Case Study: Country Risk, The Pirates Win in Hong Kong and Harry Potter Goes to China

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Case Study: Country Risk, The Pirates Win in Hong Kong and Harry Potter Goes to China

What do fake Honda motorcycles, fake Sony PlayStations, and fake Galloway golf clubs have in common? They, as well as many other name brand products, are being manufactured by copycat enterprises somewhere in China. In fact today it is estimated that 2/3rds of the world’s pirated goods are manufactured in China. This comes to around $350 billion worth of stolen intellectual property.

Pirated movies are also big business in China. Movies that would normally sell for $20 in the United States can be purchased in China’s pirated DVD market for around $1.00.

Blockbuster goes bust in China

Blockbuster Incorporated is a leading global provider of in-home movie and game entertainment, with nearly 9,000 stores throughout the 27 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia. The company rents more than 1 billion videos, DVDs, and video games at its Blockbuster Video outlets each year.

Blockbuster was founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1985, and opened its first store in that city in 1986. In1990, Blockbuster first entered the global market, when it acquired the London based video chain Ritz. The company also opened its first store in Canada in 1990. By year-end, Blockbuster had more than 1,000 stores worldwide.
In 1992, Blockbuster ventured into Latin America through outlets in Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela. It also expanded into Australia and Spain. Three years later in 1995 Blockbuster global reach extended into Italy, Argentina and New Zealand.
1996 saw Blockbuster expanding into Israel, Brazil, Peru, Columbia and Thailand. The company also launched its website and ended the year with more than 4,500 stores.

The first Blockbuster stores opened in Portugal, El Salvador and Panama in 1997, and Blockbuster expands into the Scandinavian market with the acquisition of Christianshavn Video in Denmark.

Taiwan and Uruguay are added to the company’s global chain in 1998. The same year, Blockbuster acquired Xtra-Vision, a chain of video stores in Ireland.
In 1999, Blockbuster Chairman and CEO John F. Antioco was recognized as one of Hollywood’s most powerful people in Entertainment Weekly’s annual “Power 101” issue. By all accounts, Blockbuster appeared to be a “blockbuster” of a company and the world was fast becoming its stage.
1999 was also the year that Blockbuster also ventured into Hong Kong. The company did so through the acquisition of 19 stores from the bankrupt video chain KPS. At the time, Blockbuster also envisioned Hong Kong as a logical stepping stone to mainland China, one of the fastest growing consumer markets in the world.
By year-end, 2003, however, Blockbuster had added only five stores in Hong Kong to the original KPS 19 outlets.
Then on January 29, 2004, after only 4 years in the former British colony, Blockbuster announced that it was going to close all 24 Hong Kong stores, and would do so as their leases expired.
Blockbuster International President Chris Wyatt said in the company’s released statement, that "Hong Kong has always been one of the film capitals of Asia, but it has been a very expensive market to develop and operate, with store lease costs being among the highest we have anywhere in the world.”

Blockbuster Hong Kong spokesman Michael Wong while noting that the costs of rent in the former British colony were the highest Blockbuster faced in Asia, also acknowledged that "Because of piracy issues … we think investing in China may not be up to our expectations.”

In essence, what Michael Wong was acknowledging was that the Chinese appetite for home entertainment was being more than met by its booming DVD piracy industry. In Hong Kong, it turns out, pirated movies are available for as little as HK$10 ($1.20).
At the time of the Hong Kong announcement, Blockbuster also acknowledged that they were abandoning their plans to expand into mainland China due to the widespread DVD piracy there as well.
It seemed like the bootleg DVD capital of the world had been more than a match for Blockbuster and the legitimate home entertainment industry.

Harry Potter Goes to China

Time Warner Incorporated is a leading global media and entertainment company. The company owns many recognized brands, including AOL, HBO, Time Magazine, Turner Broadcasting, (including CNN), New Line Cinema, and Warner Brothers Entertainment.

Warner Home Video, as part of the Warner Brothers Entertainment group, has distribution outlets in 90 overseas countries. One year after Blockbuster’s decision to leave Hong Kong, Warner Home Video announced a joint venture with China Audio Video, which will result in the U.S. company becoming the first U.S. studio to distribute video products in China.
The February 24, 2005, announcement followed extensive analysis by Warner Home Video of the Chinese home video market and its potential for continued growth. The Chinese market is projected to exceed one billion units this year and Warner hopes will include a growing appetite for legitimate alternatives to China’s poor quality pirated goods.
To capitalize on China's enormous consumer demand, Warner Home Video chose to partner with China Audio Video. The joint venture, CAV Warner Home Video will begin operations immediately. Videos will be distributed through some of China's foremost retail and video outlets including Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Xinhua Book Store, Carrefour, R.T. Mart and Maya. More than 125 titles will be available at launch, including "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." By the end of third quarter 2005, CAV Warner expects its nationwide market introduction to be completed and its products to be available throughout China.
According to Jim Cardwell, President of Warner Home Video. "China has been an important market for years, but too often Chinese consumers have had to choose inferior products on the illegitimate market that were available sooner but with poor quality. CAV Warner Home Video is committed to creating a better consumer experience and increased demand for legitimate products via world-class quality, reduced pricing, Mandarin dubbing and sub-titles, enhanced content and shortened release windows."
According to Mr. Wang Xiaoran, the President of China Audio and Video (CAV), “the potential for legitimate sales in China is extraordinary." Mr. Wang Xiaoran, who will be the President of the joint venture, noted that "Under the leadership of the [Chinese] Ministry of Culture, we hope to solidify the legitimate home video market in China and while we have made great progress to date we have much work to do in the future. However, the combination of Warner Home Video's expertise and our relationships and infrastructure will make CAV Warner Home Entertainment an unparalleled force in China's home entertainment market."
CAV Warner Home Entertainment intends to issue new releases on DVD through a two-tier product release and pricing strategy. "Silver Releases," will be available shortly after a film's U.S. theatrical release and will feature English and Mandarin dialogue tracks and Mandarin subtitles. "Gold Releases," will be available in China later than "Silver Releases" and will roughly correspond with their U.S. market DVD release dates. These releases will have all the features of a Silver Release, as well as enhanced DVD extras such as additional language selections, behind-the-scenes footage, talent interviews and director's commentary.

As for CAV Warner’s pricing structure, Silver Releases will have a suggested retail price of RMB 22 ($2.65 USD) and Gold Releases will be priced at RMB 28 ($3.38 USD).

According to Cardwell, "CAV Warner will offer consumers a better alternative to pirated discs because our products will feature content not yet available from the pirate market and the assurance of receiving the highest quality product at an affordable, competitive price."
"This is truly a precedent-setting event for our industry," said John Quinn, Executive Vice President of Warner Home Video, "Our strategy is to … create tremendous consumer demand by offering a superior product at a competitive price.”
What was not said was that Warner Home Video hopes to be competitive with pirated DVD products available throughout China. However, if Blockbuster’s experience is any guide to the future, Harry Potter might have to exercise some of his magic to make this happen.

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