Newly independent DIC Entertainment has taken a major step towards reasserting itself in the home video biz. The L.A.-based prodco recently launched a home entertainment division to exploit its hefty catalog of family-targeted animated and live-action fare, and to acquire new catalogs that it will release on VHS, DVD and other formats. For the company, which bought itself out from under the somewhat stifling hands of parentco Disney last November, establishing the division will enable it to revive many of the properties in its catalog of some 2,500 half hours that languished while under Disney’s control. ‘When you’re a home-grown producer, like Disney, and you take on a third-party’s product, it often becomes like the ugly stepsister, and it’s never given the full attention it deserves. That’s what happened to us while we were with Disney,’ says Don Gold, the newly ensconced executive VP worldwide of DIC Home Entertainment.
Currently, Gold is sizing up studios to help with distributing DIC’s product, and will announce the company’s partners within the next two months. ‘Right now, I’m trying to understand what we have in the catalog, and figure out what product Disney has released domestically and internationally,’ he says.
For 2001, Gold has greenlit the release of approximately 20 titles, including eps of DIC-produced shows such as Inspector Gadget, Madeline, Sabrina the Animated Series and Sailor Moon. That number could go up, though, says Gold, depending on what theatrical films come out during the year. Part of DIC Home Entertainment’s strategy is to dovetail on new theatrical pics by releasing similarly themed videos. For example, in May, DIC will put out a Mummie’s Alive! feature (pulled from the DIC-produced animated series of the same name that aired sporadically on Disney Channel in the late `90s) around the same time that Universal’s The Mummy Returns unravels at theaters. ‘May will be mummy month,’ says Gold.
Additionally, in spring, the company will bow with episodic videos of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega’s video game character that’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. In honor of the occasion, DIC will tie in promotionally with Sega through in-pack and on-pack offers on its Sonic videos and DVDs.
In Q4, DIC will follow up with eps of its new animated TV show Evolution, which is based on DreamWork’s sci-fi film of the same name that stars David Duchovny and rolls into theaters this spring. Titles skedded for release in early ’02 include eps of Poor Richard’s Almanac, a half-hour educational toon that DIC produced for a fall 2001 debut on PBS, and Super Duper Sumos, a boys action show about 1,000-pound teenage sumo wrestlers that also starts in the fall on an as yet unnamed net. Hoping to break into the increasingly important Christian family video market, DIC is producing an animated version of Ben Hur, which it will release for Easter 2002.
Beyond exploiting its own product, DIC aims to be aggressive on the acquisitions front too. San Francisco-based venture capital firm Bain Capital, which backed DIC founder Andy Heyward’s bid to buy back the company from Disney, is providing ample funding for Gold et al. to purchase other catalogs and possibly other companies. ‘If there’s content out there that we think is marketable, whether it’s animated or live action, we’ll pursue it,’ says Gold.
The company will also try to establish a strong presence at retail, says Gold, who will be working closely with DIC’s L&M department to coordinate exclusive retail promotions from on-pack premiums, to exclusive licensed products, to free advertising for each of its top eight accounts.