Sony Pictures Entertainment is set to announce China's first fully licensed Sino-foreign television production joint venture. The tie-up with a China Film Group subsidiary will be announced next week after foreign investment in the sector is formally sanctioned on Sunday. It is the first venture to receive approvals from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (Sarft) and the Ministry of Commerce. A similar television production joint venture announced in March by Viacom and the Shanghai Media Group, which will focus on children's programming, was conditional on amendment of the mainland's media laws and formal approvals from Sarft and the commerce ministry. News Corp and Australia's Seven Network are also exploring mainland partnership and investment opportunities. Under the new rules, foreign investors are allowed to take a maximum 49 per cent stake in production joint ventures. Foreign partners must inject cash while their mainland partners will contribute production assets. Although focused on the domestic market, the Sony Pictures-China Film partnership also hopes to take advantage of the growing popularity of mainland productions in foreign cinemas. 'The co-operation not only takes Sony Pictures into China but will also bring the co-production to overseas markets,' a source said. 'Upcoming productions will include television series and made-for-television films for both terrestrial and cable networks, and will leverage Sony's extensive global distribution network.' Sony Pictures subsidiary Columbia TriStar distributed the critically acclaimed box-office smash Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was shot on the mainland. Neither Sony Pictures nor China Film executives were available for comment yesterday. A series of foreign-invested movie production joint ventures - which are subject to separate regulation from television production ventures - are also in the pipeline, although Sarft has yet to formally open the industry to overseas investors or announce detailed rules. China Film has also partnered Warner Bros in a movie production joint venture with privately run Hengdian Group, which is based in Zhejiang province. China Film holds a 40 per cent stake in the venture. Warner and Hengdian hold 30 per cent each. The new company would produce two to three films and one television movie every year. Warner hopes to build 40 cinemas in the mainland by 2008 and has signed an agreement with Chinese Audio Video to open retail video outlets. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed Tom Group is in talks to buy a stake in Huayi Brothers Media Group, the nation's top private filmmaker. The mainland's advertising market last year was worth US$14.5 billion, of which 75 per cent went to television.