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New Company in the DVD Business

16 Jan, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

New company Liberation Entertainment is launching into the video market with an eye toward niche content.

The company is armed with the Liberty Media catalog and new content from Regent Entertainment and the Here! Network.

Liberation is led by Jay Boberg, chairman and CEO of the new company, who founded I.R.S. Records and is a former president of MCA Records.

Boberg, with the financial backing of media and communications private-equity firm Clarity Partners LP, has acquired Liberty International Entertainment and its library of more than 250 films, 2,400 hours of episodic television and music concert programs, and is re-launching the company as Liberation Entertainment.

Liberation also has inked a distribution deal with Genius Products, who recently teamed with The Weinstein Co.

Going with Genius and the new prestige the Weinstein deal carried for that company was right, Boberg said.

“Dealing with the majors, there was an issue of what kind of attention we would get,” he said. “With Genius, they will have the leverage but still have time to deal with us.”

Launching a new DVD-supply company in an already full-to-the-brim market is a challenge, but not an overly daunting one, Boberg said.

“It is harder to get product into the market,” he said.

The “Peter Gunn” TV series his company now has rights to, originally released on DVD through A&E Entertainment, is still a marketable niche product.

“It was a seminal TV show for the times,” he said.

Assets from the Liberty catalog include the PBS Sound Stage concert series featuring performers such as Lindsay Buckingham, Chris Isaak and Tom Petty; classic TV series such as “Daniel Boone,” starring Fess Parker; “Peter Gunn”; “The Invisible Man” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” as well as the series of Charles Dickens animated classics. Films include The Return of Superfly, starring Samuel L. Jackson; Steele's Law, starring Fred Williamson; and Beverly Hills Brats, starring Peter Billingsly and Martin Sheen.

“Most of the revenue from the old Liberty catalog was coming from broadcast with very little on DVD,” Boberg said. Liberation also holds — and will exploit — the international broadcast rights to its new slate of programming from Liberty.

The first Liberation Entertainment DVD release will be Michael Bolton in Concert, streeting in late January or early February, Boberg said.

Liberation also acquired the exclusive U.S. home video rights to content from Regent Releasing for first-run theatrical films, and certain TV programs from Here! Network.

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