Seagram pledges focus on Web ventures

MONTREAL — Edgar Bronfman Jr., president and CEO of Seagram Co., told those gathered Wednesday at Seagram’s annual meeting that e-commerce is a major focus at his company and is a key growth area for Seagram’s music and film sectors.

He noted that Seagram’s top 100 execs had convened last week to discuss the Internet revolution.

Bronfman also said the fortunes of Universal Pictures will turn around soon, although he admitted the film business will continue to lose money for several quarters.

The music business is the first area where Bronfman sees a major role for the Internet.

“Recorded music has become the prime example of pure e-commerce,” Bronfman said. “You can now sample, select, order and take delivery of music through the Internet. But the ‘Net is transforming every other business. Movies will soon be downloaded in the same fashion as music.”

Seagram spent approximately $30 million last year on high-tech investments and the Montreal-based entertainment and liquor giant will invest another $100 million on technology ventures this coming year.

Last February, Seagram-owned Universal Music Group and several other record companies unveiled a pilot program to test a system for distributing music on the Web and, in April, Seagram formed GetMusic with BMG Entertainment to develop secure methods to sell music on the Internet. In addition, Universal Music has inked an agreement with AT&T, BMG and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. to develop technology for Web music distribution.

“Digital distribution will exponentially increase the number of places where consumers can access music,” Bronfman said. “It will expand the number of consumers to whom we will sell music, and it will increase the range of music choices.”

In its first quarter results announced late last month, Seagram reported further losses at Universal Pictures, but Bronfman insisted Wednesday that revenues were set to pick up.”We’re very encouraged with what has happened so far this year with our box office, and we look forward to some very successful releases for the rest of the year. So we see real progress,” Bronfman said.

He also said that the music division will achieve savings of more than $300 million annually as a result of the merger of Universal and Polygram, beginning in fiscal 2001.

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