US media giant Viacom is raising its profile in China with a TV production joint venture.

The American firm has agreed to set up a children's programming company in partnership with state-owned Chinese broadcaster Shanghai Media Group -- the first deal of its kind since Beijing lifted a ban on foreign investment in domestic production businesses [WAMN: 10-Feb-04].

Details will not be released until the joint venture receives the blessing of China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. However, Viacom is expected to take a 49% stake in the business.

SMG president Li Ruigang believes there will be strong demand for youth-oriented content, both from his company's own stations and those in other regions. "In the near future, a lot of provinces will have their own kids' programme channels," he commented. "I think there will be huge market demand for us to explore here."

Viacom has made no secret of its desire to move into China's burgeoning media market. However, the group's success to date has been limited: its MTV music station is broadcast in the southern province of Guangdong and in certain hotels and residential compounds; and programming from MTV and Nickelodeon is syndicated to cable operators.

• Separately, SMG announced it has asked regulators to approve a television home shopping joint venture with South Korean conglomerate CJ Group.

As with the Viacom deal, CJ is expected to take a stake of 49%. The South Korean firm already operates successful home shopping businesses in its home market and in Taiwan.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff