Asian films a Star attraction

News Corp. unit inks output deal as Indonesia's MNC, India's Zee bulk up

Fox and News Corp. platform Star are planning a 50-50 joint venture to produce Asian films, Star CEO Paul Aiello said Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the daylong Asia Media Summit, Aiello said local film production represents a natural progression for Star's content creation and channels business in Asia. He declined to reveal details of the venture.

Two other major Asian media outfits at the Media Partners Asia-sponsored confab said they have added film production to their portfolios. Hary Tanoesoedibjo, CEO of Indonesia's Media Nusantara Citra, and Punit Goenka of India's Zee Entertainment Enterprises confirmed film slates for the next two to three years.

Zee plans to make 150 films in six languages targeting regional Indian audiences during the next three years, Goenka said.

MNC will produce six films this year and 20 next year, Tanoesoedibjo said, with budgets ranging from $400,000- $1.5 million per film.

About 200 local films are expected to be released this year in Indonesia, up from about 160 last year and 100 in 2006.

MNC owns three free-TV stations in Indonesia and is buying regional stations to create a national network. Tanoesoedibjo said distribution on the TV channels could absorb 25%-30% of the films' production costs.

Advertising growth in India is forecast to grow an average of 12.8% a year for the next five years, the MPA said.

The Star-Fox deal is not the first time News Corp. companies have joined forces on local films. At the end of 2006, Fox said it would co-produce its first Chinese-language movie, Andrew Lau's "Gold Bandits," in China with Star subsidiary Fortune Star. (partialdiff)