Saban Invests $30M in Asian Pay-TV Business With Lionsgate

Private equity firm continues to expand into pay-TV, multiplatform distribution and content production

Saban Capital Group and Lionsgate are partnering with Celestial Pictures Limited to launch a new pay-television channel for the burgeoning Asian market, the companies announced Wednesday. 

The new entity will be called Celestial Tiger Entertainment (CTE), and will operate as an independent Asian media company, expanding into production and multi-platform distribution in the coming months.

Saban will be the largest shareholder, having invested $30 million in the joint venture, Adam Chesnoff, president and chief operating officer of Saban Capital Group, told TheWrap.

Lionsgate and Celestial will provide much of the content. 

"What we’re creating is a very unique, high-growth integrated media company in Asia," Chesnoff told TheWrap in an interview from Hong Kong. "We have the content, the distribution and the management."

The venture extends Saban and Lionsgate's expansion into the region. In 2008, the two companies paired up to launch Tiger Gate Entertainment, a joint venture focused on creating pay TV programming in Asia. Tiger Gate's two channels are being folded into this venture. 

In June 2011, Saban acquired the Chinese children's online entertainment company Taomee. Two months ago, the private equity firm snapped up a 7.5 percent stake in the Indonesian media company MNC International.

(Haim Saban pictured top left, Adam Chesnoff pictured bottom right)

"Celestial Tiger Entertainment blends the complementary strengths and skill sets of three companies well positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the Asian filmed entertainment and pay TV marketplace and allows us to enrich our pipeline of content and extend our distribution footprint throughout the region," Lionsgate co-chairman and CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement.

Celestial Tiger will be headquartered in Hong Kong and the programming will be available in a number of rapidly expanding markets including Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Indeed, the fastest growing pay-TV sector in the world is in Asia, Chesnoff told TheWrap. 

The pay-television lineup will draw heavily on Celestial Pictures' flagship channels, Celestial Movies, Celestial Classic Movies, and Celestial Movies On Demand. It will also offer three pay TV channels from Tiger Gate Entertainment — KIX, an action entertainment channel, Thrill, a horror and suspense movie channel, and KIX HD, which carries high definition programming.

The new company plans to expand its suite of programming. To that end,  the company will also branch into distributing movies and television through local distributors.

Celestial Tiger will include staff from both Celestial Movies Channels and Tiger Gate.