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Studios to Bow Joint VOD Venture

21 Apr, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Seeking to mine greater incremental revenue from new releases and catalog, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures and MGM April 21 said they plan to bow joint video-on-demand offerings across multiple distribution channels, including online and high-definition, by Fall 2009.

The yet unnamed venture will be based out of the New York headquarters of Paramount owner Viacom Inc., with backend support and affiliate services provided by MTV Networks.

The new venture would make available movies from Paramount and Paramount Vantage after Jan. 1, 2008, with theatrical and television content from MGM, United Artists and Lionsgate following Jan. 1, 2009.

Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom, called the venture a “game changer for the industry.”

Featured movies would include pending theatrical releases Iron Man, Star Trek, Pink Panther 2, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Shutter Island, G.I. Joe, Love Guru, Valkyrie and The Maratese Circle with Denzel Washington.

The deal also includes original joint TV series productions.

It wasn't immediately clear whether VOD access to the titles would be prior to, same-day or following the DVD releases.

Jeff Pryor, MGM EVP of corporate communications, didn't comment on DVD but said the venture will release additional announcements in the coming days.

“It takes a while to put something like this together,” Pryor said.

Catalog movies made available will include Braveheart, Forrest Gump, Reservoir Dogs, Crash, Monster's Ball and movies from the “Godfather,” “James Bond,” “Rocky,” “Saw” and “Star Trek” franchises, and the films of Tyler Perry, among others.

“This is a true next-generation premium content offering for the consumer,” said Jon Feltheimer, co-chairman and CEO of Lionsgate.

The venture is seen as an attempt by the studios to forge more lucrative post-theatrical distribution than they reportedly get from Showtime Networks.

Showtime CEO Matt Blank has said he would prefer catalog movies and original TV content to underperforming feature films.

The cable network has had good success with Lionsgate-produced “Weeds.”

“We'll be controlling our own destiny,” said a studio source familiar with the new venture. “We've had a very successful relationship with Showtime and we'll always keep the door open to them.”

The studios' distribution deal with Showtime expires Jan. 1, 2009.

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