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Ex-minister sentenced in Samsung scandal; Thailand strengthening OTT control

TOP NEWS

* A South Korean court has officially acknowledged the illegality of the merger between Samsung C&T Corp. and Cheil Industries Inc., YTN reports. On June 8, the Seoul Central District Court sentenced both former Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo and former Director of National Pension Service Hong Wan-seon to two years and six months in prison, for putting pressure on the state-run pension fund to vote in favor of the merger of Samsung Group's two affiliates. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong is standing trial on charges of bribing former President Park Geun-hye to secure the merger to strengthen his control over the conglomerate.

* SoftBank Group Corp. has agreed to acquire robotics companies Boston Dynamics and Japan-based Schaft from Alphabet Inc. for an undisclosed amount. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Marc Raibert, CEO and founder of Boston Dynamics, and his team will join SoftBank.

* Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission plans to introduce fines for video-sharing platforms like Facebook Inc. and YouTube Inc. if they fail to take down illegal content within a certain time frame, the Bangkok Post reports. The new regulation, which is expected to be announced this month, will also allow the NBTC to ask video-sharing platforms to immediately take down offensive material without requiring a court order. Meanwhile, the Thai regulator plans to force over-the-top providers to register and set up local offices in Thailand so that they are subject to corporate income tax, the Bangkok Post reports.

*Japan's Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. is mulling the sale of African businesses worth roughly US$800 million it acquired from Dimension Data Holdings plc, Bloomberg News reports. One potential deal would include MTN Group Ltd., Africa's largest wireless carrier by sales, acquiring NTT's Johannesburg-based Internet solutions business.

PAN-ASIAN NEWS

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Alibaba Cloud will build data centers in India and Indonesia to gain more clients in Southeast Asia, Cnbeta reports. In Indonesia, major internet companies including Ezytravel and Yogrt are already using Alibaba Cloud services. Meanwhile, Alibaba Cloud and India's Tata Communications Ltd. will work together to expand their services to over 150 countries and regions, Lieyun reports. The cooperation allows Alibaba Cloud's express connect, which secures network communications between different cloud environment, to connect with Tata's IZO private connect, a cloud enabling service.

JAPAN

* Western Digital Corp. is considering a move to raise its offer for Toshiba Corp.'s lucrative chip unit to the ¥2 trillion asking price in its latest effort to block its partner from selling the business to a rival party, The Nikkei reports. Under the proposal, Western Digital would prop up embattled Toshiba through a corporate bond scheme and eventually seek to acquire the chip unit through a topped-up offer.

* Sony Corp. has dismissed talk that it may plunge into the hybrid console market after seeing the explosive success of Nintendo's Switch game console, which combines handheld and TV gaming, the Financial Times reports. Atsushi Morita, head of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC's operations in Japan and other parts of Asia, told the FT that Sony will continue with its strategy for PlayStation 4 to evolve into an entertainment service combining game playing with TV, virtual reality and music streaming.

* The New York Times opened an advertising office in Tokyo, which will be led by commercial director Shigeo Yushita, the company said.

SOUTH KOREA

* South Korea's three major telcos KT Corp., SK Telecom Co. Ltd. and LG Uplus Corp. have agreed to open their Wi-Fi access points to the public, Asia Economy reports. KT is the latest to agree to open its 100,000 Wi-Fi access points by August.

* CJ E&M's multichannel network business Dia TV has attracted more than 100 million subscribers, a 50% increase this year, The Korea Economic Daily reports.

* Kakao Corp. plans to offer employee stock options worth 34 billion Korean won to 316 employees, inews 24 reports. This is the second time the company has proposed employee stock options this year, after having offered stock options to its 77 executives, including CEO RIM Ji-hoon in March.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* IQiyi has unveiled three new plans to leverage its strength in video content production. Under the "Dolphin Plan," the company will lead a push in the production of "super dramas" for online viewers through a brand-new business model that combines competitive tender, revenue-share and minimum guarantee agreements. The super dramas refer to multiple-season productions with a larger budget and better quality control that has an episode length of 45 minutes to about an hour, to be streamed every week. The service is also rolling out two other initiatives, "Tiger Cub Plan" and "White Swan Plan" to nurture upcoming film producers, directors, playwriters and actors.

* China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is launching a consultation regarding the planning and use of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum for the development of 5G networks, Telecom Asia reports. The consultation will close Aug. 7.

* Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s WeChat deleted a large number of popular public accounts that are dedicated to movie reviews and celebrity gossips, including Harper's Bazaar, Kejixun reports. The move follows China's cyberspace of administration demand that Chinese social media companies "promote China's core socialist values."

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd. is in discussions to acquire Reliance Digital TV, a direct-to-home unit of India-based telco Reliance Communications Ltd., according to The Star. The deal will be Astro's second investment in India's DTH industry, after its investment in 20% stake in south Indian pay TV operator Sun Direct.

* In other Astro Malaysia news, the Malaysian media group's online video service Tribe is partnering with Singtel in Singapore, which will be its third market after Indonesia and the Philippines. Under the partnership, Tribe will be carried on Singtel's OTT video portal app Cast.

* MEASAT Broadcast Network Systems, the TV and radio broadcasting business unit of Astro Malaysia Holdings, plans to have a medium-term notes program of up to 3 billion Malaysian ringgit in value, The Star reports. The funds will be used for several purposes, including financing production-related cost, refinancing of maturing MTNs and capital expenditure.

* JD.com Inc., China's second-largest e-commerce firm, will launch in Thailand at the end of the year, Manager reports. CEO Richard Liu said Thailand will act as a hub for servicing mainland Southeast Asia, creating a JD.com network with businesses and consumers in Malaysia and Vietnam.

* LINE Corp. (Thailand) will offer a trial version of its new LINE Mobile 3G and 4G data service to a random sample of current customers at a 75% discount rate, Krungthep Turakij reports. LINE Corp. will run the service as a mobile virtual network operator using Dtac TriNet's 850 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz frequencies.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Australian telco Vocus Group Ltd. Chairman David Spence, the board and advisers Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are expected to meet interested suitors looking to rival KKR & Co. LP's bid, as sources say the board will likely reject the U.S. private equity firm's takeover proposal, according to The Australian Financial Review.

* Telstra Corp. Ltd. is adding 148 new mobile base stations under the second rollout schedule of the Mobile Black Spot Program, the federal government's initiative to improve rural and regional mobile coverage.

* Vodafone NZ launched a new SKY Sport package, wherein new and existing customers of Vodafone Unlimited Broadband and SKY Basic will get a free 12-month subscription to SKY Sport channel.

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. has agreed to acquire the remaining 49% stake in India Webportal Pvt. Ltd. for US$30.7 million to take full ownership of the digital asset. The Indian media conglomerate is also acquiring a 12.5% stake in Bengaluru-based Tagos Design Innovations Pvt. Ltd., an in-video discovery platform, for US$2.5 million, according to INC42.

* The Competition Commission of India rejected Bharti Airtel Ltd.'s complaint of predatory pricing and anti-competitive behavior against Reliance Jio, The Economic Times (India) reports. In its 17-page order, the regulator noted that no prima facie case of contravention was found.

* Eros International Plc's over-the-top service Eros Now is partnering with Hyderabad-based IoT startup Smartron to provide its repository of movies, TV shows, music, originals and regional content to the startup's smartphone customers, according to Press Trust of India.

* Nepalese operator Ncell is planning to deploy technology neutrality on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands to double its mobile internet footprint via 3G, Telecompaper reports. With technology neutrality, Ncell plans to enable more than 17 million customers in Nepal to access fast mobile internet service.

FEATURED NEWS

MarketWeek: M&A reports, updates rattle media stocks: Several media and communications stocks swung into the red during the trading week ended June 9 following M&A chatters and other announcements.

Sinclair/Tribune and the politics of public interest: Groups opposing Sinclair's purchase of Tribune argue the deal would not serve the public interest, but legal and industry experts say changing views on public interest make this argument unlikely to succeed.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Advertising: ComScore scores major coup over Nielsen Media Research: It was reported that Sinclair Broadcast Group will abandon Nielsen Media Research for its local TV station ratings in favor of comScore. Will it do the same with Tennis Channel and WGN?

Economics of Networks: AMC Networks doubles down on share repurchase plan: After seeing a 20% slide in its shares since February, AMC Networks on June 7 doubled its share repurchase plan to $1 billion.

Economics of Internet: State of Australian online video: Subscription: Netflix, which dominates the Australian subscription online video landscape, still has room to grow in the market while Stan and others lag behind but persevere.

Joji Sakurai, Nicole Shiwon Kim, Frances Wang, Ed Eduard and Patrick Tibke contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. Hong Kong time. Some external links may require a subscription.