Viacom presses play on MTV Japan

Conglom to take full control of music net

In its biggest Asian deal to date, Viacom’s MTV Networks is buying out the majority share in MTV Japan from private-equity partner H&Q Asia Pacific.

Purchase price was undisclosed.

Viacom, which had owned about a third of the net, will take control of the remaining 68%.

Impetus for the deal is to combine MTV Japan with both Nickelodeon and mobile unit Flux, which had stood separately from the MTV joint venture. When the deal is done, it will mean the cabler has full control of a prime television property in one of the world’s largest digital markets.

An MTV Intl. rep told Daily Variety the move would allow for co-productions between Flux and Nickelodeon to be marketed with the help of MTV Japan.

Purchase also will allow the company to sell advertising on both Nickelodeon and MTV with the promise of reaching a broader advertising base.

But the rep said it’s too soon to tell how exactly the units will be combined and what reductions, if any, will take place, saying only that the move was meant as a growth mechanism.

MTV Intl. veep William Roedy said the purchase is part of a larger move to target the country, where the net sees a large potential in digital. “We have big aspirations for Japan,” he said.

MTV entered Japan in the early 1990s through a partnership with electronics maker Pioneer that failed. It re-entered more successfully five years ago with the help of H&Q, which had bought the Japanese music net Vibe and pacted with MTV to start an MTV-branded net.

Flux was launched last year as a mobile-content service that packages and produces clips for cell phones; it also has a social-networking component. It soon will offer a broadband service in Japan; it has expanded its basic service to the U.K. and Italy, and may eventually do so in the U.S.

Viacom is keenly interested in both digital and international expansion as cable ad growth slows Stateside. At investor conferences, Viacom topper Tom Freston had called them the company’s two key strategic areas.

News follows Viacom’s purchase last week of BET’s online assets from its former partners. Microsoft, News Corp., Liberty Media and IAC/InterActiveCorp all were originally investors in

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