MTV Networks Asia downsizing

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SINGAPORE -- MTV Networks Asia is being restructured as part of a new regional strategy expected to dramatically downsize corporate headquarters in Singapore and involve the selling off of a number of local channels to franchisees, sources close to the deal said Friday.

Major job losses are expected, possibly including Asia-Pacific president Nigel Robbins, who was appointed less than a year ago to replace longtime boss Frank Brown. Sources inside the company say staffers expect to be told about the restructure by the end of next week.

Singapore-based MTV spokesperson Todd Phillips said the company does not comment on rumors.

Meanwhile, the regional music network has confirmed that its Taiwan operation, MTV Mandarin, is being franchised out as of Jan. 1 to an undisclosed Taiwanese company.

MTV said Wednesday that the decision to license out the 10-year-old channel furthered its localization strategy.

The Mandarin channel employs 32 people in Taiwan. MTV said the new arrangement "could lead to some changes in the structure and staffing from MTV Mandarin." No further details are available.

At the same time, while it pares down operations in parts of the region, Viacom is believed to is reportedly eyeing the acquisition of a 50% stake in Indian multichannel operator Sahara One Media and Entertainment.

According to a report in local daily "The Economic Times," Viacom will pay about $88 million for the Mumbai-based Sahara, which operates the Sahara One Hindi-language general entertainment channel and the Sahara Filmy movie channel. The company also owns movie division Sahara One Motion Pictures.

The regional restructuring is unlikely to include Japan. In August, Viacom announced that it was buying out the 68% stake held by joint venture partner H&Q Asia Pacific and taking full control of MTV Japan.

The Japanese operation is run by Peter Bullard and reports directly to MTV Networks' vice chairman and president of MTV Networks International Bill Roedy.
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