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Paramount Lands Distribution Deal With PBS

15 Jan, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

Paramount Home Entertainment has scored a five-year North American distribution deal with PBS Home Video, ending PBS' 10-year distribution arrangement with Warner Home Video in a deal designed to maximize the marketing muscle of Paramount and PBS.

“When you think about well known and trusted brands in the U.S., PBS is one of the best. It is the perfect fit with the Paramount library,” said Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment.

The deal, which starts April 5, extends for five years with an option to renew. Warner inherited its former relationship with PBS in 1996 when it merged with the public television network's then-distributor, Turner Home Entertainment. Turner had been PBS' distributor since 1994.

“We took a look at Paramount's strengths, things like their marketing savvy,” said Tracey Beeker, VP of marketing and consumer products for PBS. “This new partnership is really going to allow us to extend our relationship with the mass market accounts and the specialty accounts. Our portfolios, especially on the children's side, are really complementary. We really see this as a mechanism to generate greater revenues for us to put back into programming and educational activities that we support.”

Both Paramount and PBS are strong in children's and TV-to-DVD product, which is likely to open up opportunities to partner and cross-promote. The deal also bolsters Paramount's strength in the documentary arena, a segment where PBS is a powerhouse with series “American Experience,” “Nova” and “Frontline” as well as its library of programs and miniseries including Ken Burns' "The Civil War," "Baseball" and "Jazz" and Ric Burns' "New York: The Center of the World."

“We will probably look at cross promotion, but we haven't got that far yet,” Lesinski said. “We are going to do everything we can to market the TV library together. The PBS library provides an opportunity to reach a different group of consumers. PBS is really strong in preschool and in the documentary side it will allow us to reach a different group of people.”For Paramount, the deal is just the tip of the iceberg in a broader effort to cobble together strong brands under the Paramount umbrella.

“This is just the beginning of an acquisition strategy that we are actively working on,” Lesinski said. “It sets the foundation for things we are doing in the future because PBS allows us to strengthen our brand.”

Warner will put out two more PBS titles – both documentaries – before the end of March. PBS will continue to manage its own direct marketing efforts.

“We are looking to use Paramount's marketing strength to help service the key accounts that we don't handle directly,” Beeker said.

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