Following a successful Polish launch in May 1998, Hallmark Entertainment Network is launching in Russia this month. Hallmark signed a five-year DTH carriage agreement with Russia’s NTV+ satellite service, which will carry the same slate of kids- and family-oriented programming that’s currently broadcast on the WIZJA platform in Poland, voiced-over in Russian. Cable deals in the region are expected to follow.
In related news, Hallmark opened a new base in Singapore last month, strengthening its investment in the Asia Pacific region.
* Nickelodeon began airing kids programming 24 hours a day on cable outlet TV Kabel and DTH service Indovision last month. These new Asian distribution deals follow on the heels of Nick’s launches into Japan and the Philippines in November 1998.
* DreamWorks has shut down its 50-person TV animation division in order to focus on direct-to-video and feature animation. According to a spokesperson, up to 35 personnel will be reabsorbed, many by the feature animation department, which is hard at work on DreamWorks’ first direct-to-video title Joseph, as well as a sequel to Antz.
* The American Booksellers Association is venturing into the jungle of book e-tailing. The New York-based trade orgranization that represents the interests of 4,000 American book retailers recently announced that it’s building an e-commerce site that will offer consumers a selection of 1.6 million titles at below-market prices. BookSense.com, part of the first leg of the ABA’s new branding strategy called Book Sense, allows ABA member retailers to participate in on-line book retailing by including the site’s search engine and database on their own Web sites. Fulfillment will be carried out by a centralized third party. BookSense.com is slated to officially open shop on July 31.
* Marvel Enterprises has joined film and TV sales company Kushner-Locke to bid on troubled cartoon licensing company Harvey Entertainment, which has been on the sales block for six months. Marvel, which emerged from bankruptcy itself last fall when it merged with Toy Biz, is said to be interested in Harvey’s classic comic-based properties, like Casper and Richie Rich. Other bidders interested are reported to include former Harvey CEO Jeff Montgomery and several unnamed parties. Shareholder are expected to hold out for an offer of US$10 per share, which would put Harvey’s value at about US$40 million.