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China-Viacom deals unveiled

Pact includes Shanghai Media co-prod'n joint venture

SHANGHAI — Viacom unveiled a raft of new deals in China on Tuesday to coincide with a trip by chairman-CEO Sumner Redstone.

They include a co-production joint venture with conglom Shanghai Media Group and programming with national broadcaster China Central Television.

The joint venture — which must be approved by the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television (Sarft) — will produce Chinese-lingo children’s programs for SMG channels, which include Shanghai TV and Oriental TV. Effort also will involve selling to channels outside the city.

“We are expecting approval very soon,” said Hoyan Mok, marketing and communications manager for MTV Networks Asia.

Laws boost foreign firms

Viacom’s deal with SMG comes under new legislation announced in December allowing foreign media groups to hold minority stakes in joint-venture production companies. This is one of the first such pairings set up, and the only one involving a global player.

“The groundbreaking partnership with Shanghai Media Group not only significantly expands our position in Shanghai,” Redstone said, “but also paves the way for us to extend the distribution of our 24-hour MTV China channel and pursue expansion in other areas such as children’s educational programming.”

MTV China broadcasts 24 hours a day via cable to part of south China’s Guangdong province and Hong Kong under a limited landing-rights agreement with the government. The channel also airs via satellite, legally available only in high-end hotels and residential compounds.

Nick shows picked

Viacom also unveiled programming agreements with CCTV.

Nickelodeon’s “CatDog” and “The Wild Thornberrys” will air 90 minutes daily on CCTV’s children’s channel, launched this year. Broadcasts began Friday, the first time Nickelodeon animation has played in China.

Various Nickelodeon live-action programs are syndicated on local stations across China. In Hong Kong, Nickelodeon launched a 24-hour channel earlier this year.

Nickelodeon and CCTV also will set up an annual Chinese Nickelodeon kids award show.

“The agreements with CCTV significantly advance Nickelodeon’s business, bringing its signature animation to TV audiences throughout China for the first time and introducing Nickelodeon’s successful global franchise ‘Kids Choice Awards,’ ” Redstone said.

A final CCTV agreement sees Viacom investing in HIV/AIDS-related content and events across China.

In a separate deal, Viacom announced a strategic relationship with leading domestic information technology company Tsinghua Tongfang.

(Vicki Rothrock in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

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