Disney announced today it has reached an agreement to launch a free-to-air ad-supported Disney Channel in Russia early next year. The joint venture with media holding company UTH Russia will see UTH’s Seven TV channel become Disney Channel, with Disney owning a 49% stake and UTH 51%. At launch, the network will reach about 40 million households, or about 75% of the measured audience in Russia. It will feature family programming including Disney’s signature shows as well as original Russian content. The move comes after a similar effort by Disney was blocked in 2008; the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian regulators OK’d this one after Disney boss Bob Iger met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. “He endorsed the partners that we’re working with and the strategy,” Iger told the WSJ about the meeting. When it launches, it will be the 101st network in Disney Channels Worldwide’s group that currently reaches 325 million households globally.

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