Mouse's Steamboat floats China coin

Disney venture capital arm Steamboat Ventures has joined a consortium of investors plowing $23.5 million into Chinese interactive video firm UUSee.

Move is one of Steamboat’s first in Asia since topper John R. Ball relocated from the U.S. to Hong Kong last year.

UUSee delivers nearly 60 channels of live TV programming and 350 channels of commercial video content. It also provides video-on-demand, download-to-mobile and specialized services for China’s huge population of Internet cafe users.

It has exclusive partnerships with Chinese content providers and distributors including pubcaster China Central Television, Beijing TV and China’s leading satellite operator, CSAT.

Company also has a deal with Shanghai Media Group to deliver live Internet broadcasts of premium sports events. It is distributed through 25 regional broadband platforms operated by China Telecom and China NetCom.

Steamboat is partnered in the investment round with Draper Fisher Jurvetson Growth Fund and Highland Capital Partners and existing UUSee backers Sequoia Capital China and SIG.

UUSee works with TV programmers and broadcasters to add interactive features, including voting, text-messaging and rich-media advertising. 

Chinese use of the Internet is mushrooming, and Internet cafes are becoming a social phenomenon, with users often spending many hours playing games or watching TV shows and movies. The authorities have become so worried about the usage that pols announced this week that no more cafes would receive permission to open this year.

Meanwhile, CCTV has decided not to run a new season of one of its most interactive shows, the “Dream of China” talent contest, which authorities viewed as offering encouragement to voting and thus democracy.

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