Celestial closer to a bite of Apple's online market

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am


Celestial Pictures aims to open the doors of Apple's digital media store for a vast global audience of smartphone and media tablet users to download Shaw Brothers' iconic martial arts movies onto their devices.

The South China Morning Post broke the news last month that Celestial, the Hong Kong entertainment company that owns the Shaw Brothers Film Library, was in talks with Apple to bring its prized Chinese content to the online iTunes Store.

'Those discussions are in a very advanced stage and we hope to have an official announcement soon,' Celestial chief executive Ross Pollack (pictured) said yesterday.

'We're working out a release schedule on the iTunes Store with Apple to make sure that we can quickly get as many films as possible available on the platform.'

Apple, the world's biggest technology company, rolled out the iTunes Store in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and nine other markets in Asia two weeks ago.

Until then, the online digital media store, which had a catalogue of more than 25 million songs and 45,000 movies as of April, had been available in just three Asia-Pacific markets - Japan, Australia and New Zealand - since it was introduced in 2003 due to lengthy negotiations with record labels and piracy concerns in the region.

Previously, most Apple users in Asia could only use the iTunes media player programme to access software applications in the online App Store for the company's popular iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. That programme also gave access to free audio and video content from Apple's educational iTunes U service.

Pollack said the negotiations with Apple to bring its Shaw Brothers content on the iTunes Store 'moved pretty quickly over the past three to six months'.

For Asia, the iTunes Store offers more than 20 million songs and hundreds of selected videos and movies, mostly from the big Hollywood studios.

'I think it's fantastic that Apple is doing this because consumers across Asia need more legitimate digital platforms to access and pay for high-quality content,' Pollack said. He added that negotiations were also under way to bring selected Shaw Brothers movie titles to the iTunes Stores in North America and Europe.

Apple reported in April that the iTunes Store generated record sales of US$1.9 billion in the firm's fiscal second quarter ended March, when total global revenue reached US$39.2 billion.

Pollack said Celestial's deal with Apple would be non-exclusive because the company had several other talks under way, including discussion with online digital media stores supporting users of devices that run Google's Android operating system.

'We want to ensure that our content is available on as many platforms as possible,' he said.

A spokeswoman for Hong Kong-based Television Broadcasts, one of the world's leading producers of Chinese-language television shows, said the company was closely monitoring the local market's response to the iTunes Store.