deal 'a foothold': analyst

Updated: 2013-12-26 06:10

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)

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A syndication deal between Viacom Inc (VIMN) — the entertainment conglomerate that includes Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central — and Chinese on-line media and mobile services leader will give the US-based entertainment conglomerate "an e-commerce foothold" in a rapidly growing market, according to an analyst.

"China already has the largest internet population and e-commerce marketplace in the world," said Brendan Ahern, a managing director at China-focused asset management firm Krane Shares.

"Sohu provides Viacom a launching pad into this rapidly growing marketplace. One should expect further partnership deals by Western media companies seeking to gain access to China's web savvy population," he added. Chairman and CEO Dr. Charles Zhang said the deal should have a strong base of support in China.

"We are excited to collaborate with VIMN and welcome their well-established content on our platform," Zhang said in a press release. "Nickelodeon's content has strong appeal and relevance with the Chinese audience. I hope that our collaboration will allow us to bring more exciting international children's programming to our online users."

Indra Suharjono, VIMN Asia's executive vice-president and managing director, said the move "reinforces and strengthens" Viacom as a media content provider in China.

"We have been focused on developing our brands' presence in China, and expanding business relationships with partners that allow consumers to access VIMN's entertainment content across a multi-platform environment," Suharjono said in a company press release. "Today's announcement with Sohu Video is the clearest testament to Viacom's success in bringing great entertainment content to China too."

Children's shows will be dubbed into Mandarin and made available for free in China for the next 12 months, according to Viacom's website.

Sohu Video will offer more than 200 hours of Nickelodeon programming to an audience of close to 400 million people in China via an online video-on-demand service, according to the press release.

Shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Avatar are now available via the online video syndication agreement.

Popular American shows already available on Sohu Video include The Big Bang Theory and Homeland.

The announcement of the deal was made public in a Dec 5 press release and the syndication program began 10 days later on Dec 15. Financial details of the agreement have not been made public.

Sohu is a leading Chinese online media and mobile services group. In July of 2000, the company completed its initial public offering on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol, SOHU.

VIMN is a unit of Viacom Inc, one of the largest entertainment content companies in the world. Viacom's two main arms, Media Networks and Filmed Entertainment, account for programming that reaches audiences in over 150 countries.

Paramount Pictures, which celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2012, is a major film producer under the umbrella of Viacom, and some other popular holdings in terms of TV channels are Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, BET and Comedy Central.

Nickelodeon, now in its 15th year in Asia, is one of the most recognized brands in the entertainment market for kids and family.

"The mainland markets offer a massive opportunity for Western media," Ahern said. "The Viacom-Sohu partnership provides an example of how Western media can tap into this market. Execution by both parties will provide the roadmap to further opportunities."

"Viacom should be commended for their foresight in preparing for the continued ‘opening' of China to Western firms," Ahern added. "By partnering with Sohu, Viacom gains a strong, established partner for distribution of Nickelodeon content. Establishing a good reputation with Nickelodeon should provide further opportunities with other demographics."