Chinese channel debuts in North America

Updated: 2013-12-06 12:57

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily USA)

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SimulTV is a pioneering technology with an exclusive Chinese partnership.

Founder and CEO Steven Turner began designing SimulTV in 2004 to create the first platform that allows viewers around the world to interact while watching television programs and movies with real-time video chatting and social-media channels imbedded on one screen.

After a couple of soft launches this year to get global user feedback, a new and improved SimulTV will relaunch on Jan 1, timed accordingly with the introduction of a new Chinese channel.

"We're very excited about having [China Huace Film & TV Co] on board with us, and I want to make sure that it gets the best platform that we have to offer," Turner told China Daily. "One of the things that's very special about our relationship is we have [Huace] exclusively for North America, meaning their entire library [of content] will be available only on SimulTV."

Huace will join a lineup of SimulTV programming that includes sports, music, movies, fashion events, and television shows from around the world. The channel will include Chinese dubbing with English subtitles.

"There have been some discussions with other Chinese entities," said Turner, giving State television-broadcaster CCTV as an example. "We want people to have different views, different styles, different available options. I mean, you don't want to have just Fox - you may also want ABC. Each one has a different flavor, and the same thing goes for China."

Huace, based in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province, is one of China's largest and most influential private media groups dedicated to the production and distribution of Chinese films and television dramas. In addition to its coastal headquarters, the company has more than 10 subsidiaries and offices in locations including Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Huace's mission is to produce and distribute high-quality Chinese programs that present Chinese culture to the rest of the global community. The company provides several films as well as more than 600 television program episodes every year.

Programming from the Huace library will include modern series like Symphony of Fate or I Want to Live, idol series like Blue Love, period series like Love in a Fallen City, or historic series like Love Amongst War. Future plans include launching some brand new strong titles like Demi-Gods & Semi-Devils and The Virtuous Queen of Han.

Turner was inspired to create SimulTV after watching family members who had to pick up the phone every time they wanted to debate a big play during a football game. He figured there had to be a better way to connect with others through the social-media universe while watching television.

People may view SimulTV's entire stock of content anywhere in the world, except the Chinese mainland, where access will be limited to a smaller library.

Subscribers can invite friends to join their SimulTV network, set up "viewing circles" to watch the same program, and communicate via social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, in real time as they watch together.

In addition to obtaining established channels such as One World Sports, which Turner said broadcasts some of the best Chinese and Asian sports events throughout the world, SimulTV will both curate programs to create new channels and promote the creation of original content. For example, the company is running a contest for TV pilot submissions.

"[Turner's] philosophy has been giving people a chance to have their programming available, whereas traditionally it's very hard to do," said Mandi Lebbos, a public relations representative for SimulTV.

"We're always looking for the diamonds in the rough, where you may be the next Steven Spielberg, but you may not have the ability to see your product [widely distributed]," said Turner, who said partnering with SimulTV would provide greater exposure than throwing a video up on YouTube. "We're going to promote you, we're going to push you, we're going to help push what we think is the best content out there."

On top of the 20 channels SimulTV already provides and the Chinese channel it will launch in January, SimulTV will add Bollywood and Vietnamese channels, increase its Japanese content, and add 40 more American channels by the end of 2014. The SimulTV library also includes more than 60,000 Video on Demand titles that will be added to the system over time.

Despite the vast amount of content, Turner said SimulTV will never try to copy the format of cable television where viewers are overwhelmed with 3,000 different channels.

"We're going to cherry-pick the best of the best and try to give you options," Turner said. "We're going to break it up, so you don't have to buy everything to get it."

SimulTV will be based on an a la-carte system that allows customers to buy packages in smaller groups that are more associated with their interests.

Turner said the American channel package will cost $5.99 per month, whereas the Video on Demand package will cost $6.99 per month and the Asian package that includes the Huace channel will be $9.99 per month.

Turner said the January launch is just stage one with the SimulTV system, and he has stages two and three already figured out. Part of stage two, he said, will go into education and gaming.

"The ultimate idea behind SimulTV is to change the world for the better by connecting people across different divides, whether it's religion, ethnicities, countries, whatever," Turner said.

carolineberg@chinadailyusa.com

(China Daily USA 12/06/2013 page11)

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