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MTV Joins with Singapore Firm For Sites In Asian Markets

MTV Networks and Singapore-based Tricast (BVI) Ltd. have signed an extensive, exclusive joint venture agreement to provide MTV-branded online content and services throughout Asia.

Dubbed MTV Asia Online, the venture will develop several language-specific Internet sites customized for MTV's young adult audience across the Asian region.

"The partnership with Tricast for MTV Asia Online will take our level of interaction with young adults in Asia through the Internet to a new level," said Frank Brown, president, MTV Networks Asia.

"Just as MTV approaches each market individually with customized programming on air, so will our Internet presence in Asia be customized for our audience both in content and language," added Brown.

MTV Networks Asia, itself a joint-venture of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom, Inc., and Polygram N.V., owns and operates three 24-hour programming services--MTV Southeast Asia, MTV Mandarin and MTV India--which have a combined distribution of more than 100 million homes.

"The formation of this joint venture is a major milestone for the Asian Internet industry. Our goal is to make the MTV Asia Online sites the number one online destination for young Asians," said Paul Meyers, chief operating officer, Tricast Pte. Ltd.

"By combining the Internet's unique community building strength with MTV's globally recognized brand, we see an unparalleled opportunity to attract a vibrant audience in Asian cyberspace," continued Myers.

Tricast is a startup based in Singapore that specializes in localizing global brands in Asia. In addition to MTV Asia, Tricast currently publishes CNET Asia's sites for Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

The venture will re-launch the English-language MTV Asia Web site by the second quarter of this year, initially targeting Southeast Asian audiences.

A Chinese-language MTV Asia Online site, designed to complement the MTV Mandarin television programming, will be launched in the third quarter using both traditional and simplified Chinese characters.

According to representatives of Tricast and MTV, additional localization of the English-language site will occur throughout the year, specifically addressing audiences in such key markets as India, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The new sites will feature bilingual chat capabilities, software downloads, and shopping online.

"Revenue is not the driving force behind the sites," said Brown. "Connecting with the audience is key."

The major aim of MTV's Asian sites is to offer more interactive services for current viewers and drive new viewers, particularly 12-24 year olds (with who the channel has the most success), to the channel.

Initially, the sites will not offer audio and video streaming because of copyright issues with the music industry and the lack of bandwidth in Asia.

"Strategically, it makes sense in Asia if we have wider dialogue with the record industry before we go with it in Asia," commented Brown. The music industry is concerned that with streaming and with MP3 technology their music will be disseminated in mass amounts with out their permission.

"There are plans to offer audio and video clips," said Myers. "However, there is a problem with bandwidth. Asia is not monolithic in its network infrastructure and audiences."

Brown is quite confident that the network of MTV Web sites will out class there closest competition, the Web site of Channel "V", the music video channel on Rupert Murdoch's regional Star Television network.

"Already in terms of volume and hits. . .breadth and depth, MTV Asia is more than Channel V," claimed Brown.