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Lionsgate, Hunan in major financing pact

Hollywood studio Lionsgate will explore the international potential of Chinese TV series from broadcaster Hunan TV after the pair agreed a US$375 million film financing pact.

jon_feltheimerLionsgate will work with Hunan and its cable subsidiary, Hunan CATV Network Group Co, which has 15 million subscribers, “to explore opportunities for Hunan series outside China”.

This is part of a wider three-year agreement will see Hunan co-financing Hunger Games studio Lionsgate’s film slate, with the East West Bank and Bank of China thought to have provided almost US$400 million to finance the deal.

Some commentators are already seeing the deal as a milestone step to a Chinese company eventually owning a US entertainment studio.

“We’re delighted to expand our relationship with one of the pre-eminent entertainment brands in China to build our film and television presence in that territory as well as to explore opportunities around the world,” said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer.

“This agreement reflects our strategy of teaming with entrepreneurial partners to expand our global operations in key markets while underscoring our commitment to a business model that mitigates risk.”

“We look forward to joining hands in creating a feature film pipeline filled with some of the most commercially exciting movies in the world as well as exploring other strategic opportunities throughout our complementary film and television businesses,” said Hunan TV & Broadcasting chairman Qiu Yun Long.

Lionsgate last year it teamed with Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group to launch a subscription streaming service, Lionsgate Entertainment World. It is also a shareholder in Asian pay channels group Celestial Tiger.

The studio is also moving closer to another US TV company, premium pay operator Starz. The companies last month swapped stock in an agreement that saw key Starz shareholder John Malone join the Lionsgate board.

Before that, Lionsgate was linked among companies eyeing a US$5 billion takeover of Starz.