Entertainment Rights is moving into the video business. The U.K.-based family entertainment producer, which snared the highly sought after international TV and video rights to Mattel’s Barbie in the Nutcracker DTV in February, recently launched its own home video label called Right Entertainment. Under Right, ER will release titles from among its 800-hour catalog of children’s programming, as well as new properties for which it acquires home entertainment rights.
‘We’re in the intellectual property business, and video is a very big cash contributor,’ says ER’s CEO Mike Heap, who pegs annual sales for the U.K. family video market at US$350 million. Originally, Heap had planned to launch Right next year, but he says Barbie provided the company with a blockbuster title that would allow it to make a splash in the market right away.
The company signed a distribution agreement with Universal Pictures Video UK whereby it will pay ER a US$500,000 advance to distribute Barbie and its other titles in Britain. ER will retain control of all regional marketing and some merchandising rights to these titles.
Internationally, ER also closed on a US$1.75-million agreement with Universal Pictures Visual Programming, which will handle distribution of Barbie in all territories outside the U.K., the U.S. and Canada. ER is still hoping to find a company to distribute its other vids internationally and hasn’t ruled out UPVP as a possible partner.
Because Right is launching late in the year, its release schedule will be modest for 2001, with plans to release only two videos-Barbie and a title based on Cubeez, a preschool series that airs on GMTV in the U.K. Both vids are due out in October. Next Easter, Right will return with the DVD version of Barbie, and the unit has tentative plans to release videos based on Casper and Clifford the Big Red Dog in Q3 and Q4 respectively. U.K.-based Link Licensing, which ER bought in March, is helming the U.K. licensing programs for both Barbie and Clifford.
Though Heap hasn’t ruled out securing video rights to new kids properties, he says ER’s preferred strategy is to acquire properties outright. ‘In today’s competitive marketplace, it doesn’t make sense to split up rights. You want to be sure that your television plans dovetail with your licensing and merchandising and your video product, so that you’re always presenting a consistent program for the whole brand.’