MGM has formed a joint venture with India's largest private broadcaster Zee Telefilms to establish a 24-hour movie channel for South Asia in the third quarter of this year.

Through the partnership, Zee's existing English-language film channel, Zee Movies, will be relaunched as Zee-MGM. "Zee will have a dominant equity stake in the joint venture company," Zee Network CEO R.K. Singh told ScreenDaily.

The channel will showcase films from MGM's 4,100-title library which includes Thelma & Louise, The Silence Of The Lambs, 19 Woody Allen films and the James Bond, Rocky and Pink Panther franchises. It will be available to about 10 million subscribers in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives.

MGM already operates 10 joint venture channels outside the US with partners including France's TPS, Japan's Star Channel, Israel's Tel-Ad, Australia's Movie Network Channels and Brazil's Telecine.

Zee launched Zee Movies in March in response to increasing competition from its former partner in the Indian market Star TV. MGM was one of several suppliers to Zee Movies at the time of its launch along with Warner Bros International Television and the UK's Carlton International and Pearson Television International (Screendaily, March 21).

Zee has also reportedly been in talks with UK cable operator NTL about launching an Asian video-on-demand service in Europe. Zee satellite channels currently reach about 80 countries including the UK, Australia and the US.