Disney is to begin broadcasting a free-to-air channel in Russia next year in partnership with local media group UTH, backed by entrepreneur Alisher Usmanov.
Disney has agreed to buy a 49% stake in Seven, owned by UTH, which will be rebranded as Disney when the deal, reportedly worth US$300 million (€214 million), is completed. Entertainment channel Seven had an audience share of about 1.9% in the second quarter of this year. Along with Seven, UTH operates music channel Muz-TV.
According to Disney, the new channel will be available to about 40 million households across the country. Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company believed in Russia as a growth market.
Ivan Tavrin, CEO of UTV (pictured), said: “We believe that our partnership with The Walt Disney Company, the global entertainment leader, will establish a popular and highly successful free-to-air business. The superb infrastructure and technical foundation of UTH in combination with Disney’s unique brand and global expertise will deliver excellent results for the Disney Channel in Russia. Seven TV’s transformation from sports to general entertainment in 2010 helped us to significantly improve its ratings and financial results, now it is time for a new page in the network’s history. I am confident about the success of the Disney Channel and our long term partnership with The Walt Disney Company.”
Disney Russia managing director Marina Zhigalova-Ozkan said that the channel would focus on a broad family audience and would feature original animation, feature films and content produced in Russia under the Disney brand.
The move to launch a free-to-air channel follows Disney’s recent announcement that it would go free-to-air in Turkey. Iger has reportedly said the company is looking at investing in 10 other potential markets to increase Disney Channel’s footprint.