The majority of fans around the world must hang on until the end of the year for a taste of Disney’s newest and much-anticipated installment in the Star Wars saga, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But viewers in China have been given a little something to nibble on while they wait: the complete, six-episode Star Wars franchise — from A New Hope, which bowed in 1977, to 2005’s Revenge of the Sith — dropped Sept. 14 on Tencent, China’s answer to Facebook, and the force behind the country’s largest streaming and social media platforms, WeChat and QQ.
The Tencent Star Wars hub was created in the wake of a deal with Disney and 20th Century Fox that allows the company to be the exclusive transactional VOD and subscription VOD online provider in mainland China for the complete epic.
Star Wars episodes I-VI were released via Tencent’s online channels, including both the film and video channels of V.QQ.com, Film.QQ.com and the TencentVideo app. According to media reports, Tencent is offering the titles free to existing subscribers, and selling individual films for the equivalent of about 50 cents to non-members.
The hub also offers additional content, including shorts, behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, video featurettes and a curated collection of vintage Star Wars extras from each of the original films.
The deal is part of the Star Wars’ overall promotional strategy, according to Carol Choi, VP of marketing for Disney China.
“By working with Tencent we can extend the Star Wars franchise to Tencent’s massive user base and go to the heart of digital lifestyles in China,” said Choi in a statement. Tencent’s messaging app WeChat reportedly taps into more than 500,000 million active monthly users, while QQ, a gaming and messaging platform, has more than 820 million subscribers.
The agreement makes the movies available on demand for the first time in the country — a timely coup for Tencent, which is facing increasing competition for audience loyalty from the likes of streaming service iQuyi and digital network Youku Tudou.
Alvin Fu, managing director for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in China called the deal a “huge win” for the existing fans “as well as those who will be introduced to the iconic movies through this collaboration.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set to open in theaters on Dec. 18.