With 6.4 million authors, Chinese online publisher models itself after Disney and Marvel

The company models partially after Marvel and Disney, but the difference is it will partner with others to develop and market products for IP that it owns

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 December, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 December, 2017, 10:47am

China Literature, a unit of Tencent Holdings and China’s largest e-book and online publishing website, is banking on developing and marketing its massive pool of intellectual property at home and abroad to help it become a combination of the Walt Disney Company and Marvel Entertainment.

“We are the biggest owner of intellectual property (IP) in China, but that’s not the end of the story,” said vice-president Luo Li in Hong Kong on Thursday.

“We want to put more focus on developing, marketing, and distributing the IP we own and promoting them to domestic and global audience.”

Luo said the company would build itself to be a cross between Marvel Studios and its parent company, Disney, which are renown for creating characters and monetising them through franchises in animation, television shows, films and other entertainment products, as well as selling these IP rights globally.

China Literature’s ambitious drive comes close in the heels of its successful listing in Hong Kong early last month. The US$1.06 billion initial public offer – Hong Kong’s hottest in a decade – drew an oversubscription of 625 times, locking in more than HK$520 billion (US$66.6 billion) of capital as investors were keen to get a slice of the firm, which could become an internet star like its parent.

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“Our ways of producing and marketing characters partially resemble Marvel and Disney’s,” said Luo.

But the difference is, China Literature, which boasts 9.6 million e-books from 6.4 million authors, does not plan to do it alone.

“We don’t want to become film production studios. We work with partners to co-develop the IP we own, including in producing entertainment products and distributing them,” he said.

In June, China Literature established a joint venture with Tencent Pictures, Tencent Games, and Wanda Pictures to develop its IP.

We are the biggest owner of intellectual property (IP) in China, but that’s not the end of the story
Luo Li, China Literature

“We want to better utilise our strength, which is the closeness to the market. We know at first hand when people change their reading preference on our website, thus we can guide the commercialisation of the IP.”

Luo said the company would focus on the domestic market for now before expanding overseas.

“It’s going to be a long process for China to export its culture to the world, be it films or modern literary works.”

As a first step of its overseas expansion plan, the company has tried to increase exposure of its works and characters to the overseas audience, including releasing its e-books and animation in foreign languages and working with foreign publishers and TV networks to promote them, including HBO.

China Literature currently derives more than 80 per cent of its revenues from charging readers to access its online content.

In the first half of 2017, it swung to a profit of 213 million yuan (US$32.17 million), from a loss of 2.38 million yuan in the same period a year ago.

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Last year, it generated an annual profit for the first time, earning 30.36 million yuan.

Luo said revenue from online reading would decrease in the future, when income from the IP business rose.