UTV enters into JV with Astro Malaysia for launch of two kids channels

MUMBAI: Malaysia's Astro All Asia Network - the largest DTH and Pay TV Operator in the region - seems to be fast becoming the platform of choice for broadcasters looking to expand in Asia. UTV Software Communications is the latest to announce a joint venture to launch two kids channels in South East Asia which will be on the Astro DTH platform across Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and later Singapore.



The JV announcement made in a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange today follows similar deals announced earlier with the Prannoy Roy-promoted New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) and Kalanidhi Maran's Sun Network.

Astro will be making the entire capital investment for the launch of these channels. It will provide the entire knowhow, the content, the formats, marketing and brand building expertise for the launch of its channels. The successful format of UTV and Hungama TV, UTV's joint venture in broadcasting business from India will be created locally in Bahasa Malay and Bahasa Indonesia languages, UTV informed the BSE.

UTV and Astro will jointly develop these channels targeted at kids in the 4-14 age group. The first of these channels, in Bahasa Malaysia, will Include some 400-500 hours of local production annually. These channels, which will include a mixture of animation and live action content incorporating Asian cultural values and edutainment elements, will be distributed on the Astro pay-TV service in Malaysia from early 2006, and in other regional markets soon after.

Over and above the fee to be paid by Astro to UTV annually, UTV has been granted a three year option to subscribe for 20 per cent stake in these channels, at par plus royalty for formats taken from UTV and Hungama TV.

Shares of UTV were last traded on BSE at Rs 157.80, down by 1.41 per cent.

It was on 30 August that NDTV announced it was entering into a JV with Astro where it would hold up to 20 per cent in the proposed entity with Astro Broadcast Corp LTD, a wholly owned subsidiary of Astro All AsiaNetwork, to set up and broadcast 24-hour channels in South East Asia.

The venture will initially launch television channels in Indonesia and Malaysia. The two companies have signed a term sheet. This, however, is subject to a long form joint venture shareholders agreement and legal, regulatory and licensing requirements as applicable.

Last year, Astro and Sun TV had entered into a $25 million agreement for the establishment of a joint venture to originate, aggregate and distribute television programming and channels for a global audience. The content creation would be for filmed and other entertainment products in Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi and Bengali for distribution to international markets. The agreement also proposed to launch a Bengali channel for distribution in India, South East Asia and other markets within the Bengali diaspora. The channel, Surjo, will launch next year.

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