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MTV, Baidu Launch Stunning Alliance
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With the eighth annual CCTV-MTV Music Awards held in Beijing on October 12 and the ink still fresh on the agreement with Linktone Ltd, a leading Chinese provider of wireless interactive entertainment on October 16, the MTV Networks wants more shares in China's digital media market.

MTV Networks announced a landmark content and advertising alliance with Baidu.com, China's No.1 search engine, at a press conference in Beijing yesterday. Officials from both companies, as well as representatives and artists from five top Chinese and Asian music companies attended the agreement signing ceremony.

Starting yesterday, the new strategic partnership will allow 123 million Chinese Internet users to access 15,000 hours of MTV and its sister networks Nickelodeon's video content, as well as allowing licensed music videos to be viewed online or downloaded via Baidu. A special feature of MTV Zone has already been established on Baidu's movie site to promote the business. MTVN expected that this move could extend MTVN China's digital media portion.

The Baidu.com's CEO Robin Li said at the press conference: "We're excited to expand our powerful online entertainment platform at Baidu through this first-of-its-kind alliance with MTV Networks. With a diverse offering of original programming, animation and music, Chinese users will be able to experience high quality entertainment on MTV Zone."

MTVN China will provide netizens with four kinds of content on Baidu, including MTV China's locally produced shows, reality shows, Nickelodeon's children shows, and music videos. The content's length will be from 10 to 30 minutes long.

In fact, most content offered in the Baidu and MTVN move could not previously be seen in most areas of China. In April 2003, MTVN's Chinese channel was finally approved by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, though it was limited only to Guangdong Province. However, this had already made it the first foreign TV broadcaster on the Chinese mainland.

"This breakthrough relationship with Baidu delivers Chinese audiences a major digital platform for non-stop, 24-hour access to MTV and Nickelodeon programming content for the first time -- from SpongeBob SquarePants, to Pimp My Ride, to MTV China's vast local original programming like MTV Tian Lai Cun and MTV Music Wire," Bill Roedy, president of MTV Networks International, said excitedly.

"This alliance with China's No.1 Internet search engine is also a key milestone in our digital media position in China and advances our long-term commitment to expanding our brands and local content in China," Roedy added.

According to Baidu, the reason Viacom chose Baidu as its partner was based on its market shares in the search engine market. The China Internet Network Information Center's (CNNIC) China Search Engine Survey Report 2006 released in September shows that Baidu is netizens' first choice, with 62.1 percent of the market share, while Google China was left far behind with only 25.3 percent.

When asked if this is a response to Google's stunning purchase of Youtube days ago given that the MTV Networks also provides content for Baidu's potential rival Google Video, MTV Networks International's spokesman Rob Hooper told China.org.cn, "No, we view all of these services as complementary, not competitive. We'd like to make our content available to audiences on all platforms -- TV, web, mobile and other portable devices."

Their notable Internet partnerships include AOL, Google Video, iTunes and Amazon. In China, MTVN said it cooperates with two top mobile phone service providers -- China Mobile and China Unicom -- to reach nearly all cell phone users in the nation.

Two other big Chinese portal sites Sina.com and Sohu.com have long been developing their own online video empires. They face a renewed challenge from Baidu, a transforming search engine that may yet be their greatest rival.

The MTVN-Baidu link will also highlight products from four top Chinese music companies -- EE Media, Modern Sky, Music Nation and Ocean Butterflies -- and Asian music label Avex Group, allowing them to showcase music videos from entertainers like Jeff Chang, JJ Lin, Aaron Kwok, Wang Rong, New Pants, Japan's Ayumi Hamasaki, Boa, and Namie Amuro.

"Content owners and artists will be compensated through this revenue share agreement, which also offers exciting new opportunities for advertisers to reach the online youth demographic in China," Robin Li said.

But how to profit from this cooperation? Baidu's chief financial officer, Shawn Wang, said it mainly depends on advertising. Netizens could view the high-resolution videos online or download them by using Baidu's BaiduXsetup software. Some content, such as music videos, will charge fees while most will be downloaded for free but contain advertisements, following Google's approach to distributing MTV clips on its AdSense.

MTV and Baidu will share advertising revenues although Wang declined to reveal the respective revenue splits. Motorola and P&G's Rejoice brand have signed agreements to be MTV Zone's first advertisers.

"We have been trying so hard to enrich our web contents," Wang said. He remarked that MTVN is the first international partner for Baidu, and the cooperation is "a landmark but phase accomplishment for Baidu to explore future digital media business."

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Zhang Rui, October 18, 2006)

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