The Walt Disney Co. and media company UTH Russia announced plans Thursday to launch a Disney broadcast television channel in Russia early next year.
The channel will feature Disney programming and original Russian content, the companies said in a statement. It will be free-to-air and supported by advertising.
The deal calls for Disney to acquire a 49 percent stake in the Seven TV network from UTH Russia. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The Disney Channel will air on broadcast stations in 54 large urban markets, including Moscow and Saint Petersburg, reaching some 40 million households at launch -- more than 75 percent of the measured audience in Russia.
"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," Disney president and chief executive Robert Iger said.
"We are excited about increasing Disney Channel's presence in Russia and delivering exceptional family entertainment to this important growth market."
Disney currently operates a small cable channel in Russia but the deal with UTH Media will introduce its programming to a much wider market.
"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," said Ivan Tavrin, chief executive of UTH Russia.
Disney has sought to launch a broadcasting channel in Russia for several years.
It announced an agreement in December 2008 with Media-One Holdings Ltd. but the deal ran into opposition from Russian regulators.
UTH Russia was formed following the August 2009 merger of the television assets of Media-One and Art Finance & Media Ltd.