The History Channel is expected to soon nail down its first
three distribution agreements in Asia.
Whitney Goit, executive vice president of History parent
A&E Television Networks, said the three markets are Japan; Southeast Asia and India;
and greater China. History will likely be a stand-alone channel in Japan, while in China
it will bow as a program block.
"We are not yet present in these three markets, but by
year-end, we will be making announcements to start services in January or soon
afterwards," he said.
The History Channel's Asia launches follow expansion
in the region by MTV Networks-owned Nickelodeon. Nick on Nov. 1 launched a Malaysian
channel on the Astra direct-to-home platform.
The Malaysia service is the eighth stand-alone offering
Nick has launched in Asia in the past 12 months. Bruce Tuchman, Nickelodeon
International's general manager of global network ventures, said India represents the
largest viewer base.
History is in the process of concluding partnership
agreements with local Asian satellite and cable players. Initial reach in Japan would be
modest, said Goit, "measured as a few millions. In India and China, the numbers will
be much larger."
History's core content will come from its archives,
said Goit. Most product will be dubbed into local languages, with some interstitial
material and possibly local hosts added in order to increase appeal, he added.
The Chinese programming block, which could evolve into a
stand-alone channel, must be cautious in what it releases for local distribution, said
Goit. "We are having to send every piece of material into the country in advance of
being shown on air where it is checked."
History is also eyeing distribution deals in Pakistan,
Turkey and Israel, where A&E hopes to win cable and satellite deals over the next
year, he added.
Nick also hopes to continue its Asian expansion.
"Greater China is a huge challenge, and we are not above throwing a bunch of channels
up to the wall and seeing how they land," Tuchman said.
"Those markets are all challenging, and require
thought, resources and a comprehensive strategy. We want to be [in China] and we are
figuring out ways to do so."