Saban, Lionsgate in Celestial deal

Trio join forces in Asia distrib venture focusing on pay TV

Lionsgate now has a foothold in China as its Tiger Gate Entertainment is joining forces with Celestial Pictures to create Celestial Tiger Entertainment.

Saban Capital, Lionsgate’s partner in the Asian TV distribution venture Tiger Gate, will inject a “substantial” but unspecified amount into growing the company, and it will be the majority owner in the investment said people close to the deal.

The new company will focus on branded pay TV, content creation and distribution across Asia. It pairs Tiger Gate’s networks in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines with Celestial’s channels in China.

Lionsgate launched Tiger Gate in 2008 and brought Saban Capital, the investment vehicle for billionaire Haim Saban, into the company in 2010.

Specifically, the lineup includes Tiger Gate’s KIX, an action entertainment channel; KIX HD; and Thrill, a horror and suspense movie net. Celestial contributes Celestial Movies, a 24-hour channel billed as the most widely distribbed Chinese movie network; Celestial Classic Movies, a Chinese martial arts, drama, comedy and action net; and Celestial Movies on Demand.

Saban, which will be opening an office in Hong Kong next year, has been ramping up its presence in the region. It’s a majority owner in Taomee, a online children’s entertainment company in China, and has invested in Indonesian media company MNC.

Celestial Pictures is a unit of Astro, a media holding company that owns the major satellite TV platform in Malaysia, the Shaw Brothers film library — the world’s largest library of Chinese films — and distributes movie channels globally.