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Mideast firm Spacetoon targets October launch of kids channel in India

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MUMBAI: Jeddah-based Spacetoon is eyeing the kids channel space in India. The company is contemplating launching a 24-hour animation kids channel around September - October this year.

However, at present it is not clear whether the channel will be launched independently or in association with an Indian company.

Spacetoon Media Group is headed by Fayez Weiss Al Sabbagh and is a mammoth kids' entertainment brand for animation content in the Middle East.

Spacetoon TV caters to kids in the age group of 2 - 12 years. Late last year, the company had inked a deal with Sahara One Television for a branded kids block called Sahara One - Spacetoon Hour. Talks are also on with a couple of players in the South for a branded Spacetoon block, which is likely to launch around May - June. The popular properties under its belt include Crush Gear and Me & My Brother, amongst others.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Spacetoon India CEO Rajiv Sangari said, "Through these branded blocks we are looking at testing our content in the Indian market. We have big plans for the company and are not just looking at the television business. Spacetoon is a vertically integrated company and we have a presence in merchandising, licensing, publishing, retail and the theme parks business. We are looking at launching all these divisions in India."

Spacetoon is also in the process of acquiring animation content from across the world. As far as local content is concerned, the company will be looking at acquiring content from Indian production houses and will also be producing the same for the Indian market. "We are acquiring a lot of content for the India region, so that when we launch, we launch with a bang," he said.

On Spacetoon TV, every hour has been symbolised with a planet. The planets are categorised into the following: Movies, Education, History, Science, Action, Adventure, Sport, Comedy, Girls and Bon Bon (for younger kids).

Spacetoon has been active in the Middle East for the last 20 years but launched its channel Spacetoon TV in March 2000. The channel transmits to over 130 million viewers in more than 22 countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Indonesia and Korea.

Spacetoon kids TV is in English and Arabic and plans are underway to launch a second kids' channel in the Middle East called Space Power in July this year, which will cater to the tweens.

The company is also planning to launch two to three theme parks in India and the Middle East in the next couple of years.

Sangari said, "We are looking at replicating this model in India in a step by step process."

Through a sister concern, Spacetoon also has a presence in animation production in the Middle East. "We are also venturing into animation training colleges in India. Spacetoon has taken over an animation college in Toronto called DaVinci through which we will be having an affiliation in India. Here, we have partnered with a college, which has a presence Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The plan is to set up animation training colleges for Indian students," said Sangari.

Sangari also informed that the merchandising division will be scaled up towards the end of April, which is when the Spacetoon block on Sahara One will be given a major push. "We launched the block in a very preliminary manner but will re-launch the toys and merchandising around our properties in a big way in April. We are also looking at organizing large scale events for Crush Gears across major metros," he said.

Spacetoon is the leader in kids publication and merchandising products in Middle East through its group company. It is also in the process of creating a "Space Toon Galaxy" in Dubai, which will form part of the Dubai Land Theme Park development.

Plans on the retail front are also underway in the Middle East. "We are in the process of creating exclusive retail malls only for kids, which will have all major brands catering to kids under one roof. We will be looking at creating the same in India too once our television plans are underway," Sangari said.

Last year, Spacetoon Media Group entered into partnerships with Mondo TV, Orbit Satellite Television and Radio Network for the supply of a wide range of children's programs such as films, educational programs, history and science documentaries, as well as action, adventure, sports and comedy shows.

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