Netflix has purchased exclusive distribution rights to stream Youku’s original web series “I Hear You” outside of China, the Alibaba-owned video site said on Friday.
Starting May 15, Netflix will stream the 24-episode romantic comedy to its over 148 million subscribers in 190 countries and regions worldwide.
Based on the popular Chinese novel of the same name, “I Hear You” is a story about the romance between a cold and aloof violinmaker and a sweet, “girl next door” aspiring to become a voice actor, as they find themselves unexpectedly starring in a reality-dating show. Youku and local film studio Sugarent jointly own the rights to the show.
This is not the first time the streaming giant has inked a licensing deal with the Chinese online video hub. In 2017, it purchased the rights to Youku’s detective thriller “Day and Night,” which had drawn more than 4 billion views in China in its first four months on the site.
“More than 50 original productions have been distributed overseas in the past two years, as we see growing interest from international distributors,” said Brandy Zhang, chief editor of Youku’s online series division. “We want to create even more quality content that resonates with viewers around the world.”
The release of series like “I Hear You” and “Day and Night” are part of Youku’s recent push to produce a higher-quality line-up of original content, ranging from online dramas and variety shows to documentaries. The pilot episode of basketball reality show, “Dunk of China,” which featured judges such as Chinese megastar Jay Chou and professional players such as Jeremy Lin of the Brooklyn Nets, drew over 50 million views in four days when it premiered last August. In October, Fox Networks Group purchased the foreign rights, with plans to produce localized remakes of the show for other markets.
According to a February report from Chinese consulting firm Entgroup, the number of paid subscribers on China’s online video platforms reached more than 230 million users in 2018, up from 22 million in 2015. Entgroup said it expects that number to climb to 300 million by the end of this year.