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Tencent in deal to bring Chinese online comics to North American readers

Partnership with digital publisher Tapas Media will see bestselling titles, including Fox Spirit Matchmaker, become available to audiences in the US and Canada for the first time

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 8:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 11:27pm

Tencent Holdings, the world’s largest video games company by revenue, has entered the North American comics market through a pact with San Francisco-based digital publisher Tapas Media, a partnership that will see the English-language release of a number of popular online Chinese titles.

In a joint statement, Tapas Media and the Chinese internet giant’s Tencent Animation & Comics (Tencent AC) unit said the initial titles to be released from this month were selected for their crossover potential with English-speaking audiences in North America and other markets around the world.

Those include Fox Spirit Matchmaker, a supernatural romance novel that was Tencent AC’s most popular title in June.

“The cooperation between Tapas Media and Tencent AC be key in helping to connect the global marketplace to the freshest and most popular comic intellectual property from China’s growing content industry,” said Zou Zhengyu, the general manager of Tencent AC, part of the Tencent Interactive Entertainment Group.

Total comic and graphic novel sales to consumers in the US and Canada increased 5 per cent year on year to US$1.1 billion in 2016, with digital comics accounting for US$90 million, according to joint estimates by industry research firm Comichron and trade news site ICv2.

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It is a growing market that augurs well for the prospects of Tencent AC’s other heralded titles that will air online from this month on the mainland.

Tencent AC and Phoenix Entertainment, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed broadcaster Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings, announced at a Beijing event in May that all 15 novels of renowned Chinese martial arts novelist Louis Cha Leung-yun are being adapted into an online comic series.

Among the initial batch of existing Tencent AC titles that will be made available by Tapas Media through its mobile app are Book of Yaoguai and Zombie Brother.

Chang Kim, the chief executive at Tapas Media, said the partnership with Tencent AC “will further help solidify Tapas as the best one-stop app for readers to find both amazing book and web comic content”.

Since its founding in 2012, Tapas Media has published about 26,000 series and more than 430,000 episodes on its tapas.io platform. Its mobile app has more than two million users. About 95 per cent of Tapas Media’s content is free. Paid titles are unlocked on a per-episode basis.

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Shenzhen-based Tencent last month reported first-half revenue of 106.1 billion yuan (US$16.3 billion).