TW firms Japan venture with Nippon TV, Toshiba

Towani Corp. to bow in July with initial capital of $2.14 million

TOKYO — Time Warner confirmed Tuesday at a joint press conference that it will form a movie production and distribution company with Japan’s leading network, Nippon Television (NTV), and Toshiba Corp.

The new company will be called Towani Corp. and will be established at the end of July with an initial capital of 300 million yen ($2.14 million).

NTV and Warner Bros. each will have a 33% stake in the venture while Toshiba will hold a 23.3% share and Time Warner Entertainment Japan will have a 10% stake.

Towani primarily will develop movies for the Japanese market but it also intends to take its programming overseas. The venture is also being formed to provide programming to the Japanese TV market, which is just beginning to develop a multi-channel sector.

The first project for the company is an animated film for the Japanese market, Warner Bros. executive VP Richard Fox said.

“By combining Warner Bros.’ creative, production and distribution strengths with NTV, the leading Japanese television broadcaster, and with Toshiba, an international leader in electronics, we have an ideal partnership through which to develop, produce and deliver top-quality film and television entertainment worldwide,” Warner Bros. co-chairmen Robert Daly and Terry Semel said in a statement.

Warner Bros.’ decision to strengthen its presence in Asia follows a decision last month by Sony Corp. to form a movie production company in Japan with Sony Pictures Entertainment. The two companies plan to recruit Japanese animators to create films for distribution in Japan and other countries.

Japan is also the No. 1 theatrical market outside the U.S. for Warner Bros., and the company is a partner in Japan’s largest chain of multiplex theaters.

Toshiba president Taizo Nishimuro said that as a hardware maker, it was inevitable for the company to follow rivals such as Sony and Matsushita by entering the software production side.

NTV president Seiichiro Ujiie said, “We see participation in movie development as strengthening our content development strategy and also as a means to promote distribution of our programs worldwide.”

The company is expected to produce about 10 movies a year, including animated features and dramas, for the Japanese and other Asian markets. Entertainment content from the new venture will also be sold to broadcasters. The three firms are planning to work together for sales of entertainment content from the new firm on DVD and videocassette.