Star & China Mobile team up to exploit mobile phone market

And other news in Greater China

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China Mobile, News Corporation and Star join forces
HONG KONG--News Corp. and its Star Group pay-TV platform have teamed up with China Mobile to explore opportunities in the mainland that can leverage the U.S. media giant’s content and interactive services with China Mobile’s vast consumer base.

With over 260 million subscribers, China Mobile is the No. 1 mobile phone service provider in the world’s largest mobile phone market. It is also a very savvy tech market now. China Mobile’s customers send about 700 million text messages per day and value-added services like SMS messages, games and ring tones generate more than 20% of its revenue. Now the company is looking at expanding its wireless media business opportunities ahead the country’s move to 3G. Services expected from the News Corp. alliance will range from music, broadband interactivity, and social networking to multimedia value-added products.

“We will be able to offer more exciting services to our customers,” said Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile’s chairman-CEO in Beijing. “This is a very important step for us in view of the global convergence of telecommunication, media and internet.”

Millward Brown acquires Chinese market research firm
BEIJING--WPP Group’s Millward Brown information and insight consultancy has acquired All China Strategic Research Co., an independent market research agency based in Beijing. After the merger is completed, ACSR’s business will be merged with Millward Brown’s existing Chinese operations and WPP will hold a majority stake in the combined company with an option to acquire the remaining shares.

Founded in 1997, ACSR also has branches in Shanghai and Guangzhou and employs 147 people. Last year, it generated unaudited revenues of $6.3 million working with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, the real estate company Tianjin Wanke, Xi'an Janssen, LG Group and Wal-Mart.

World Cup goes digital in Asia
HONG KONG--A recent online survey conducted in five Asian countries by WPP’s MindShare and Pulse Group, called mPulse, revealed that 95% of respondents in China plan to follow the World Cup football tournament, of which 32% plan to track results on their mobile phones. The World Cup Fever study was conducted in May 2006 among men and women on the aged 15 to 35 in China, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

On average Chinese fans plan to watch over 11 nights of matches on television, and 84% plan to visit sports web sites for World Cup news. Official World Cup sites were cited as the most likely destinations in Singapore (67%), Malaysia (71%), Thailand (46%) and Australia (57%), but Chinese fans are most likely to head to other sports sites (84%). Many Asian fans are following the World Cup on the go using mobile phones, ranging from 32% in China, to 14% in Singapore and Malaysia, 10% in Australia and 7% in Thailand.

“The only thing Asians are more passionate about than the World Cup is their mobile phone, so it’s not surprising to see so many fans starting to track
their teams in real-time, on-the-go,” said James Chadwick, MindShare’s insights director, Asia/Pacific in Singapore.

Taiwan eases up regulations inhibiting its pay-TV market
TAIPEI--Taiwan's pay-TV regulator, the National Communications Commission (NCC), will relax regulations impeding further development of the pay-TV market in that country. The commission’s “executive plans” for 2006 include relaxation of tight regulation of cable "bouquets" and associated price constraints, encouragement of competition among industry players and a bigger effort to stimulate digitization.

"After years of regulatory stagnation and political controversy, the NCC has demonstrated a firm intention to take on some difficult but vital issues,” said Marcel Fenez, chairman of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia.

“It is encouraging that the NCC is taking notice of international trends in this industry. Taiwan has suffered for too long from limited consumer
choice and slow technological development.”

China pulls 'Da Vinci Code' from cinemas
BEIJING--Sony Pictures, distributor of "The Da Vinci Code,” had to pull the film from Chinese theaters last Friday, even though--or perhaps because--it became one the highest-grossing hits there during its three-week run.

No official reason was given, but it’s unlikely the cause was religion, the main complaint lobbed around the world at the controversial film based on the best-selling book by Dan Brown. Sources say officials implied they want to make more room in cinemas for Chinese films, “but the more likely reason,” said one entertainment industry exec based in Los Angeles, “is that the government figures the film has already made enough money in China.”

Since it launched in China on May 19, the film has grossed almost $14 million in ticket sales, making it one of the top four Hollywood films ever released in China.

Publicis Groupe launches Media Exchange in China
BEIJING--In an effort to keep pace with the growing brand awareness of WPP’s GroupM media division, at a time when advertisers are appointing agencies at the holding company level, Publicis Groupe has folded its own media divisions in China into a single trading arm called China Media Exchange (CME).

Operating under the control of Publicis Groupe Media, CME offers media buying, content provision and diversified services to clients of Starcom and ZenithOptimedia in China. Communications and tactical planning continue under the Starcom and ZenithOptimedia brands while negotiation and media buying will be lead by China Media Exchange. Based on RECMA figures, CME will be the single largest purchaser of media in China, according to Jack Klues, global chairman of Publicis Groupe Media.

Operating like a national stock exchange, the company’s vision is to become China’s leading market indicator setting the benchmark for the value of both traditional and nontraditional media.

CME is “good news,” said Alain Liu, advertising manager of DongFeng Peugeot. “We expect China Media Exchange to be more competitive and bring us better ROI in media plan execution regarding both the buying price and media opportunities.”
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