U.K.’s 4 adds sales subsids

Britain’s Channel 4 has set up a new subsidiary, Channel 4 Intl., to sell its feature films and TV programs and to explore other commercial opportunities for the web.

Previously, these activities were handled by the in-house divisions Film Four Intl. and Channel 4 Intl., which gives its name to the new company.

It will be headed by C4 director of acquisitions Colin Leventhal, with the channel’s veteran film salesman Bill Stephens becoming director of sales.

C4 chief Michael Grade, who will be chairman of the venture, said, “The new company will provide a clearer focus for the channel’s existing and expanding commercial activities.”

He added that the web aims to become “a leading film and television sales distributor throughout the world.”

The C4 program catalog now includes more than 1,250 hours, and annual sales have doubled in the past five years to about T10 million ($ 14.4 million), with net profits of T2 million ($ 2.9 million).

Channel 4 produces no programs itself, but commissions from independent producers. It retains distribution rights in about one-third of these projects.

The company was also at the forefront of the mini-revival in British filmmaking during the mid-1980s, financing movies such as “My Beautiful Laundrette.” It remains one of the few regular investors in British feature films.

“We hope that by giving Film Four Intl. a clearer commercial focus, we will put more weight behind it,” said Leventhal.

Co-production will continue to be handled in-house by acquisition exec Andrew Brann. Current projects include “Plague,” a four-part documentary series on AIDS , being produced with the Discovery Channel; and a five-part series on the building of Boeing’s new 777 airplane, with KCTS, Seattle.

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