(Yicai Global) May 31 -- Huanxi Media Group and acclaimed Chinese movie director and producer Zhang Yimou are teaming up to make three for-the-web television shows over the next six years as the company looks to bounce back and become China's Netflix.
Huanxi has offered Zhang CNY100 million (USD15.6 million) and a more than 5-percent stake in the company to produce the dramas, one of which may be a movie, it said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. If the shows are not produced within the time frame, it can be extended for another four years.
"What Huanxi wants to do is create a Chinese Netflix," Chairman Dong Ping told Yicai Global in an interview. "A high-quality video-streaming platform that combines existing and original content."
The award-winning Zhang, who was runner-up for Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 2008, announced plans to start directing web series at the 2018 China Online Drama Summit in Beijing on May 10. Zhetian, a fantasy drama written by Chen Dong, will be first in line to get Zhang's magic touch.
The ambitious plans follow a string of disappointing financial performances at Huanxi Media. The Hong Kong-based firm lost more than HKD1.4 billion (USD184 million) from 2015 through 2017, mainly due to a HKD1.25-billion deficit in 2016.
"The losses in the annual reports are primarily due to book value losses, rather than cash losses incurred in existing movie and television entertainment businesses," Dong said. "Huanxi Media owns the most critical resources in the content industry, i.e. directors, which represent the most important advantage in China's 'director-centric' film market."
Apart from Zhang, Huanxi Media has signed deals on web drama series with a number of top directors including Wong Kar-wai, Peter Chan, Xu Zheng, Jia Zhangke, Wang Xiaoshuai, Gu Changwei and Zhang Yibai. More filmmakers are expected to join the company in future.
Zhang rose to fame with his movie Hero, released in the US in 2004, and reached international stardom after directing the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Editor: James Boynton