Russia will channel toons in April

Prof-Media devotes 2x2 station to animation

Russia will get its first dedicated toon channel in April, as local media holding Prof-Media announced it will devote a recently acquired frequency at 2×2 station to animation.

It’s the last available free-to-air frequency in Moscow, where the broadcaster will begin service. St. Petersburg is a likely target for expansion, followed by major cities around the Russian regions, although Prof-Media topper Rafael Akopov was cautious about further growth plans.

Prof-Media is growing a wider range of press and film projects, mainly through acquisitions of existing players, such as popular local listings magazine Afisha this year. Last year, it took a controlling, 50%-plus stake in leading indie TV and film production house Central Partnership.

According to 2×2 programming director Natalya Vashko, who formerly worked at local web TNT, the station is targeting the 11-34 age group, the “kidult” segment most in demand with local advertisers. Ads will be sold by major local player Video Intl.

New station will broadcast 24 hours a day, airing about half new and half old programming, as well as expanding Internet, interactive and mobile telephone outlets.

Channel plans to develop and produce some local animation fare and will devote about two hours daily to Russian animation. However, that leaves as much as 95% initially expected to be brought in from abroad. Negotiations are under way with all the Hollywood majors, as well as with Euro players like the BBC. Net’s targeting fare such as “The Simpsons” and “South Park,” with Japanese anime likely to be showcased once a week.

Akopov said operations are expected to cost $10 million-$12 million annually excluding product acquisitions. He predicted a two- to three-year break-even for the project.

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