Sony, NBC exit HBO Asia alliance


Sony Pictures Entertainment and NBC Universal have left the 15-year-old HBO Asia premium movie joint venture, HBO Asia said Wednesday.

Time Warner's HBO will now hold a majority stake in the Singapore-based regional network, with Paramount remaining as a minority shareholder.

Details of the new shareholding structure were not confirmed, but insiders believe Time Warner/HBO bought out the two 20% stakes held by SPE and NBC Uni, doubling its holding to 80%.

HBO also acquired a majority stake in its separate India joint venture, HBO India, as part of the agreement. HBO's stake in India is believed to be 75%, with Paramount holding the remaining 25%.

Although no longer equity partners, the two studios will continue to supply content to the Asian network as part of long-term programming deals, HBO Asia CEO Jonathan Spink said. The licensing agreements do not cover Japan or Korea.

Spink said the new ownership structure will provide HBO Asia "greater flexibility in pursuing opportunities in Asia."

Korea is a priority in the review process, which is under way, Spink said. Expanding HBO's subscription VOD platform is another key objective for 2008, he added.

No timetable for new Asian initiatives has been disclosed.

The split comes as SPE and NBC Uni ramp up their own Asian expansion plans. Sony and NBC in Asia declined comment.

Sony launched on-demand movie channels, SET Pix and Pix Thriller, in Singapore last year, and NBC is rolling out at least two new entertainment services, the Universal Channel and Sci Fi Channel, later this year.