Disney is to launch a free-to-air channel in Russia next year in partnership with local media group UTH, owned by entrepreneurs Alisher Usmanov and Ivan Tavrin.
This is the latest Disney channel to move from pay television to free-to-air following a deal in Turkey announced earlier this week.
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, is completed. The channel currently has an audience share of about 1%, showing mostly Soviet-era movies. Along with Seven, UTV operates music channel Muz-TV.
The new channel will be available to about 40 million households across the country and will air a raft of Disney programming, both live action and animation, as well as original Russian content.
“International expansion is a key strategic priority for our company and Disney Channel has proven to be invaluable in building the Disney brand around the world. We are excited about increasing Disney Channel’s presence in Russia and delivering exceptional family entertainment to this important growth market,” said Bob Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company.