Taking its battle against rampant piracy of films and music to the front lines, Warner Home Video said Thursday it will sell cut-rate DVDs in China in a bid to compete on the counterfeiters' home turf.
Basic DVDs, to be available shortly after a film's theatrical release, will sell in China for as little as 22 yuan ($2.65), the company announced. That's still more than the pirated versions readily available in China for 8 yuan ($1).
"But we think with earlier availability, better quality, assured quality, more sophisticated retailing and the fact that it's the real thing, that we can compete," said Jim Cardwell, president of Warner Home Video, a division of Time Warner Inc.
Warner's basic versions will not carry any DVD extras such as directors' interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, the company said.
But versions with more features will be available a bit later for 28 yuan ($3.38).
The company hopes its efforts will convince the Chinese government to do more to stamp out the fakes. "It's very difficult for a government to pull product from its consumers when the manufacturers don't have a legitimate alternative," Caldwell said.
Theft in China of copyrights and patents cost Western companies an estimated $16 billion in lost sales each year. Despite sporadic arrests, counterfeit books, DVDs and music are easily available on almost every city street and even in shops.
As for how Warner would justify charging U.S. consumers far more for DVDs, "I don't that's an issue," Caldwell said. "I think that historically, prices of entertainment around the world have always been different country to country."
Warner Home Video said it is distributing its cut-rate DVDs in a joint venture with the state-owned company China Audio Video, becoming the first U.S. studio to distribute and market DVDs inside China.
This year, the company plans to offer more than 125 movies to Chinese consumers.