Warner Bros. Films Like ‘Harry Potter’ Are Coming to China’s Netflix

Warner Bros. Films Like ‘Harry Potter’ Are Coming to China’s Netflix
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Chinese streaming giant iQiyi now owns streaming rights to about 200 Warner Bros. movies like 'Harry Potter' and 'Gravity.'

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By Tom Huddleston, Jr.

Hundreds of Warner Bros. movie titles will soon be available to stream online in China after the Hollywood studio cut a deal with a Netflix-like company in the country.

On Tuesday, Time Warner-owned Warner Bros. announced its new licensing agreement with iQiyi, the streaming video platform owned by Chinese internet search giant Baidu. The deal gives iQiyi streaming rights to a list of about 200 Warner Bros. movies, from the "Harry Potter" film franchise to Academy Award-winner "Gravity." The Chinese streaming site also gets exclusive streaming rights in the region to certain titles, including "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, 2013's "The Great Gatsby" adaptation, and 2014's "Godzilla."

The companies did not disclose the specific financial terms of the deal, but the agreement is part of the growing trend of Hollywood working closely with Chinese media companies — as evidenced by the string of Chinese investments in the U.S. entertainment industry, as well as various Hollywood film partnerships with Chinese investors and movie studios.

Baidu's iQiyi already secured exclusive streaming rights for recent Oscar winners like "Moonlight," "La La Land," and Iran's "The Salesman" earlier this month. The streaming site previously signed similar licensing deals with a range of movie studios, such as 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Viacom's Paramount, and Comcast's NBCUniversal, among others. And, much like U.S. streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon, iQiyi has also been creating its own original content to deliver to its more than 20 million subscribers.

Speaking of Netflix and Amazon, the two popular streaming sites have rapidly expanded their respective global footprints, but they are still essentially blocked from entering China's ripe market due to the country's challenging regulatory environment. Instead, iQiyi, which recently raised US$1.53 billion in new capital to fund investments in video content, competes in the region with a handful of rivals that include Alibaba's Youku Tudou as well as services from tech conglomerate LeEco and web companies Sohu and Tencent.

Meanwhile, Baidu, which bought its 80.5 percent stake in iQiyi in 2012, has been rumored to be considering spinning off the streaming company in an initial public offering that could raise as much as US$1 billion.

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Editor: Olivia Yang