Lion ends thorny TV pact

Degeto distrib makes MGM deal nonexclusive

NEW ORLEANS — MGM is about to get a new lease on life in Europe.

That’s because the studio has just managed to disentangle itself from a long-term lock-up of its product in Germany — the most lucrative territory in Europe and the one with the greatest potential for future exploitation of library material.

After a year of discussions, the Hollywood studio has negotiated an agreement with German pubcaster ARD and its distrib arm Degeto that allows MGM to license 426 of its films to pay channels in Germany.

Essentially, the studio has managed to convert an earlier exclusive agreement with Degeto to nonexclusive, effective retroactively to Jan. 1.

Under a 1984 agreement, the bulk of the films did not revert to MGM until after 2005, and predominantly not until 2007 and 2008.

Hogtied in past

That long-term deal had largely prevented MGM from taking advantage of the explosion of channels — and prices for program rights — in Europe, particularly Germany, over the past 15 years.

Teutonic distrib Degeto had held rights to the huge MGM catalog — think “Rocky,” “The Pink Panther,” Woody Allen and James Bond — through a hastily done deal 16 years ago during a previous regime at the Hollywood major.

The deal would have continued for several more years — and deprived MGM of opportunities to exploit the German market — had MGM toppers not managed to negotiate to get those rights back.

Rights to MGM titles in other Euro territories have also recently reverted to the studio. Once MGM repossesses the bulk of its rights, it will enjoy greater opportunities for lucrative deals abroad for its movies.

MGM Worldwide Distribution prexy Jim Griffiths said, “Unlocking these assets is another very significant, positive event for the new MGM. Gaining access to our product affords us many new opportunities with other potential licensees in Germany.”

In exchange for granting MGM the broadcast rights to its films, ARD/Degeto received extensions of 344 titles for one or two years, depending on reversion dates of specific titles, with increased available runs.

(Liza Foreman in Berlin contributed to this report.)

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