March 20, 2014 1:00 am

Discovery in deal to supply programming for Chinese digital channel

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Discovery Communications, the US cable group that owns channels such as TLC and Animal Planet, has struck a deal in China to supply all of the programming for a new digital venture.

Qui Suo, a new digital subscription channel being launched by Wasu, a media group owned by two state-owned Chinese companies, will be available across China. Wasu has almost 20m cable subscribers and operates the largest Chinese online video platform.

The deal gives Discovery, which is keen to expand its international business, a bigger presence in the world’s fastest growing media market. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

China’s online video market is evolving fast: about 450m people watch it, with the number expected to rise to 700m by 2016, according to iResearch, a media research group.

Discovery provides programming to other Chinese TV networks but distribution of its content has been limited by regional restrictions. “The new channel will introduce millions of Chinese viewers to some of Discovery’s best content,” said Arjan Hoekstra, president and managing director, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

The deal comes as Discovery ramps up its international operations, after investments in European media groups such as Norway’s SBS and Eurosport, the pan-European sports network.

The company is among the bidders for Channel 5, the UK free to air network that is being sold by Richard Desmond. Discovery is known to have had discussions with BSkyB over a joint bid for Channel 5.

Saban Capital, the investment firm controlled by Haim Saban, the Israeli-born billionaire, also explored a bid but pulled out over Mr Desmond’s valuation, said people familiar with the matter. 

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