five Star and GTH; and South Korea’s Showbox, Mirovision, Niners and iHQ.

The company expects to quickly climb past 200 titles through its AFM purchases and other upcoming deals. It has acquired content from TLA Releasing and is negotiating with other North American rights holders of Asian movies.

Unlike an unlimited broadband library, the cable and satellite platforms each have specific requirements in terms of quantity and availability of content, making it AMR’s job to tailor the mix of movies and windows for each. The company in fact packages its Asian content into two strands; one labelled Asian Crush for films; and one branded Asian Motor Sports spanning event programming such as Japanese drift racing.

“Every [cable or satellite] system has its own way of presenting VoD. For instance on Comcast [titles are branded as] Cinema Asian-America, for which we are the primary non-studio partner,” said Chu.

AMR is privately owned, principally by the founders, and has so far opted not accepted outside investment, though in a preliminary funding round that was not completed it secured commitments of some $5 million.

The company reckons that 95% of its films are current or recent library titles and all are set to be North American premieres. Titles available include Thai horror Phobia 2 (2 แพร่ง), hit Korean comedy action picture Secret Reunion (의형제) and Asian-American queer film Fruit Fly. It also has the entire Gundam series stretching from the present back to 1981. ImaginAsian TV was sold to CJ Entertainment last year.

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