MTV Networks has forged a content and advertising alliance with Beijing-based web portal Baidu, the companies said today (Oct. 17) in a joint statement.

MTV Networks has forged a content and advertising alliance with Beijing-based web portal Baidu, the companies said today (Oct. 17) in a joint statement.

The deal, which takes effect the same day, gives China's 123 million Internet users access to 15,000 hours of MTV and Nickelodeon original video content and music videos licensed by five Asian music companies for online viewing or download.

As part of the agreement, MTV will provide "MTV Zone," the first-ever branded area on Baidu.

MTV's relationship with Baidu will deliver Chinese audiences a digital platform for continuous, 24-hour access to MTV and Nickelodeon programming content, explained MTV Networks International president Bill Roedy in a statement.

"This alliance with China's No. 1 Internet search engine is also a key milestone in our digital media position in China and advances our long-term commitment to expanding our brands and local content in China," Roedy added. MTV already has a similar partnership with Chinese telecom operator China Mobile and, as of Oct. 17, with China Unicom, another local telecom.

MTVN has also signed licensing agreements with four independent Chinese labels to enable MTVN to distribute music videos via Baidu. The labels are: Shanghai-based EE Media, Beijing-based Modern Sky, Hong Kong-based Music Nation and Beijing-based Ocean Butterflies, as well as with leading Japanese independent label Avex. No major-label or international repertoire will be available via MTVN's tie-up with Baidu.

Additional agreements to offer videos from local and international artists will be announced soon, MTVN said in the statement.

Baidu¸ which provides "deep links" to Web sites offering unauthorized downloads, currently faces seven lawsuits filed in the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court by the IFPI on behalf of its members.

Roedy says that the issue of digital rights management was "front and center" during MTVN's negotiations with Baidu and is "critical to sustaining our relationship."

"They have committed to dealing only with licensed product," Roedy tells Billboard.biz. "This alliance ensures that all creators are properly compensated."

When asked if he expects Baidu to stop practices such as deep-linking, Roedy says, "We'll see - how do you convert from unlicensed to licensed?"

MTVN says some downloaded content, such as music videos, will require payment, while most will be downloadable free of charge after viewing advertisements. MTVN, Baidu, and where applicable, the record labels, will share revenues from user fees, while MTV and Baidu will share ad revenues

"We're excited to expand our powerful online entertainment platform at Baidu through this first-of-its-kind alliance with MTV Networks," said Baidu.com chairman/CEO Robin Li in a statement.

"Content owners and artists will be compensated through this revenue-share agreement, which also offers exciting new opportunities for advertisers to reach the online youth demographic in China," Li added.

One industry source explains, "This deal brings no significant content to Baidu and its users which they didn't already have access to. But it gives Baidu legitimacy, as they get a music powerhouse endorsing them."

The source added, "MTV needs a wider footprint in China in terms of traffic and branding, which they are not getting via normal TV channels, and so they must have felt a need to do a deal which shows significant traction for their advertisers. It also sends out a strong statement on behalf of (MTVN parent company) Viacom that they are undertaking significant online activities."