SMG readies launch of Enjoyoung

Media giant prepares to continue youth emphasis

BEIJING -- The Shanghai Media Group, China's No. 2 state-run media firm after China Central Television, on Tuesday announced the June 6 launch of a broad new integrated multimedia brand called Enjoyoung in the firm's latest step toward taking some of its assets public.

As China's capital markets suffer less than others around the world, SMG president Li Ruigang told reporters gathered in Beijing that the new brand would encompass youth-oriented lifestyle and entertainment content drawn firstly from SMG's popular Channel Youth, which has 136 million viewers in and around Shanghai, China's largest city and its financial hub.

The Enjoyoung brand also will pull content from SMG's U.K. joint venture magazine "OK" and benefit from the company's expansion into event planning, more print and online magazines and newspapers and a beefed up mobile TV service, all in the hope of tapping "huge" market potential, said Bao Xiaoqun, the new brand's managing director.

Without providing much in the way of specifics, Bao said, "our revenue grows at a 30-40% rate. With Enjoyoung and its new ventures into a more comprehensive business scope, we are confident in achieving a wider margin."

Li -- who, in his seven-year tenure at SMG's helm, has struck partnerships with international firms such as Viacom, the NBA and the Nielsen Company, among others -- said it was time to expand beyond broadcasting and beyond Shanghai, first nationwide and then, long-term, overseas.

SMG's revenue was 6 billion yuan ($879 million) in 2008, Li said, adding that he was "confident" in the company's profits from the same period, a year in which the Beijing Olympics was supposed to garner CCTV all the financial glory. "We did better than any other TV media company," Li said.

Li proposed that the Enjoyoung brand would mine media and lifestyle trends and popular culture to engage the 600 million potential consumers that have grown up in China's cities in the last 30 years of economic reforms.

Already operator of the world's largest commercial Internet-based TV network and commander of China's biggest digital pay-TV base, Li said SMG will soon be ready to take its Channel Young, Toonmax and HAHA brands -- the latter formed with Viacom's Nickelodeon -- to China's resilient capital markets, up 40% since the start of the year.

To deliver its youth content, SMG and Enjoyoung will try to grow its already booming IPTV network, whose subscribers now are nearing 2 million, Li said. "Maybe we can be the biggest IPTV operator in the world," he said, adding that within a month SMG would launch first-round fundraising for its IPTV plans with venture capital and private equity players.

SMG and Enjoyoung also will get into the exhibitions business, into planning cultural events, book publishing, audio-visual merchandising, brand-endorsed stores, cinemas and youth clubs, hoping to track consumers from one medium to another and to publish its own lifestyle indices.

Li said trying to make money from SMG's vastly different segments is a key challenge. "SMG is by itself too big to take public, but we can begin to market our assets and then go out for capital," he said.

Also challenging is gathering data about the young Chinese consumers SMG hopes to target, a task that got harder -- at least on television -- with the exit in January of the New York-based Nielsen Company from the TV ratings business in China.

Left only with TV data from competitor CCTV's joint venture with media monitor Taylor Nelson Sofres, Li said clearly, switching to English, "I wish the data service in China could be more transparent and more fair."

Important to SMG's credibility is the news its media delivers in a tightly monitored environment. Beijing has pushed state media to expand its voice overseas, a challenge Li said SMG would try to meet.

"We will do our best to do the fair story for the audience," said Li, reflecting on personal experience as a former journalist. "I am confident, in the future, gradually, we can contribute more and more news reporting."

Nielsen is the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.