Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is acquiring a 22% stake in Hong Kong’s Television Broadcast Ltd., a leading producer and broadcaster of Chinese programming in the world, with the deal valued at $ 240 million, according to William Sorenson, News Corp. VP.
The move caps the Australian-born mogul’s longtime desire to extend his satelliteoperations into the heart of Asia. News Corp. is half-owner of BSkyB, the British-based direct-to-home satellite operation that beams five entertainment channels to the U.K. and Europe.
TVB shares were trading atHK21 on Tuesday, compared to $ HK18.50 in May.
Announcement of the negotiations was made Tuesday in both Hong Kong and New York. The other main shareholders in the publicly held TV company are Sir Run Run Shaw, chairman of Hong Kong’s Shaw Bros. and chairman of TVB, and Robert Kuok, chairman of Kerry Group Ltd. and TVB’s vice chairman. Shaw and Kerry would continue to own interest in TVB worth approximately that held by News Corp. More than one rep of News Corp. would sit on the TVB board.
This is Murdoch’s first such foray into Asian broadcasting, though he already owns 50% of the English-language South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and a similar stake in the Bangkok Post. TVB operates two channels in Hong Kong, the ratings leader Jade and Pearl.
The deal comes as competition heats up in this burgeoning market. TVB, which is the world’s largest producer of Chinese programming, is prepping plans to beam Chinese-language programming into Taiwan and mainland China. Other Hong Kong-based players, like Hutchison Whampoa’s Star TV and Wharf Cable are also expanding their operations in the region via satellite and cable. Star TV already carries Viacom’s MTV and news provided by the BBC and has plans to encrypt an English-lingo movie channel later this year.
“Star TV dominated the pioneering phase in Asian broadcasting, but this is phase two. We’re going to see more contenders in a market that is opening up in a big way,” a well-known Hong Kong media analyst said Tuesday.
Just last week TVB announced that it was joining forces with Turner Broadcasting’s CNN, Australian Broadcasting, CapCities/ABC’s ESPN and Time Warner’s HBO, to offer a cluster of programming channels — and jointly market and promote them — to audiences across Asia via the Palapa satellite.
In addition, said Sorenson, the partners recognize that China is a largely untapped market, and that audiences there are hungry for more programming.
According to Sorensen, Murdoch’s News Corp. could bring both programming, technical and management expertise in broadcasting and satellite operation to its TVB partner. In addition, analysts expect to see eventual synergies with News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting and BSkyB.
The acquisition must still be approved by Hong Kong regulatory authorities; any foreign stake of 2% or more in a broadcast operation must obtain such approvals.