THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Friday, December 1, 1995 TAG: 9512010216 SECTION: BUSINESS PAGE: D1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY DAVE MAYFIELD, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Medium: 84 lines
International Family Entertainment Inc., the Virginia Beach-based parent of The Family Channel, on Thursday announced another move that will drive it deeper into the fast-growing Asian TV market.
IFE said it and two Asian conglomerates will buy stakes in a ``no sex, no news, no violence'' TV programmer that reaches 28 million Chinese households. The investment furthers IFE's previously announced plans to capitalize on China's rapidly developing appetite for TV programs.
``The projections there are just wild,'' said Diane Linen Powell, an IFE vice president. ``We just wanted to make sure that as a growth company we are where the growth markets are.''
The object of IFE's latest investment is Hong Kong-based China Entertainment Television Broadcast Ltd. IFE, Indonesian financial conglomerate Lippo Group and Malaysian real-estate behemoth MUI Group said they will invest up to $10 million each for equal stakes in the programmer.
Better known as CETV, the channel is carried on more than 500 Chinese cable-TV systems. It was started last March by a Hong Kong broadcaster named Robert Chua.
Paul Sweeney, an analyst with Wheat First Butcher Singer in Richmond, said he he was not surprised by the IFE move.
``I know (IFE chairman) Pat Robertson has some cache in mainland China and the company has been trying to capitalize on that,'' Sweeney said. He said IFE executives told him that Robertson, who also heads the Christian Broadcasting Network and was a former Republican presidential candidate, had developed high-level Chinese government contacts.
Linen Powell said Robertson's son, Timothy, who is IFE's president, has spearheaded the Asian drive. She said Timothy Robertson has traveled to Hong Kong in the past year, and ``has been looking for some sort of strategic alliance for a while now.''
She said, ``That whole part of the world holds more growth potential than anyplace else. . . . They have a huge pent-up demand for entertainment products and a huge pent-up demand for consumer products.''
CETV's Chua said he will keep at least a 20 percent stake in the enterprise and will continue to control programming . He said his partners would give him the financial muscle and extra entertainment experience to expand further into China and enter other Asian markets. CETV also airs in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.
``We understand China and our results show it,'' Chua said at a press conference in Hong Kong. He said his partners ``share my programming philosophy of no sex, no news, no violence, which a year ago nobody thought would succeed.''
Chua said his 24-hour channel - which has variety and game shows and documentaries - has outmaneuvered rivals like media mogul Rupert Murdoch's Star Television Ltd. because it recognized sooner than the others that Chinese authorities have little tolerance for racy or newsy programming.
``The government there is being very cautious about how it opens the door and to whom,'' IFE's Linen Powell added. ``The kind of entertainment we provide suits them, if you will.''
Larry Dantzler, an IFE senior vice president, said his company hopes to sell some of its classic TV shows, such as ``The Mary Tyler Moore Show,'' to CETV. He declined to give revenue or profit projections for the CETV venture.
In January, IFE signed a deal with another Hong Kong-based company, United Film and Video Holdings Ltd., to distribute its programs in more than 15 Asian nations, including China.
Linen Powell said she was not sure how that venture would be affected by the CETV venture.
IFE has also announced plans to distribute programs in Australia, although that idea has been slow to get off the ground. The company has started British and Latin American versions of The Family Channel, and its FIT TV health and fitness network is distributed in several Latin American countries. MEMO: Bloomberg Business News contributed to this report.
ABOUT THE ACQUISITION
What: China Entertainment Television Broadcast Ltd.
Scope: More than 500 Chinese cable-TV systems; 28 million Chinese
households; also airs in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Programming: Variety and game shows and documentaries 24 hours a
History: Started last March.