DreamWorks Animation to launch TV channel in Asia

New TV channel in Asia is the first of its kind for DreamWorks Animation

Making a big play to expand its worldwide television business, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. plans to launch a kids and family television channel in Asia.

The Glendale studio said the new channel will broadcast TV shows in 19 Asian countries. The animated programming will feature classic DreamWorks characters as well new content and characters from the Classic Media library such as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Veggie Tales, Waldo and He-Man.

"The DreamWorks channel will bring our premiere shows -- great humor and stories, imaginative worlds and, of course, the highest quality animation -- to audiences across Asia through a new DreamWorks-branded platform,” said Eric Ellenbogen, co-head of DreamWorks International TV.

“Audiences in the region have always embraced our content and now they can engage with their favorite DreamWorks characters -- as well as new ones -- where and when they choose, across multiple screens and in local languages.”

Singapore-based HBO Asia will manage affiliate sales and marketing as well as technical services for the new channel, which is set to launch in the second half of 2015.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The new channel is the first of its kind for DreamWorks and reflects the studio's ongoing efforts to diversify by expanding its television operations. The studio is producing a dozen animated shows for Netflix as part of a deal last year to supply 300 hours of programming for the global streaming service.

In 2013, DreamWorks Animation also signed a five-year deal to supply 1,100 hours of animated programming for Super RTL, the leading TV channel in Germany.

The initiative also underscores DreamWorks' continued expansion into Asia.  The company has formed a joint venture with Chinese media companies to operate a studio in Shanghai that is producing animated movies for the domestic and international market.

Hong Kong and Macao are among the markets where the channel will operate.  The DreamWorks channel will also be available in Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia, among other countries.

In an interview, Ellenbogen said the channel would enable DreamWorks to expand its growth in fast-growing Asian markets hungry for American entertainment.

"Clearly, DreamWorks is very well-known in the region," he said. "It's a very young audience that exists there. Unlike other parts of the world, there is a burgeoning pay-TV business and an emerging middle class that provides a ready audience and a good opportunity for us to launch a new channel."

The expansion news, announced after stock markets closed, could give DreamWorks some relief on Wall Street. The studio has been hammered by investors and analysts after several proposed deals to sell the company fell through, sending its stock into a tailspin in recent weeks. DreamWorks shares have tumbled nearly 40% this year and closed at $21.80 on Tuesday, down 5 cents.

DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg has been rebuffed in recent weeks by three high-profile potential buyers: Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Corp., Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and Hasbro Inc.

The Asia channel will leverage more than 2,000 hours of existing DreamWorks TV content in addition to more than 1,200 half-hours of original animation that the company has in production.  Programs will include upcoming series based upon DreamWorks’ most popular characters, such as "All Hail King Julien," "The Adventures of Puss in Boots" and all-new seasons of "How to Train Your Dragon."

The lineup will also feature the company’s leading preschool properties, designed to entertain and educate. The new series "VeggieTales in the House" and "DinoTrux," based on the award-winning children’s book, will anchor the daily morning preschool block, among other new productions.

DreamWorks has been accelerating its expansion into television and other areas to lessen its reliance on animated movies, which have generated mixed results in recent years.

This summer the studio launched a family-oriented YouTube channel and last year acquired the Santa Monica-based YouTube teen network AwesomenessTV for $33 million.

DreamWorks is expected to shortly announce a deal to sell a stake in Awesomeness TV to Hearst Corp., which owns stakes in the cable channels ESPN and A&E and the magazines Cosmopolitan and Esquire. The companies would operate the channel under a joint venture agreement.

Twitter: @rverrier

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