Viacom applies to broadcast Nickelodeon in China
( 2003-09-17 14:35) (Agencies)
Six months after launching its MTV music channel in south China's affluent Guangdong province, media giant Viacom Inc said on Tuesday it had applied to launch its kids-focused Nickelodeon channel in the country.
Viacom is seeking a license to broadcast Nickelodeon into high-end hotels and foreign-oriented compounds throughout China, said MTV Networks Asia Pacific President Frank Brown.
"We would like to get approval for a 24-hour Nickelodeon channel" in China, Brown told Reuters in an interview in Hong Kong. "We would hope for approval in January."
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and AOL Time Warner's CNN already have similar rights to broadcast into select locations with limited access for local Chinese.
But Viacom used a similar license for MTV to eventually launch its "hipster" network to a broader mass audience earlier this year in Guangdong next to Hong Kong.
That launch put MTV into a select group of foreign media giants with broadcast rights in Guangdong, alongside AOL Time Warner and News Corp
Under its licensing system, broadcasters who apply for hotel and foreign compound landing rights must submit applications within the next few weeks for the following year.
The Walt Disney Co -- which has no broadcasting presence in China -- has previously said it is also considering applying for a similar license for its flagship Disney Channel.
The process is part of China's strict policy of controlling access by foreign media, which it views with a high degree of wariness. Most media that do enter the market often practice various degrees of self-censorship, avoiding sensitive topics like politics and the banned Falun Gong movement.
If it receives a China license for Nickelodeon, Viacom, which already broadcasts the child-focused channel into five Asian markets, would be ready to immediately begin broadcasts using its international channel, Brown said.
"From there, we would hope to start with some localization," he said. "We definitely can provide appropriate, unique content for kids in China."
Viacom currently has MTV and Nickelodeon channels in most major Asian markets, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and India.
Brown would not comment on the profitability of individual markets, but said that annual ad sales in China -- where reliable viewer data is scarce -- are now in the millions of U.S. dollars and growing fast.
"We have been in triple-digit or high double-digit growth (for ad sales) in China for years now," he said. "We're off to a very fast start in Guangdong, with deep double-digit growth for this year to date."
Brown added that Viacom would be very interested in forming programming joint ventures with Chinese partners if and when the practice is legalized -- a development rumored to be in the offing on a trial basis in the not-too-distant future.
"I can't say what the status is...but I can say there are many (Chinese) companies that have approached us saying they would be interested in a joint venture if and when that authorization would be granted."
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