RHI talking to New Line about handling catalog

RHI Entertainment is negotiating with New Line Television for New Line to handle sales and management of RHI catalog product, it was confirmed yesterday. The deal is pending final approval of both companies boards.

Under the deal, Jody Shapiro, president of RHI Television Sales and executive VP of RHI’s domestic sales operation, will depart the company. Also leaving as a result of the change is senior VP Tim Noonan. RHI’s sales unit was a two-man operation that worked with a number of independent contractors.

However, as the deal is structured, RHI TV Sales will not cease to exist. The company will stay in business, albeit essentially inactive, leaving the potential for a restart should more RHI product become available down the road.

Shapiro, a 15-year veteran of the business, said he is pretty much responsible for the change. With a majority of the RHI library licensed either to cable or domestic television, and the parent company wanting to focus on its core business of producing movies and miniseries for network television, there was little for the sales unit to work with.

Meanwhile, the upstart sales wing at New Line had most of the new product, which at one point would have gone through RHI.

“New Line really had all of the product and we were kind of stepping on each other,” Shapiro said yesterday. “I was the extra layer.”

New Line Television was created earlier this year and is under the direction of former MTV and Playboy executive Rob Friedman. New Line Television parent New Line owns about one-third of RHI Entertainment.

“Since New Line Television came into existence earlier this year, it’s become clear we now have an opportunity to streamline and enhance our sales efforts,” said Robert Halmi Jr., chairman of RHI in a statement.

For the near future, Shapiro will be housed at RHI’s New York offices “looking to see what’s next.” RHI TV sales marked his third start-up situation having worked at TelePictures and Hal Roach before. RHI currently has a package of 61 New Line Cinema titles cleared in 85% of the country as well as an upcoming tribute to Laurel & Hardy that has cleared 95%.

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