Viacom, the media conglomerate that owns Paramount, Blockbuster, MTV and CBS, announced that it had reached several new agreements with Chinese partners covering programming, production and information technology.
The agreements follow a week-long tour of China by veteran Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone. However, Redstone failed to obtain the extension to the existing broadcasting permit for music channel MTV that he had aimed for.
In a deal which it says marks the first investment by a global media player in a Chinese content production company, Viacom is to set up a joint venture with Shanghai Media Group (SMG). The venture will produce children's and youth programming for SMG's broadcast channels and for distribution outside the Shanghai region. The deal means that the two will share advertising revenues raised by the content in China and when sold to international clients. SMG currently syndicates MTV and Nickelodeon and co-produce the MTV Style Awards show.
Viacom reached three deals with state broadcast giant China Central Television (CCTV). One sees Nickelodeon shows Cat And Dog and Wild Thornberrys screen for a daily hour and a half on CCTV's new children's channel. The other deals see co-production of a kids award show, while the third sees the two groups launch joint anti-AIDS initiatives.
With one of China's leading IT groups, Tsinghua Tongfang, Viacom struck up a strategic relationship that sees them develop content and digital technology opportunities. It also means Tsinghua Tongfang will promote its PC brands on MTV in China.
"Collaboration and cultural exchange with China remain central to our Chinese strategies. These deals, which will create compelling and innovative Chinese content, open new opportunities for Viacom to expand its efforts to expose Chinese culture to audiences outside of China, particularly in the US," said Redstone in a statement.
Having previously been limited to broadcasting in hotels and foreigner compounds, MTV was last granted "landing rights" allowing it to broadcast in the southern province of Guangdong. It followed News Corp, whose Rupert Murdoch has been an assiduous lobbyist of Chinese politicians, and AOL Time Warner which also gained a foothold in 2001. However, he wanted the recent trip to get MTV into the big cities. "What I'm looking for is Beijing and Shanghai," he told the Financial Times, before the trip. "The Chinese have made it clear that's within the realm of possibility."
Viacom is making efforts to promote Chinese culture to international audiences and sponsored last month's US tour by the China Broadcasting Cultural Orchestra and transmits CCTV's Channel 9 to US hotels.
A year ago, SMG attended MIP-TV for the first time since its consolidation of most major media operations in the Shanghai area, including film, television and the Shanghai film festival. While it put on a very outward looking face, its president and CEO LI Ruigang also warned: "It is normal that we have limits [on foreign media ownership]. Plenty of other countries do. The West will have to learn to be patient."