The Chinese high-end video platform, Huanxi Premium, has acquired exclusive streaming rights to the hit British drama series Bodyguard, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Huanxi signed the deal for the series with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, the owner of World Productions, the Emmy-nominated show’s producer.
The series, written and created by Jed Mercurio, follows the character David Budd (Richard Madden of Games of Thrones), a heroic but unpredictable war veteran who is assigned to protect the Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes) as he finds himself divided between his job and his ethics. After its premiere last year, Bodyguard became the most-watched BBC drama of the past decade, with an audience of more than 17 million viewers in the U.K. The show was nominated for best TV drama and Madden won an Emmy for best performance by an actor in a television drama.
Huanxi Premium is the in-house streaming service of the fast-rising Chinese film and television studio Huanxi Media Group. The company was co-founded in 2015 by film business veteran Dong Ping (co-producer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and two of China’s greatest directors: Xu Zheng (Lost in Hong Kong) and Ning Hao (Crazy Alien). Steven Xiang, a former attorney, joined the company shortly after as CEO. “We think there is still huge opportunity for a more curated version of a streaming service [in China],” says Xiang, Huanxi’s CEO.
The Media Group’s plan is to expand its in-house streaming service Huanxi Premium, which is seen as China’s first dedicated HBO-like streamer for high-end content from at home and abroad, to fill a void within the Chinese video landscape — the world’s second-largest streaming market by earnings and subscribers.
The company plans to renounce the large licensing revenue it could earn from selling the online rights for its successful films to China’s main three video services, iQiyi, Tencent Video, and Alibaba’s Youku, thus making the studio’s films available online to Huanxi Premium’s own users. Since Huanxi fully owns the films it produces, it is also able to shorten the theatrical window for some of its blockbusters, often releasing them online within only four to six weeks of their theatrical release.
Furthermore, the company intends to buy exclusive rights to boutique international content. It has purchased rights to over 30 high-quality overseas movies and TV series, including Julian Schnabel’s Vincent Van Gogh biopic At Eternity’s Gate, German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Oscar nominee Never Look Away, and the critically praised period soccer film The Keeper.
Huanxi Premium will premiere the show’s first season in China later this year. The six-episode drama series is streamed by Netflix in the U.S. and internationally.