Broadcast version of Disney Channel to launch in Russia

The Walt Disney Co. says it plans to launch a free, broadcast version of its popular Disney Channel in Russia next year, enabling the entertainment giant to deliver its family programming to about 40 million households in the increasingly important market.

Disney will acquire a 49% stake in the Seven TV network, enabling it to air Disney Channel programming on broadcast stations in 54 urban markets, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as in rural areas.

"International expansion is a key strategic priority for our company and Disney Channel has proven to be invaluable in building the Disney brand around the world,” Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said Thursday in a statement.

Disney has been active in Russia since 2006, when the studio formed a joint venture with Sony Pictures Releasing International to distribute films in Russia. In 2008, the company announced a joint venture with Media-One Holdings to start a Russian version of the Disney Channel on 30 stations throughout the country, bringing "Hannah Montana" and "Wizards of Waverly Place" -- dubbed in Russian -- to the market.

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-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb animated series, from the "Wizard of Odd" episode. Credit: Disney

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