BEIJING — AOL Time Warner Inc. announced a landmark deal on Oct. 22 that will make it the first foreign TV broadcaster in China. In exchange, it will carry Chinese state television’s English-language channel on U.S. cable systems.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is trying to negotiate a similar arrangement with China and its rapidly developing television audience.
Chinese officials regard television as a key propaganda tool and strictly control it, though millions of Chinese already watch foreign broadcasts on illegal satellite dishes. Beijing appeared to be willing to relax those controls slightly in exchange for getting access to American audiences.
Under the terms of the deal, AOL’s Chinese-language channel CETV would be carried on cable systems in the southeastern province of Guangdong beginning next year. It will be the first time that a foreign broadcaster reaches Chinese audiences with government approval. CETV, based in Hong Kong, already is seen in Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere in Asia.
CETV’s programming is a mix of Chinese entertainment shows, cartoons, game shows, movies and sports. It also carries versions of some U.S. shows like “Miami Vice” and the cartoon “Johnny Bravo” dubbed into Chinese.
Tricia Primrose, an AOL Time Warner spokeswoman, said the channel carries no news programs. She had no details on whether the agreement includes provisions for Chinese censorship of CETV programming.
In exchange, the Chinese government’s English-language CCTV-9 will be available to American audiences in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston.
Viewers in Guangdong can already see television broadcasts from neighboring Hong Kong. The former British colony is not covered by central government censorship, and its stations are livelier — and their news reporting more aggressive — than state-run mainland media.
The English language channel put out by China’s state broadcaster resembles a less adventuresome version of U.S. public broadcasting channels, with an emphasis on educational and cultural programs.
It carries a mix of news, music and cooking shows, documentaries on nature and travel, Chinese lessons and sports. However, production quality is uneven and shows are staid and slow-paced compared to U.S. television.
A Hong Kong-based Chinese network in which News Corp. subsidiary STAR is a stockholder, Phoenix, has been granted permission to broadcast to the economically booming Pearl River Delta in the southern province of Guangdong near Hong Kong, the state-run Yangcheng Evening News reported on Oct. 20.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Scripps Networks has signed several long-term agreements with Time Warner Cable to boost distribution of its lifestyle channels by nearly 12 million viewers within the next two years.
The agreement allows Time Warner Cable to carry HGTV (Home & Garden Television), the Food Network and the DIY Network (Do It Yourself), all of which Scripps owns.
Time Warner also will carry Scripps’ newest network, Fine Living, which is set to launch in early 2002.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
“Time Warner Cable has given a tremendous vote of confidence to our established networks,” said Susan Packard, president of new ventures for Scripps Networks. “In addition, by committing to Fine Living months before its launch and by greatly increasing DIY’s distribution, those convergent networks are similarly poised to become mainstays in American homes.”
The Food Network will be added to Time Warner Cable systems in markets including Houston; Tampa, Fla.; Minneapolis; Milwaukee; and Charlotte, N.C.
Time Warner also will add HGTV to some of its systems that aren’t now carrying it.
Food Network is now distributed to 67 million homes; HGTV, 74 million homes. DIY Network, primarily available through satellite systems, is expected to reach 20 million subscribers by 2003, with Fine Living reaching 5 million in its first year.
Scripps Networks, based in Knoxville, is an operating unit of The E.W. Scripps Co., a media corporation based in Cincinnati. Time Warner Cable owns and manages cable operations serving 12.7 million customers.
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+++++ Minnesota Public Radio to expand in St. Paul
ST. PAUL. Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Public Radio, which produces 14 national programs, said Oct. 18 it plans to stay in St. Paul and expand its downtown headquarters.
Network officials said the plan to purchase two properties near its headquarters is the first phase in a five-year effort to expand programming, content and distribution.
MPR will receive a forgivable three-year, $3.3 million city loan, and grants from four foundations to help fund the expansion. MPR is working on plans for a capital fund drive to cover other development and construction costs.
Minnesota Public Radio employs more than 260 people and has been complaining since 1999 that it had outgrown its 45,000-square-foot headquarters. It expects to add at least 100 jobs over 10 to 15 years.
Its shows, which include Garrison Keillor’s popular “A Prairie Home Companion,” are heard by 7.6 million listeners each week.
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Minnesota Public Radio: http://www.mpr.org
AOL unveils radio service as part of revamp
NEW YORK (AP) — America Online introduced a new radio feature as part of an upgraded version of its service, AOL 7.0. The Oct. 16 announcement came a day after rival Microsoft Corp. announced an upgrade of its online service, MSN.
AOL, which is part of the media and entertainment conglomerate AOL Time Warner Inc., said the new service would carry 75 different channels of music as well as news, sports and talk programming.
Kevin Conroy, head of AOL’s music division, called the radio service the cornerstone of AOL’s music offerings to its 31 million subscribers. AOL’s music offerings include Spinner, an early entrant to Internet music broadcasting.
AOL said it would offer the 7.0 upgrade to existing customers for no extra charge.
Microsoft said the new version of its MSN service and Web portal would more heavily promote the company’s paid Internet services and be closely tied to its new operating system, Windows XP.