Chi­nese chan­nel de­buts in North Amer­ica

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By CARO­LINE BERG in New York car­o­lineberg@chi­nadai­

SimulTV is a pi­o­neer­ing tech­nol­ogy with an ex­clu­sive Chi­nese part­ner­ship.

Founder and CEO Steven Turner be­gan de­sign­ing SimulTV in 2004 to cre­ate the first plat­form that al­lows view­ers around the world to in­ter­act while watch­ing tele­vi­sion pro­grams and movies with re­al­time video chat­ting and so­cial­me­dia chan­nels imbed­ded on one screen.

Af­ter a cou­ple of soft launches this year to get global user feed­back, a new and im­proved SimulTV will re­launch on Jan 1, timed ac­cord­ingly with the in­tro­duc­tion of a new Chi­nese chan­nel.

“We’re very ex­cited about hav­ing [China Huace Film & TV Co] on board with us, and I want to make sure that it gets the best plat­form that we have to of­fer,” Turner told China Daily. “One of the things that’s very spe­cial about our re­la­tion­ship is we have [Huace] ex­clu­sively for North Amer­ica, mean­ing their en­tire li­brary [of con­tent] will be avail­able only on SimulTV.”

Huace will join a lineup of SimulTV pro­gram­ming that in­cludes sports, mu­sic, movies, fash­ion events, and tele­vi­sion shows from around the world. The chan­nel will in­clude Chi­nese dub­bing with English sub­ti­tles.

“There have been some dis­cus­sions with other Chi­nese en­ti­ties,” said Turner, giv­ing State tele­vi­sion-broad­caster CCTV as an ex­am­ple. “We want peo­ple to have dif­fer­ent views, dif­fer­ent styles, dif­fer­ent avail­able op­tions. I mean, you don’t want to have just Fox — you may also want ABC. Each one has a dif­fer­ent fla­vor, and the same thing goes for China.”

Huace, based in Hangzhou in China’s east­ern Zhejiang prov­ince, is one of China’s largest and most in­flu­en­tial pri­vate me­dia groups ded­i­cated to the pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of Chi­nese films and tele­vi­sion dra­mas. In ad­di­tion to its coastal head­quar­ters, the com­pany has more than 10 sub­sidiaries and of­fices in lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Bei­jing, Shen­zhen, Hong Kong and Tai­wan.

Huace’s mis­sion is to pro­duce and dis­trib­ute high-qual­ity Chi­nese pro­grams that present Chi­nese cul­ture to the rest of the global com­mu­nity. The com­pany pro­vides sev­eral films as well as more than 600 tele­vi­sion pro­gram episodes ev­ery year.

Pro­gram­ming from the Huace li­brary will in­clude mod­ern se­ries like Sym­phony of Fate or I Want to Live, idol se­ries like Blue Love, pe­riod se­ries like Love in a Fallen City, or his­toric se­ries like Love Amongst War. Fu­ture plans in­clude launch­ing some brand new strong ti­tles like Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils and The Vir­tu­ous Queen of Han.

Turner was in­spired to cre­ate SimulTV af­ter watch­ing fam­ily mem­bers who had to pick up the phone ev­ery time they wanted to de­bate a big play dur­ing a foot­ball game. He fig­ured there had to be a bet­ter way to con­nect with oth­ers through the so­cial-me­dia universe while watch­ing tele­vi­sion.

Peo­ple may view SimulTV’s en­tire stock of con­tent any­where in the world, ex­cept the Chi­nese main­land, where ac­cess will be lim­ited to a smaller li­brary.

Sub­scribers can in­vite friends to join their SimulTV net­work, set up “view­ing cir­cles” to watch the same pro­gram, and com­mu­ni­cate via so­cial me­dia, such as Face­book and Twit­ter, in real time as they watch to­gether.

In ad­di­tion to ob­tain­ing es­tab­lished chan­nels such as One World Sports, which Turner said broad­casts some of the best Chi­nese and Asian sports events through­out the world, SimulTV will both cu­rate pro­grams to cre­ate new chan­nels and pro­mote the cre­ation of orig­i­nal con­tent. For ex­am­ple, the com­pany is run­ning a con­test for TV pi­lot sub­mis­sions.

“[Turner’s] phi­los­o­phy has been giv­ing peo­ple a chance to have their pro­gram­ming avail­able, whereas tra­di­tion­ally it’s very hard to do,” said Mandi Leb­bos, a pub­lic re­la­tions rep­re­sen­ta­tive for SimulTV.

“We’re al­ways look­ing for the di­a­monds in the rough, where you may be the next Steven Spiel­berg, but you may not have the abil­ity to see your prod­uct [widely dis­trib­uted],” said Turner, who said part­ner­ing with SimulTV would pro­vide greater ex­po­sure than throw­ing a video up on YouTube. “We’re go­ing to pro­mote you, we’re go­ing to push you, we’re go­ing to help push what we think is the best con­tent out there.”

On top of the 20 chan­nels SimulTV al­ready pro­vides and the Chi­nese chan­nel it will launch in Jan­uary, SimulTV will add Bol­ly­wood and Viet­namese chan­nels, in­crease its Ja­panese con­tent, and add 40 more Amer­i­can chan­nels by the end of 2014. The SimulTV li­brary also in­cludes more than 60,000 Video on De­mand ti­tles that will be added to the sys­tem over time.

De­spite the vast amount of con­tent, Turner said SimulTV will never try to copy the for­mat of cable tele­vi­sion where view­ers are over­whelmed with 3,000 dif­fer­ent chan­nels.

“We’re go­ing to cherry-pick the best of the best and try to give you op­tions,” Turner said. “We’re go­ing to break it up, so you don’t have to buy ev­ery­thing to get it.”

SimulTV will be based on an a la-carte sys­tem that al­lows cus­tomers to buy pack­ages in smaller groups that are more as­so­ci­ated with their in­ter­ests.

Turner said the Amer­i­can chan­nel pack­age will cost $5.99 per month, whereas the Video on De­mand pack­age will cost $6.99 per month and the Asian pack­age that in­cludes the Huace chan­nel will be $9.99 per month.

Turner said the Jan­uary launch is just stage one with the SimulTV sys­tem, and he has stages two and three al­ready fig­ured out. Part of stage two, he said, will go into ed­u­ca­tion and gam­ing.

“The ul­ti­mate idea be­hind SimulTV is to change the world for the bet­ter by con­nect­ing peo­ple across dif­fer­ent di­vides, whether it’s re­li­gion, eth­nic­i­ties, coun­tries, what­ever,’’ Turner said.

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