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MGM Ready to Boost Profile, Self-Distribute in Canada

14 Nov, 2002 By: Joan Villa

MGM Home Entertainment will handle its own distribution and marketing in Canada, with an eye to expanding retail relationships that will boost the studio's visibility and sales in the region.

The expansion eliminates the distribution role previously handled by Warner Home Video and allows MGM to focus on its own 4,000-title library, noted David Bishop, president and COO of MGM Home Entertainment Group.

“Warner in Canada did a great job, and that's why we stayed with them for so long,” Bishop explained. “But with a company the size of our company, it really deserves some singular focus. In that way we can set our priorities and follow through on our priorities as opposed to having them merged into a third party's priorities.”

The self-distribution effort begins with titles streeting in April 2003 and will be headed by Martin Wragg, promoted to VP of sales for Canada from director of East Coast sales, who will report directly to EVP of worldwide sales Robert Wittenberg. A 14-member team will manage sales, retail marketing and customer service. Toronto-based Cinram's sales force will begin contacting trade outlets after Jan. 1 for the April street dates, the company said.

Since Canada is also expanding in its acceptance of DVD, “we think there is untapped potential for MGM in that area,” Bishop said. “Because of the breadth of our library, we have the ability to sit down with each retailer, discuss their goals, look at their unique demographics and craft promotions specifically geared to their customer base, which is the ongoing distinction we make in the marketplace. We believe that promotions should be retailer-by-retailer and not necessarily paint the entire marketplace with the same brush.”

The result will be cooperation between studio and retail for event releases that warrant special treatment, but also “an undercurrent of retail-specific campaigns,” he added.

In July, MGM added sales and marketing operations in France and Germany to its existing operations in the United Kingdom. The studio exercised an option to reclaim the sales and marketing functions as part of its ongoing international services agreement with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, which still handles the physical distribution of MGM product in all territories outside the United States and Canada.

MGM has just completed staff hiring in the two countries and is in the “very early stages” of developing retail relationships there, Bishop said.

“We've been greeted by the retail community with open arms, and we're quite encouraged by the early meetings we've had with key retailers in both those markets,” he said.

Those sales and marketing operations are supervised by Bruno Carlson, EVP and managing director, Europe, who is based in the studio's U.K. office.

“MGM has experienced dramatic growth in the U.S. and U.K., having in this past year alone more than doubled the industry average in DVD sales,” Bishop said in July. “We look forward to duplicating that success in France and Germany as we aggressively cultivate key retail relationships.”

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