Viacom is exploring the sale of its majority stake in its TV channels in China, according to media reports Monday.
The media giant has held talks with at least one entity in China over the sale of stakes in channels such as MTV and Nickelodeon, the Wall Street Journal said. The newspaper, which was the first to report the move, did not name the potential buyer.
News of the talks comes as the U.S. and China become increasingly entrenched in the trade war that has soured relations between the nations over the past several months. Although a reduction in Viacom’s stakes would remove its control over its channels in China, bringing on a Chinese majority owner could help with navigating the country’s tricky political and regulatory environment.
Viacom sources told Variety that the company, under CEO Bob Bakish, remains committed to the Chinese market, whose mammoth size makes it impossible to ignore. Also, partnering up with a local enterprise is a model that Viacom has pursued elsewhere in Asia, including the region’s other billion-plus-population country, India. There, Viacom sold a stake in its joint venture, Viacom18, to its partner, TV18, last year, allowing TV18 to assume majority control.
Reports said that the talks in China center only on Viacom’s television operations and do not involve Paramount Pictures, whose “Transformers” spinoff, “Bumblebee,” is currently top of the box office in the Middle Kingdom.