Viacom expands channels in China

HAHA Nick syndicating skeins to 100 million new homes

BEIJING — Chinese viewers will be seeing more of Viacom’s MTV Networks and Nickelodeon, thanks to new agreements with major players in China.

Nickelodeon on Sunday bowed locally produced content via its HAHA Nick joint venture with local powerhouse Shanghai Media Group, reaching 3.5 million households in the Shanghai area.

HAHA Nick also will syndicate shows to China’s 30 regional children’s cable channels, reaching 100 million more households.

MTV will launch MTV Music Zone as a subscription service for users of China Mobile, the nation’s largest mobile carrier in the world’s largest mobile market.

The music network will add two awards to its co-produced Mandarin Music Honors to be held in June: wireless artist and wireless song.

MTV also announced it has expanded its footprint in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, adding 1.8 million households for a total of 10 million.

Bill Roedy, vice chairman of MTV Networks, said while Viacom’s TV networks were the foundation of its business, it was banking on digital media to drive growth.

“We’ve had a good run and I think that will continue. But the future increasingly is about digital media. We feel we are in an position to be the leading content provider of digital media,” Roedy said.

“Asia is a driver, it is the future. No doubt about it, our highest growth rates are in Asia,” he said.

He did not disclose financial terms for the China Mobile deal, but said Viacom would get a slice of subscription revenues, as well as charge fees for downloading ringtones and other content. China Mobile also was buying advertising on the MTV cable channel, Roedy said.

Eventually, Viacom hopes to export Chinese-produced content and original programs to other countries, Roedy said, noting producing animated shows in China costs about one-fifth what it does in the United States.

“China is a huge, huge priority for us,” Roedy said.

“Certainly, these deals put Viacom at the leading edge of foreign content production in China,” said David Wolf, a Beijing-based industry analyst.

“What faces Nickelodeon and MTV now is the real challenge of turning these into real businesses.”

(Wire services contributed to this report.)