Fox International Channels Revs China Operations with Management Overhaul

Fox International Channels is positioning itself for a growth spurt in China with the move of rising-star executive Joon Lee to a new post that will put greater focus on operations in North Asia. The company also said it will ramp up its investment in production of Chinese-language content.

Describing the shuffle as a restructuring that takes effect on Sept. 1, Fox said the move reflects “emerging opportunities in these markets” including China, Japan and Korea.

“Japan and Korea are two of the biggest media markets in our footprint.  In view of recent strategic partnerships we’ve forged in both countries, including with JTBC to launch JTBC3 FOX Sports in Korea and with Avex in Japan as part of an OTT offering, we see massive potential for further growth in these markets,” said Zubin Gandevia, president of FIC Asia Pacific & Middle East.

Like most foreign channels, FIC’s networks do not have wide access to mainland Chinese consumers – they are largely restricted to hotels, diplomatic compounds and upscale apartment blocks. But a China strategy that involves co-production, content sales and OTT transmission is being explored by Fox and other international groups.

The move seems an indicator of a more aggressive effort to expand in China under the leadership of James and Lachlan Murdoch at 21st Century Fox. James Murdoch, who was named CEO in July, was for several years based in STAR TV’s Hong Kong office, before a localization process within Asia shifted management responsibility to India and regional units.

21st Century Fox (then known as News Corp.) also previously sold off a cluster of Chinese-targeted channels after group chairman Rupert Murdoch became frustrated with the lack of progress in establishing “landing rights” in China. The sell-off in stages was completed as recently as January 2014.

The buyer was China Media Capital, a mainland Chinese media-focused, private equity fund with enviable backers and connections, which now operates Star China Media with channels including Xing Kong China Channel, Xing Kong International Channel and Channel [V]. Unlike FIC’s ‘foreign-owned’ channels Star China Media’s channels now have a footprint that spans mainland China, Hong Kong/Macau, Taiwan and SE Asia.

Lee, who in April last year was appointed MD for South East Asia and Hong Kong, will move into a new role “focused on driving growth initiatives in Japan and Korea as well as increasing FIC’s share of the growing opportunities in original Chinese production as Executive Vice President, North Asia & Head of Original Productions – Mainland China.”

Simeon Dawes, who was promoted in April last year, now steps into Lee’s shoes. He will take on the additional territory of Hong Kong & SE Asia where he will be responsible for the region’s P&L. He will continue to oversee FIC’s Middle East business as well as ad sales across Asia Pacific. His title will be Executive Vice President – Advertising Sales & Partnerships, and Managing Director – Hong Kong, Southeast Asia & Middle East.

Keertan Adyanthaya, who was promoted only two months ago and shifted from Mumbai to FIC’s Hong Kong hub, takes on the role of executive VP, content & communications – Hong Kong & SE Asia.  He will be responsible for all content, channel operations and marketing for the region covering the Hollywood and Chinese entertainment, and factual genres.

Rohit D’Silva continues in his role as executive VP, commercial and sports, overseeing the FOX Sports Asia business and leading affiliate and content partnerships as well as non-linear products.

FIC’s core channel brands include Fox, Fox Sports, Fox Life, Fox+ and National Geographic Channel. FIC’s movie channels include Fox Movies, Fox Movies Premium and SCM (formerly Star Chinese Movies).

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