Carlton takes stake in Chinese karaoke TV

Carlton Communications, the blue-chip U.K. media group, has made its first move into the Far East, taking a significant stake in a Chinese language karaoke web to be distributed by cable and satellite.

Carlton is putting up about a third of the initial joint investment of $10 million in the advertising-supported Channel KTV, expected to start broadcasting before the end of the year on PanAmSat-2 with two services, in Mandarin and in Cantonese.

The satellite’s footprint covers China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, the Philippines and parts of Indochina, including Hanoi and Bangkok.

The venture will be based in Singapore, with offices in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Initially, Channel KTV’s biggest market is expected to be Taiwan, where 3 million homes have cable.

Nanyang Press (Malaya) and Berhad and Pan Pacific Public Co. Ltd. are the two other major investors, each with a 31% stake.

Channel KTV will offer what is believed to be the world’s first karaoke station by broadcasting musicvideos by Chinese and Western acts.

A switching device will enable viewers to silence the singer’s voice so they can sing along in Mandarin or Chinese to the track aided by subtitles.

Michael Green, Carlton chairman, said: “It’s a simple idea. It’s so obvious but no one has thought of it before. There is a massive appetite for locally produced entertainment programming in the Chinese-speaking world.”

Nigel Walmsley, chairman of Carlton Television U.K., said the move marked a first step into the Far East for the U.K. group. He expects the project to go into profit by year two.

Like most other British television operators, Carlton is keen to expand into overseas markets by forming partnerships with local media firms.

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