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IDT and Starz Merge

29 Aug, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Less than four months after buying Anchor Bay Entertainment parent IDT Entertainment Group, Liberty Media Corp. Tuesday announced it is merging its IDT and Starz Entertainment Group subsidiaries into one entertainment group with a reach into all types of content and all kinds of distribution portals.

Production company IDT will now be known as Starz Media. The cable provider side of the business drops “Group” from its name and will be Starz Entertainment. Both will be under the Starz LLC corporate umbrella.

“The key is that we have all of the different pieces of the distribution chain in place now,” said Tom Southwick, SVP of corporate communications for Starz.

The new company structure has a DVD pipeline, a premium cable channel, a theatrical arm and a digital distribution sphere with Vongo, all of which are very important to have in place if you are going to produce or acquire content in today's market, he said.

Anchor Bay Entertainment will continue to handle all home video product releases and will keep its name. However, it will operate, along with sister Manga Entertainment, under the Starz Home Entertainment banner.

John W. Hyde, president and COO of Starz Media, is now president of Starz Home Entertainment. Anchor Bay EVP and GM Bill Clark will assume the same title at Starz. Kaoru Mfaume remains managing director of Manga.

“It has such strong brand awareness,” Southwick said of Anchor Bay. “That was one of the major attractive pieces of IDT, Bill Clark and his team at Anchor Bay.”

The merger came about after new Liberty Media executives decided to convert the stock they owned in IDT Entertainment's previous parent company, IDT Corp., a large telecom company, into “operating units” effectively selling its stock back to IDT Corp and taking the company's entertainment arm in its place.

“[Starz] speaks [IDT Entertainment's] language,” he said.” We are entirely complementary companies — there's nothing they do that Starz also does.”

The new Starz Media company will continue to produce content. Starz produced the “Masters of Horror” series, which aired on cable competitor Showtime Networks and was brought to DVD by Anchor Bay. Starz is now producing “Masters of Science Fiction,” which will air on ABC and also be distributed on DVD by Anchor Bay.

In the fall, the first serial children's show, “Eloise,” will air on Starz Kids. Later in the year, it will be released to DVD by Anchor Bay.

The company will be looking at ways to take its programming to Starz's video-on-demand service, Vongo, as well.

“Increasingly people are looking to the Internet for content,” Southwick said. “We think it's going to be a complement to the way they watch TV.”

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