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Discovery commits to Russia amid law changes

Discovery Communications will continue to distribute its pay TV portfolio in Russia and will develop a regional free-to-air channel, thanks to a new alliance that keeps it in line with new media laws.

Kasia KieliDiscovery has signed an agreement with Russia’s National Media Group to form a new limited liability company, called Media Alliance, which will distribute Discovery’s portfolio of eleven pay TV channels across Russia. These include factual channels Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, lifestyle channel TLC, as well as sports network Eurosport.

Kasia Kieli, president and managing director, Discovery Networks Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (pictured), said that the agreement to form Media Alliance is part of its strategy to extend its reach across “all categories and platforms”. “Russia remains an important market and we are confident that this deal will allow us to continue our growth there,” she added.

Olga Paskina, senior vice president and country manager of Discovery Networks North East Europe, added: “With this arrangement, Discovery will keep providing Russian citizens with the scientific, educational and factual content that we have broadcast for seventeen years.”

Paskina will take the position of Media Alliance general director in addition to her responsibilities for Discovery’s operations across north east Europe.

The news comes after Russia amended its law on mass media at the end of last year that will limit foreign ownership of media companies in Russia to 20%, down from the current limit of 50%. This will apply to both existing and future foreign ownership and comes into effect on January 1, 2016.

Other broadcast groups such as Modern Times Group have chosen to withdraw from the market. MTG is in the process of selling its stake in Russian free-to-air broadcaster CTC Media.

National Media Group claims to be one of the largest private media holdings in Russia. It was established in February 2008 by merging media assets belonging to AB Russia, A.A Mordashov, Surgutneftegas and the Sogas Insurance Group.

Completion of the Media Alliance deal is expected to in the coming weeks, subject to customary closing conditions including regulatory approval.