A&E partners with Astro All Asia

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CANNES -- A&E Television Networks and Malaysia's monopoly satellite TV platform Astro All Asia Networks have signed a joint venture to launch and operate branded channels and services across Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the companies said in a joint announcement Monday.

The first two channels to roll out under the AETN All Asia Networks Pte Ltd joint venture are The History Channel and Crime & Investigation Network. The Biography Channel will follow.

In addition to traditional pay-TV platforms, the brands and programming will be distributed via video-on-demand, mobile, broadband and HD, according to Sean Cohan, AETN's senior vice president, international.

The linear channels are scheduled to launch in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei by the end of September this year, Cohan said.

Taiwan will follow by the end of the year.

No carriage deals have been announced, but the joint venture is believed to have secured distribution on Singapore's sole cable platform, StarHub.

The channels are almost certain to be carried on Astro's Malaysian platform, which has two million residential subscribers, and on Astro's Indonesian joint-venture direct-broadcast platform, which has about 60,000 subscribers.

The History Channel and Crime & Investigation Network will be language-versioned in Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, Thai and Chinese.

Both channels will feature local acquisitions and local productions, the partners said.

Korea, Japan, India and Australia, where AETN already has a presence through partners such as Foxtel, Fox India, Joongang Korea, are not part of the new venture.

China, where the previous venture with Sun TV has dissolved, has also been excluded.

"We see lots of opportunity for India and China down the road and hope to be announcing in the coming year similarly aggressive initiatives targeting those markets," Cohan said.

AETN's involvement with Astro is part of the US-based network's increased presence on the ground in Asia under managing director Alan Hodges, who was appointed at the end of last year.

Cohan said AETN's renewed focus on Asia came as Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong reached a point of maturity and critical mass, and "digital has taken hold in a big way".

He also said there was a surge in demand for certain types of content, including factual, as well as digital media deployments.

"There was a chorus we were beginning to hear," Cohan said. "It became really clear that there was a gap and an opportunity".

The joint venture is also part of Astro's focus on increasing its content and channel creation initiatives across Asia, including India and Indonesia.

Astro's involvement in AETN All Asia Networks will be through programming subsidiary Astro All Asia Entertainment Networks Ltd.
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