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Sony Wonder to Dissolve

13 Mar, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Sony Wonder, once the home of “Sesame Street” and “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” will soon be history. Sources say Sony BMG Music Entertainment is shuttering its children's audio and home entertainment arm to focus on its core music business.

A company spokesman would not confirm nor deny these reports. But, according to sources, Jim Wilson, the division's executive VP and general manager, is leaving the company, and the recent loss of Sesame Workshop and Classic Media to Genius Products came after Sony BMG officials informed their various partners of their plans to shutter the division.

On Sony Wonder's Web site, the division still bills itself as “a leading producer and distributor of children's entertainment … recognized for releasing some of the market's most popular content.” The site refers to “partnerships with Sesame Workshops, Random House and Classic Media.”

Sesame Workshops left Sony Wonder last month, cutting a new long-term deal with Genius Products that gives Genius North American DVD rights to its 100-plus titles, many of them consisting of “Sesame Street” episodes. Sony Wonder had distributed Sesame Workshop titles for more than a decade.

Classic Media exited the month before, bringing to Genius such high-profile titles as Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and the animated “VeggieTales” franchise.

Shout! Factory, another of Sony Wonder's distributed labels, reportedly is moving to Vivendi Visual Entertainment for distribution, bringing with it an assortment of eclectic music DVD and TV DVD product.

Sony Wonder reportedly is in the final stages of winding down its operations, with the first Sesame Workshop titles distributed by Genius slated to debut in April. The last slate of DVDs Sony Wonder brought to market shipped in November 2006 and included A Sesame Street Christmas Carol and a 20th anniversary edition of Transformers: The Movie.

Sony Wonder was formed in 1993 and before long was releasing more than 50 video titles and 20 audio titles annually. The supplier was a driving force in the nascent sellthrough market in the 1990s, with its early success fueled by a distribution deal with Nickelodeon prior to MTV's purchase by Viacom. Sony Wonder aggressively courted mass merchants with tie-ins, cross-promotions, and ample point-of-purchase displays and signs, and focused on product for preschoolers, which at the time was an underserved market.

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