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Universal Ups Three Home Video Executives

26 Jul, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

By THOMAS K. ARNOLDThree key Universal Studios Home Video executives have been promoted to EVP positions in marketing, operations and sales as the supplier gears up for another busy fourth quarter.

Ken Graffeo, formerly SVP of marketing, becomes EVP of marketing.

Larry Harilton has been upped to EVP of operations and logistics for Universal Studios Home Video and EVP of direct account management for Universal Music and Video Distribution. He was previously SVP and CFO.

And Dick Longwell is now EVP of sales and retail marketing for Universal Studios Home Video and EVP of sales and distribution for Universal Music and Video Distribution. He, too, was previously SVP.

“Thanks to Ken, Larry and Dick's experience, strategic vision and passion, Universal Studios Home Video has strengthened its position as a leader and trendsetter in our industry,” said Craig Kornblau, Universal Studios Home Video's president. “I am delighted to recognize the achievements these three have garnered for our division.”

That division has plenty of marketing activity planned for the coming months, including re-releasing Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas as a two-disc special-edition DVD. The holiday blockbuster originally was released on video in November 2001, a year after its theatrical debut, and thanks to a saturation media campaign Universal sold 5.5 million cassettes and 3 million DVDs in just six days.

Other high-profile titles coming to video in the fourth quarter from Universal include E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the Back to the Future Trilogy, Big Fat Liar, Land Before Time IX and The Scorpion King.

Graffeo said Universal wants to market these titles to consumers as “events,” to capitalize on the growing sellthrough nature of the home video business brought on by the advent of DVD.

“Our business has changed,” he said. “If you go back two or three years, we were so trade- and retail-driven, and now we're consumer-driven – and that's really because of sellthrough. The majority of our business is coming from the sellthrough side, so the consumer is who we are going after.”

Universal is adopting a unique strategy in regard to The Grinch, a title Graffeo concedes other studios might have simply repriced for the coming holiday season.

“We look at it as a franchise,” he said. “In the past, we have always been a distribution vehicle. But now, it's totally different — we are a content developer. When you look at the hours upon hours of programming on a DVD, the actual movie is only a small portion of that. So in the case of The Grinch, which we believe will be a holiday perennial, we wanted to go back and add more to it, so that for the people who are coming into the DVD market, it's a freshened-up experience.

“That's an opportunity we now have. If you think of a packaged goods company saying their product is ‘new and improved,' ‘new and improved' again, we don't have to rely just on the movie. We have different material to make it into a different entertainment experience.”

Graffeo joined Universal in 1999 after having served as SVP of marketing at PolyGram Video. He played a key role in PolyGram's ascension from special interest and sports into feature films, with such successful video releases as The Game. Before he joined PolyGram in 1997, Graffeo held various marketing positions outside the industry, including heading brand marketing for Coca-Cola and serving as VP of marketing services for a division of BBDO overseeing marketing programs for Pepsi Cola USA, Kraft/General Foods, Campbell's Soup Co. and other national brands.

Harilton in the early 1980s served as VP of national credit for what was then MCA Distribution Corp. He left the home entertainment business, serving as president for Pacifica Health Options Inc. and president and CEO of Aqua Purity Sentinel before rejoining Universal in 1996.

Longwell has been with Universal since 1998. He was previously SVP and GM, international, at MGM Home Entertainment; before that, he spent 13 years at Buena Vista Home Video in various executive sales positions.

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