Disney to launch Russian TV channel

Teaming with local broadcaster Media-One

LONDON -- Disney is to launch a free-to-air channel in Russia in an attempt to bolster its presence in what the company describes as "an extremely important market."

Disney is partnering with local broadcaster Media-One Holdings and aims to have the channel up and running across the network of 30 stations that Media-One operates across Russia with Disney output and Russian-produced content.

Anchored by Disney programming for children and family, the channel also plans to air original Russian programming, Disney said.

The launch is slated for 2009, pending regulatory approval from Russian government authorities.

Disney will invest cash and provide programming and marketing expertise and content acquisition support in return for a 49% stake in the joint venture company.

Media-One will provide knowledge and operational experience in the Russian market, its local broadcast station portfolio and its advertising sales expertise.

Media-One will be the majority shareholder and will appoint a majority of the joint venture company's board of directors.

"Russia is an extremely important market for Disney, and this new Disney channel is a great way for us to expand our brand and business," Disney president and CEO Bob Iger said.

Media-One CEO Ivan Tavrin said: "We believe that the combination of Disney's unparalleled media experience and content capabilities and our knowledge of the local television market will enable us to create a unique channel that is predestined for success. We set ourselves the goal not only to become a popular kids and family focused free-to-air television channel in the country, but also to produce attractive financial results in a relatively short time frame."

Disney's CIS managing director Marina Jigalova-Ozkan described the move as "one the most significant steps for the development of the Disney brand in Russia."