Comcast buy of 'Kung Fu Panda' producer aids Asia strategy

Fri Apr 29, 2016 6:11am EDT
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By Lisa Richwine and Malathi Nayak

(Reuters) - Comcast Corp's planned purchase of DreamWorks Animation would increase the media giant's foothold in Asia, particularly China, as it competes in an increasingly global battle for entertainment dollars.

DreamWorks, producer of the "Kung Fu Panda" and "Shrek" franchises, was one of the first Hollywood studios to open a production studio in China. It formed a joint venture with local companies in 2012 called Oriental DreamWorks.

The $3.8 billion purchase of the company founded by movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg is expected to help drive traffic to Comcast theme parks in the region, Wall Street analysts said. The animation studio's relationships also could make it easier for Comcast to distribute content in China.

DreamWorks has aggressively courted audiences in that country, which is the world's second-largest film market and home to a growing population of city dwellers ready to spend on entertainment.

This year's hit "Kung Fu Panda 3," for example, was the first movie animated in both English and Mandarin. When it opened in February, it set a record for the biggest animated film opening in China.

"DreamWorks has done a very good job in building a team in China and learning the market," said Larry Namer, president and CEO of Metan Global Entertainment Group, which produces entertainment content for Chinese audiences. "As far as the Hollywood entities go, I think they seem to understand the nuances of the market better than most."

Comcast's plan to purchase DreamWorks was announced on Thursday and requires approval from regulators.

From January through March, 37 percent of Comcast’s total revenue came from its content and theme park unit, NBCUniversal. Tapping into Asian markets could help that grow further, analysts said.   Continued...

Cast member Jack Black poses with a mascot of the character he plays, Po, at the premiere of "Kung Fu Panda 3" at the TCL Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California January 16, 2016. The movie opens in the U.S. on January 29.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni