- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

BEIJING

Baidu Inc., which runs China’s leading search engine, and the Discovery Channel launched a Web site Tuesday to carry nature and science

features, adding to rivalry in China’s competitive Internet market.

The site - discovery.baidu.com - will raise Discovery Channel’s profile in China, which restricts foreign access to its vast television audience. It will give Baidu a new asset as it competes with U.S.-based search giant Google Inc.

“Discovery’s popularity in China will be increased,” said Xuyang Ren, Baidu’s vice president for marketing and business development, at a ceremony to launch the site. “Baidu’s knowledge platform will be strengthened, and this also will bring us more clicks.”

The site will carry translated material - mostly articles and photographs, with some short videos - developed for Discovery Channel Web sites in the United States and Europe, said Tom Keaveney, the channel’s executive vice president for Asia. He said topics would include nature, science, wildlife, engineering and world culture.

The companies will share advertising and other revenue, Mr. Keaveney said.

“This is the first time we’ve done something on this scale with a partner,” he added.

The communist Beijing government’s media restrictions and the country’s rising incomes and fast-growing Internet market have led to a series of alliances between Chinese Web services and foreign suppliers of music, entertainment and other content.

China has the world’s biggest television audience, with more than 400 million viewers, but bars most of its cable systems from carrying foreign channels. The country has the biggest online population, with 338 million Web users.

Baidu and Google have added entertainment offerings to their search services to compete for traffic with popular Chinese sites that offer games, music and other content.

Baidu has about 60 percent of China’s search market, but No. 2 Google is gaining share, from about 20 percent in 2006 to about 30 percent this year, according to the Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.

Baidu launched a venture in 2006 with Viacom Inc.’s music channel MTV to sell music videos and other programming online. The search engine also has a streaming-music venture with EMI Group PLC carrying pop from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Baidu focuses on the China market but launched a Japan service in January 2008. The company said its profit rose 44.6 percent from a year earlier in the quarter ending June 30 to 383.3 million yuan ($56.1 million). Revenue rose 36.7 percent to just under 1.1 billion yuan ($160.7 million).

Google, based in Mountainview, Calif., launched a China-focused free music download service in March with major global music companies. It is limited to use by computers with Internet protocol addresses that show they are in mainland China.

Discovery’s U.S.-based parent, Discovery Communications Inc., sells blocks of programs from the channel and from its Animal Planet, Discovery Travel & Living and other channels in China. The channels are shown in some luxury hotels and apartment compounds for foreigners but not on cable systems for the general public.


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