Channel [V] creates mobile games for pop music shows

And other news in Greater China

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HONG KONG--News Corp.’s Star Group media division has formed an alliance with Hong Kong-based Artificial Life, which creates mobile “3G” technology, games and applications to jointly develop and distribute mobile games across Asia.

The agreement will start with Artificial Life developing interactive mobile games, as well as mobile accessories such as wallpapers, ringtones, video mails and screensavers based on Blackie’s Teenage Club and Lollipop, youth entertainment programs on the Mandarin-language Taiwanese feed of Star’s Channel [V] music channel, which can be viewed in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Although Blackie's Teenage Club and Lollipop are separate programs, they operate on a similar format. A fictional class of teenagers interact with a teacher in games and contests, ultimately resulting in the creation of two pop music groups. The male group is called Lollipop, while the female group is known as Mei Mei. The programs have attracted an enormous following in both markets, where their dedicated web site generates over one million page views per day on average from teens across the region. The first mobile games created from the agreement are expected to be released in several Asian markets this September.

Star will look for other “opportunities to develop mobile products” based on its portfolio,” said Ross Crowley, Hong Kong-based executive VP, content at Star, which reaches more than 300 million viewers in 53 countries across Asia.

Disney prepares to launch first co-production in China
BEIJING--This summer, the Walt Disney Studio will launch its first co-production project in China, an interpretation of a classic story called “The Magic Gourd,” in China. It is a modern adaptation of a Chinese book penned by a well-known author of children’s books, Zhang Tianyi, and originally published in 1958.

The film, a combination of live action and animation, was a joint venture between Buena Vista International, Disney’s international theatrical distribution arm, Centro Digital Pictures in Hong Kong and The China Film Group Corp. It will appear in cinemas across China this summer, but Disney has already released the movie’s theme song, “One Life, One Dream” and a music video based on the film in China. Both feature Baby Zhang, a female Chinese pop singer. The musical score was created by Hong Kong composer Peter Kam with lyricist Keith Chan.

The film is a rare success story for an international media company in China, both in political and commercial terms. Government policies make it extremely difficult for foreign media companies to operate in the mainland, fearing that exposure to western content could create social upheaval. And the government wants to protect local production companies.

It also regulates the number of foreign films that can be legally shown in Chinese theaters to a handful, and restricts foreign-made children’s programming on local cable channels, so famous Disney characters like Mickey Mouse are not well-known among Chinese kids.

China is also rife with piracy problems that cost Hollywood studios billions in lost revenues. But western media companies, including Disney, continue to invest in China as much as possible, with an eye on the potential of reaching 1.2 billion Chinese consumers with rising incomes.

“China is the priority of the entire company,” said Stanley Cheung, Disney’s executive VP and managing director, China, in a company statement. “In addition to bringing more Disney family entertainment content to China, we attach great importance on finding locally relevant and appealing content which complements our existing story values.”

Moet Hennessy buys majority stake in Chinese spirits company
QIONGLAI, SICHUAN--Moët Hennessy, the wines and spirits business of LVMH Group, owner of global luxury brands, has acquired 55% of the equity in Wen Jun Distillery, one of China’s premium white spirit companies, for an undisclosed sum. Jiannanchun, the current owner of Wen Jun and China’s third-largest spirits maker, will retain the remaining 45%.

Moët Hennessy will use the Chinese investment, including the historic Wen Jun brand and the company’s production facilities, as a launchpad to develop new premium wine and spirit brands in China, a luxury consumer market currently undergoing strong growth.

Wen Jun, whose brand dates back over 450 years, is based in Qionglai, a city in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. The area has good weather, water and soil conditions for producing baijiu, as potent but popular clear grain spirits are known in Chinese.

Western spirits like French cognac and Scotch whisky are increasingly popular in China both among local businessmen looking to seal a deal and style-conscious young adults unwinding after work in trendy nightclubs. LVMH’s Hennessy brand, sold in China since 1859, controls more than half of China’s massive premium cognac sales.

But sales of western spirits, not to mention Moët Hennessy’s loftier brands like Dom Perignon champagne, still do not come near to matching sales of traditional Chinese white spirits in the mainland. The Wen Jun investment is a move to increase the company’s production, distribution, marketing and retail presence in China, and not only in spirits like cognac, champagne, whisky and vodka.

LVMH’s other divisions are looking to expand in the mainland as well. While China contributes just 3% of the group’s total sales today, many of its divisions such as Louis Vuitton are growing more than 50% annually.

Emphasis wins inflight contract for Hong Kong Airlines
HONG KONG--Asia’s biggest inflight publisher, Hong Kong-based Emphasis Media, a subsidiary of PubliGroupe, has been appointed by Hong Kong Airlines to publish its inflight magazine, starting June 1. The Hong Kong-based regional airline flies to 21 destinations in mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. The magazine's content and advertising will cater to the airline’s core customers, upscale Chinese and expatriate leisure travelers based in Hong Kong.
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