Lionsgate Teams With Saban, Celestial Pics to Create Hong Kong-Based Pay TV Operator

Celestial Tiger Entertainment will operate branded channels as well as produce and distribute video content across Asia.

Lionsgate, Saban Capital Group and Celestial Pictures have created a Hong Kong-based company called Celestial Tiger Entertainment to operate branded pay TV channels as well as produce and distribute video content across Asia.

Lionsgate is contributing its interest in an existing partnership with Saban Capital called Tigersgate, which operates three existing channels and will license titles from its 13,000-picture library of movies and TV shows; Celestial Pictures (which is owned by Astro Holdings SDN BHD of Malaysia) is contributing two existing channels and a video-on-demand service and  will license content from its film library (which includes the former Shaw Bros. library); while Saban, one of several companies controlled by Haim Saban, along with its interest in Tigersgate is putting in significant  funding to grow the venture and expand both the number of channels and their distribution in Asia.

A Saban spokesperson declined to say how much the company are investing in CTE but noted this is the fourth investment the company has made in Asia in the past six months. Saban Holdings, which is based in Los Angeles, is expected to open an office in Hong Kong in the coming year.

An additional announcement about the management of the new entity is expected in January. The new venture will combine the staffs of Celestial Tiger and Celestial Movies Channels. Sources say the CTE management will combine some existing managers and new managers. Whoever operates the Hong Kong based CTE will answer to a board with representatives from Lionsgate, Saban and Celestial Pictures.

As part of this agreement, Lionsgate is shifting most Asian sales of its content, including theatrical movies and TV shows, to CTE, which will now be its exclusive sales agent in Southeast Asia and China.

Tigersgate’s current channels are KIX, providing action entertainment in English and Chinese; Thrill, a horror and suspense movie channel; and KIX HD, which offers action and thrillers in HD.

Tigersgate was founded in April 2010 by William Pfeiffer and Paul Presburger, who own it with Lionsgate and Saban. Its existing channels are shown in Hong Kong, on six platforms in Indonesia, two platforms in Singapore, one in Thailand and one in Philippines.

Tigersgate is not in China, but CTE is now expected to expand in China as well as other parts of Asia. The company also expects to roll out a whole new group of channels in the next year.

Celestial Pictures distributes channels worldwide, mostly in the Chinese language. It operates a major direct-to-home satellite service in Malaysia and other channels. Its flagship channel, which becomes part of CTE, is Celestial Movies, a 24-hour Chinese-language channel. It is also contributing Celestial Classic Movies, which includes Chinese martial arts, drama, comedy and action movies, and Celestial Movies on Demand, a subscription VOD service.

Saban Holdings is a privately held company controlled by Haim Saban, the media mogul who Forbes estimates has a fortune of more than $3.5 billion. In the last six months, Saban Holdings has been focused on Asia, where its investments include a 7% interest in MNC, the largest media company in Indonesia, and a minority stake in Taonee, the largest Chinese-Language channel for children.

Saban Capital Group also has a major interest in the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, where Saban is now Chairman. It also has media investments in Israel and elsewhere and has been growing its portfolio of brands. Most notably, Saban took back control of the Power Rangers, the franchise that first made his fortune, but which he later sold. Saban is in the process of rolling out a whole new generation of Power Rangers for distribution worldwide, accompanied by an array of licensed products and merchandise.