New entertainment shingle launching pay channel

Quiksilver is riding a wave into Hollywood.

The company, which has built a popular brand around surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding, has formed Quiksilver Entertainment to produce TV shows, films, music and events, negotiate publishing and sponsorship deals and operate a new video-on-demand cable channel called Union.

Danny Kwock, Quiksilver’s executive veep of core marketing and emerging businesses, has been tapped prexy of the division, and Matt Jacobson has been named VP.

While Kwock, a former pro surfer, has been involved only in the clothing arena since 1976, Jacobson stems from Hollywood, having worked as an agent at Creative Artists Agency and served stints at Disney and Fox. He most recently was CEO of Broadband Interactive Group and its action sports brand Bluetorch, which airs a weekly show on cabler Fox Sports.

Timing of the division comes as Quiksilver’s core industry has hit critical mass: Imagine Entertainment and Universal are about to bow the surf girls pic “Blue Crush”; the X Games are hitting ratings highs on ESPN; and snowboarding grabbed the spotlight at the last Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The idea behind the division is to leverage Quiksilver’s strong brand appeal and relationships with athletes, including skateboarding icon Tony Hawk and surfer Kelly Slater, and to capitalize on the current board sports biz, valued last year at $9.9 billion, according to Board-Trac Research.

“Quiksilver Entertainment is designed to deliver revenues from the outset, moving us into the high-margin entertainment business with limited investment,” said Bob McKnight, the company’s chairman and CEO.

Quiksilver has already received commitments from cablers to develop several TV skeins, including a primetime series that profiles athletes. While its shows will feature its products, the company does not plan on creating specific Quiksilver-branded shows, in fear of turning off viewers with overbranding.

On the film front, the Huntington Beach-based company is already amassing screenplays and has optioned the coming of age surf girl novel “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” from author Joy Nicholson, which it is shopping around to producers and studios.

But up first in July is Union, a pay subscription-based cable channel that will feature sports and other action lifestyle programming made up of Quiksilver content and branded fare from clothing companies and sports film producers including Volcom, Hawk’s 900 Films, Opper Sports, Bluefield Entertainment and EX TV/The Extreme Group.

Quiksilver put the channel together with TVN Entertainment, which is packaging and initially distributing a 15-hour batch of programming to Comcast, Mediacom and Insight subs. The channel will be promoted by each involved brand through their retail outlets (Quiksilver operates 38 Boardrider’s Club stores) and traditional media. Final fees are still being worked out.

Outside of the traditional original entertainment sphere, the new division will also ink partnerships with consumer electronics makers, telcos and packaged goods companies to push the Quiksilver brands to consumers.

The company has already inked a promotional and content partnership with Sony’s online entertainment offering Screenblast to push its Roxy surf girl brand through a series of how-to-surf videos.

“It’s important that this venture is good for the whole industry,” Kwock said. “Just as Nike took a leadership role in expanding the sports market in the ’70s, we can take on that role for action sports.”

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