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Apple China offers LTE smartwatch refund; Huawei to enter US smartphone market

TOP NEWS

* Apple Inc. has allowed Apple Watch 3 Series users in China to return the device, unrestricted by the company's 14-day return policy, after its cellular connectivity feature was abruptly cut off in the country, Technode reports. The Apple Watch Series 3 cellular support site has been updated to show that all Chinese carriers, China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp. Ltd. and China Unicom, will offer LTE support for the device in 2018.

* Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. will start selling its flagship Android smartphone through U.S. mobile network operators in 2018, a move seen as heating up competition with Apple in its home market, South China Morning Post reports.

* Foxtel owners News Corp. and Telstra Corp. Ltd. are in a last-minute standoff over carriage fees for News Corp Australia Pty. Ltd.'s Sky News, Mumbrella reports. Failure to come to an agreement could see the channel go dark for Telstra subscribers. The dispute also threatens to spill over to the Foxtel-Fox Sports Australia Pty. Ltd. merger and could jeopardize the deal, according to the report.

PAN-ASIAN NEWS

* Viacom International Media Networks picked up rights to mixed martial arts franchise Bellator MMA from Electus International in a multi-market, pan-Asian deal, World Screen reports. Subscribers in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Pacific Islands will have access to exclusive linear broadcast transmission of Bellator events through Paramount Channel.

JAPAN

* SoftBank Group Corp. has led a US$120 million funding round for New York-based insurance tech startup Lemonade Inc. together with Allianz SE, Sequoia Capital, and Alphabet Inc.'s Google Ventures to help the company fund global expansion, Bloomberg reports. Lemonade uses artificial intelligence and bots to bypass conventional insurance brokers and reduce paperwork. David Thevenon, a managing director at SoftBank, will join Lemonade's board, according to CTECH.

* NTT Communications Corp., the network management arm of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., has appointed Stephen Tsang as chief revenue officer of NTT Com Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong. Tsang will be in charge of the firm's strategic leadership as well as its development of sales and services.

* Access Co. Ltd., Tokyo-based software developer for connected and mobile devices, announced Dec. 19 the appointment of Kiyoyasu Ooishi as the new president, effective immediately. Ooishi replaced Takao Kaneko who stepped down for personal reasons.

* Japanese telco KDDI Corp.'s U.S. data center Telehouse America tapped U.S. network device maker Juniper Networks Inc.'s Virtual Chassis solution to build a multi-tenant infrastructure that bridges its data centers across multiple US locations.

* Google Inc.'s YouTube LLC struck new agreements with music labels Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and Universal Music Group, Variety reports. Sony Music Entertainment is a unit of Japanese conglomerate Sony Corp.

SOUTH KOREA

* Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. is set to launch its new mid-priced smartphones, the Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus, in the global market including South Korea in early January, The Korea Economic Daily reports. The new device will be the first model in the Galaxy A lineup to support the company's virtual reality headset Gear VR.

* Samsung Electronics is collaborating with South Korean social networking service provider Cyworld Co. Ltd. to improve the news service of its artificial intelligence assistant Bixby, Maeil Business Newspaper reports. Cyworld is currently building a new news platform in partnership with around 40 news outlets to connect with Bixby with the help of 5 billion South Korean won investment from the Samsung Group's venture capital Samsung Venture Investment.

* KT Corp.'s music content subsidiary Genie Music Corp. launched artificial intelligence-powered assistant service Genius in cooperation with U.S. audio recognition company SoundHound Inc., Money Today reports. The service now allows users to search music based on a short sample bit, and the company aims to upgrade it to identify music based on a humming sound.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* China's National Copyright Administration released a new list of 23 films, 4 TV shows, and 4 animation and comic works that will be better protected against copyright infringement, which include "The Foreigner," "Our Shining Days," and "Legends of Tomorrow Season 2," China Film Insider reports, citing Ent Group.

* A total of 1,933 films have been produced in mainland China in 2017, which increased by 25% from 2016, according to a report from Zhongguancun Online. Realistic films such as "Wolf Warriors 2," "Never Say Die," and "Seventy-seven Days" were the best performers. Moreover, online ratings and reviews on films significantly influenced box office results as more tickets are sold online.

* The Chinese gaming industry saw a 23% rise in sales to 203.6 billion Chinese yuan in 2017, with the number of players rising 3.1% to 583 million, according to the CGIGC 2017 Chinese Gaming Industry report. Mobile games took up 57% of total game sales, while the proportion of web games dropped to 7.6%. More than 9,800 games were authorized to be published in the year, with 96% being mobile games, and 2.3% being web games.

* STX Entertainment secured exclusive China distribution rights to the 75th Golden Globe Awards telecast in January, according to The Hollywood Reporter. STX Entertainment's digital division, STXdigital, will produce a Chinese language pre-show from the Globes' red carpet and will handle exclusive local rights to the Golden Globes 75th Anniversary Special.

* Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s gaming arm WeGame has acquired the distribution right of the Chinese version of first-person shooting game Fortnite, Donews reports, quoting insider sources. Players can log in to the Chinese beta version of Fortnite through their Wechat accounts, and the layout is reportedly very similar to WeGame's design.

* Tencent's "Honor of Kings," one of China's most popular multiplayer online battle arena-type games, is now available on mobile devices in North America as "Arena of Valor," Rolling Stone reports, citing a statement from Tencent.

* Musical.ly Inc., recently acquired by Chinese internet media company Bytedance, is establishing a US$50 million Musical.ly Creator Fund to support its users through a variety of programs including a "creator marketplace" and co-development deals with video creators and media partners on new formats, Variety reports.

* WeWork Cos. and its Chinese counterpart UrWork settled their trademark dispute in the U.S., as well as a similar case between the two companies in London, Technode reports. UrWork will only appear in China in the future and will be branded with its Chinese name "You Ke Gong Chang" outside of China.

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* 21st Century Fox Inc.'s STAR India Pvt. Ltd. plans to offer the Indian Premier League cricket tournament in 6 languages in 2018 across 10 channels from the existing 2 languages in a bid to scale up the sport's viewership to go beyond 700 million from nearly 550 million in 2017, Business Standard reports, citing Star India Managing Director Sanjay Gupta.

* Bharti Airtel Ltd. entered into a definitive agreement with Millicom International Cellular SA under which Airtel Rwanda will acquire the entire stake in Tigo Rwanda. The acquisition will consolidate the Rwandan telecom market and position Airtel as the No. 2 operator in Rwanda.

* The Indian government made 9,853 user information requests to Facebook Inc. in the first half of 2017, increasing from 6,324 requests in the first half of 2016, according to Facebook's Government Requests report released on Dec. 19. Facebook also blocked access to 1,228 pieces of content, a majority of which were reportedly violating local laws concerning "defamation of religion and hate speech."

* Uber Technologies Inc. rival Ola Cabs announced a partnership with Germany-based Delivery Hero AG that will see Foodpanda India transferred to Ola in exchange for Ola stock. Ola has also committed to invest US$200 million into Foodpanda India.

* Tata Teleservices Ltd., Telenor India, Reliance Jio, Videocon Industries Ltd.'s Videocon Telecommunications Ltd. and another Videocon group unit Quadrant have understated revenues by more than 148 billion Indian rupees, resulting to a short fall of close to 25.78 billion rupees to the exchequer, Press Trust of India reports, citing a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

* Amazon.com Inc.'s Amazon India Ltd. is set to launch a smartphone in January under the brand name Tenor, The Economic Times (India) reports. The e-commerce quietly launched two models, Tenor E and G months before local rival Flipkart India Pvt. Ltd. came out with an in-house smartphone under its private label Billion.

* Apple Inc. has appointed Michel Coulomb as chief of the company's Indian operations, effective immediately, The Economic Times (India) reports. Coulomb's new designation follows the reported exit of Sanjay Kaul.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Southeast Asian ride-hailing company GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd. is stepping up competition with Uber with the launch of its services in Cambodia. Grab also partnered with Cambodian mobile banking services provider Wing Money to provide all drivers in Cambodia with accounts in Wing Money.

* Indonesian telco XL Axiata has formed a partnership with Malaysia-based online on-demand video streaming service iflix Sdn. Bhd. to allow XL's customers unlimited iflix access without a subscription fee, news site Tribunnews reports. XL's customers can have unlimited access via both streaming and download.

* Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission said it has requested that the National Council for Peace and Order invoke Section 44 and implement measures that would alleviate financial burdens on digital TV operators, TNN (Thailand) reports. These measures include a 50% subsidy on infrastructure rentals and a moratorium of three years for their fee payments. Section 44 allows the Thai prime minister to issue regulations that may otherwise contradict existing laws.

* In other NBTC news, the telecom regulator will approve the requests from Advanced Wireless Network Co. Ltd. and True Move H Universal Communication Co. Ltd. to divide their last 900 MHz license fee payment into smaller installments, Post Today reports. It added, however, the exact number of installments would need to be discussed.

* Thai cellular service operator Total Access Communication, better known as Dtac, launched a yearly prepaid SIM card, aripfan.com reports. The service fees are reportedly about 50% cheaper than its monthly counterpart.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* The Australia-Singapore cable network will offer a safer trans-Pacific route, connecting Southeast Asia to North America via Australia, which is scheduled to open for business in July 2018, Vocus Group Ltd.'s Vocus International head Luke Mackinnon told iTWire.

* NBN Co. Ltd. extended its fixed wireless and Sky Muster managed services partnership with Ericsson AB, which covers more than 980,000 homes in regional and remote Australia, iTWire reports.

FEATURED NEWS

Q&A: Investec exec: TMT sector to brace for M&A windfall in 2018: S&P Global Market Intelligence spoke with Christian Hess, head of the financial sponsor transaction group at international specialist banking and asset management group Investec, to discuss the private equity outlook for the TMT sector in 2018.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Internet: State of New Zealand online video: Subscription: Thus far, there has not been significant cord cutting in the New Zealand market, mainly because multichannel has never penetrated more than 54% of TV households.

Consumer Insights: Original programming on the rise on Amazon Prime Video: Amazon Prime Video users are more likely to view original programming on the platform compared to 2016, according to results from online consumer surveys.

Nozomi Ibayashi, Myungran Ha, Emily Lai, Wil Hathaway and Ed Eduard 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.