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NBC spinning DVD deals

Peacock expanding sales into retail world

NBC has slated an ambitious 2003 DVD release schedule that includes collector’s titles of everything from “Saturday Night Live” and “Little House on the Prairie” to full-season packages of “Will & Grace” and “Homicide.”

As it attempts to expand its DVD sales beyond direct-response and into retail, the Peacock has lined up almost as many different distributors as it has product, signing deals with companies as big as MGM, Lions Gate and A&E Home Video and specialty distributors like Starlight Home Entertainment and Canadian-based Imavision Direct. It continues to talk with other companies, such as Artisan, about even more output deals.

“We’ll talk to all of our distributors and see which one is best for that particular project,” said Kim Niemi, senior VP of video, music and product development at NBC Enterprises, the merchandising and backend programming sales arm of NBC Studios.

A previous homevid deal with Lions Gate, which distributed some “Saturday Night Live” product, among others, expired last year.

“A lot of rights are just coming back to us, and it’s just timing,” Niemi said, explaining the flurry of DVD releases.

Under new terms, Lions Gate will continue to distribute a large portion of NBC Enterprises product, releasing into retail season one of “Will & Grace” on Aug. 12, the limited series “Kingpin” on July 22 (NBC offered the series on its shopping channel last month) and the first and second season of “Saved By the Bell” Sept. 2.

Lions Gate will also continue to bring to retail newly produced special editions of “Saturday Night Live,” including a five-disc 25th anniversary set in July. These will feature hours of new extra features, especially memorable music performances by the likes of Bruce Springsteen.

Other “SNL” titles coming in July will spotlight specific performers such as Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler and Molly Shannon, along with titles featuring Chris Farley, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey to be distributed through Time Life Video.

Even though many episodes have been distributed for years at bargain bin prices on VHS and DVD, NBC is expecting big results from a full-season collector’s compilation of the 1970s beloved series “Little House on the Prairie.” Niemi said NBC chose Imavision Direct to distribute the repackaged gift packs because Imavision Direct has expertise with this kind of family-oriented product and with discount merchandisers, where it is likely to sell the best.

In an unusual deal, NBC went to MGM Home Entertainment to handle the release this October of last year’s holiday TV movie “It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie” instead of to Columbia TriStar Home Video, which handles most Henson productions.

A&E Home Video will distribute past NBC dramas “Homicide: Life on the Street” (seasons one and two) on May 27 and “Profiler” (season one) in June. A&E will also release the full 1950s war docu series “Victory at Sea.”

NBC is also planning to release season one of its recently canceled series “Providence” in October through yet another distributor.

But NBC Enterprises isn’t all about primetime network scripted programming: In October specially produced episodes of its syndicated home improvement series “Rebecca’s Garden” will be released by Starlight Home Entertainment.

(Daniel Frankel is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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