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 (1977) to Revenge of the Sith (2005)— dropped September 14 on Tencent. (China’s answer to Facebook is 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 grants the company exclusive transactional VOD and SVOD rights for the property in mainland China.
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 US$0.50 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 overall Star Wars promotional strategy, according to Carol Choi, VP of marketing for Disney China.
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 coup for Tencent, which is facing increasing competition for audience loyalty from the likes of streaming service iQuyi and digital network Youku Tudou.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set to open in theaters on December 18.