Viacom in Talks to Sell Majority Stake in Chinese TV Networks

Deal would be structured similarly to company’s joint venture with Reliance Industries in India

Last Updated: January 14, 2019 @ 6:03 AM

Viacom is in talks to sell a majority stake in its Chinese TV networks, including MTV and Nickelodeon, according to an individual familiar with the company’s plans.

The company, led by CEO Bob Bakish, has had discussions with at least one Chinese company, the individual said, adding that any deal would be structured similarly to the joint venture forged last year with Reliance Industries in India.

Last January, Reliance paid $20 million to increase stake in Viacom’s Reliance18 from 50 to 51 percent, taking over operational control of the venture. The company has a comparable arrangement in South Korea, where SBS holds majority interest in a joint venture overseeing the local versions of MTV and Nickelodeon.

A rep for Viacom declined to comment on the new talks.

Like many companies, Viacom has run into trouble in recent years trying to scale its businesses in China, according to The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report the news.

The discussions do not involve the China operations of Viacom’s film studio, Paramount Pictures, which currently has the country’s No. box office champion in “Bumblebee.” The “Transformers” spinoff has grossed $106 million in China in its first two weeks.

For two decades, Viacom has run Mandarin versions of MTV and Nickelodeon with CCTV. In 2005, it became the first foreign media conglomerate to hold a 49 percent stake in a Chinese media company when it teamed with state-owned Shanghai Media Group to produce children’s shows — that deal has since expired.

Viacom also distributes music videos and TV shows on Baidu’s online-video platform iQiyi.