Move allows maximizing revs across multiple platforms

Crown Media Holdings will shell out about $820 million to buy 700 titles from the Hallmark Entertainment miniseries and telepic library, which includes high-rated minis such as “Gulliver’s Travels,” “The Odyssey,” “Moby Dick,” “Merlin” and “Lonesome Dove.”

“By taking control of all rights to these movies and miniseries, we’ll be able to manage the various windows and sell the titles to third parties,” such as cable networks, digital pay-per-view syndicators and distributors of DVDs, said David Evans, president-CEO of Crown Media Holdings.

It’s an all-in-the-family-type deal because Hallmark Cards owns about 31 million shares of Crown Media, a number that will jump to 63 million when the movie deal closes in 10 weeks.

These shares give Hallmark approximately 90% of the voting power of Crown Media. Crown calls itself a strategic partner of Hallmark subsidiary Hallmark Entertainment, which produces up to 50 TV movies and miniseries a year.

Crown owns the Odyssey Network in the U.S., which draws a large chunk of its programming from Hallmark Entertainment; Odyssey will change its name to the Hallmark Channel on Aug. 6. Crown also owns the Hallmark Entertainment Network, an international channel that reaches 37.5 million subscribers in areas including the United Kingdom, Israel and Turkey. The 700 movies in the Crown deal previously were sold by Hallmark Entertainment Distribution.

Crown’s takeover of the distribution of the 700 titles will allow it to maximize the revenues across numerous platforms in a more organized and directed way. Under the terms of the deal, Crown Media will assume $220 million in Hallmark Entertainment debt and payables.

Crown also will give Hallmark about 33.2 million shares of its Class A common stock, worth about $600 million, bringing the total outlay to $820 million. Deal is expected to close by end of June.

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