Nat Geo Digital finds China partner


BEIJING -- National Geographic Digital Media is partnering with China Intercontinental Communications Center for first-time use and licensing of thousands of hours of digital programming and footage.

The footage includes exclusive views of areas in China, including aerial footage of many of Beijing's Olympic venues under construction. The Chinese capital's airspace is almost entirely off-limits to aircraft, except under very special circumstances and only then to government- owned and -operated planes and helicopters.

"Who better to fill the Chinese space than the most access-granted and forward-moving organization, CICC," Jocelyn Shearer, National Geographic Digital Media's vp worldwide sales, digital motion, told The Hollywood Reporter. Shearer said that NatGeo initiated contact with CICC in search of a Chinese partner to provide both complete programming and stock footage in a digital format.

The deal marks the first such agreement for CICC, the media production arm of the Information Office of China's State Council, the nation's cabinet. Because of its relationship with the government, CICC is granted special access to areas and events within China that are otherwise off-limits. CICC was founded in 1994, with its digital facilities coming online in 2004.

The two sides did not disclose any financial terms. The initial agreement is for about 1,300 hours of programming and 3,000 hours of footage, including both standard and high-definition, NatGeo said.

"The approach of the Olympics was a motivation. The world in general has its interest in China piqued by the Olympics," Shearer said of the deal's timing. The 2008 Olympic Games begin Aug. 8 in Beijing.

CICC was among a small number of potential partners in position to make such an agreement. "Having things in a digital format makes a big difference," Shearer said, adding that deciding whether or not to invest in digitizing material is a factor in these deals.