Sloan going global

Eastern Europe, Asia set for MGM Channel

CANNES — How much more can the Lion roar?

A lot, if MGM chairman-CEO Harry Sloan’s Wednesday appearance at the Mip TV mart is anything to go by.

After recently trumpeting the newly re-energized major’s theatrical distribution plans, Sloan unveiled plans to conquer the globe with the MGM Channel, rolling out in nine countries in Eastern Europe and Asia over the coming months.

Sloan, who built the SBS Broadcasting group before moving to Hollywood, expressed his belief in the superior value-creation capabilities of TV over moviemaking.

The MGM library, which sold for $5 billion, was “not going to grow in value to $10 billion in five years by us releasing 20 films a year,” he said. “The added value will be the international channels.”

Sloan was joined by top execs including chief operating officer Rick Sands; exec VP of MGM Networks Bruce Tuchman; and recently appointed new-media topper Doug Lee.

Sloan said five new MGM channels, joint ventures with John Malone’s Liberty Global subsid Chellomedia, will roll out in Eastern Europe, starting in the fourth quarter with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, followed next spring by Romania and Slovenia.

The channel will launch in India on the Zee Dish TV platform later this month, while its Platinum package has just launched on Sky Cable in the Philippines. Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City Television and Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Municipal Cable & Optical TV also recently began carrying the channel, which is already in 110 countries.

“The centerpiece of our strategy is going to be our international channels,” Sloan said.

Since the Sony takeover, MGM has to pay itself for the right to air films from its own catalog on its channels. That detail aside, “MGM has total free will,” Sloan asserted.

Moviewise, the topper talked up MGM’s bid to become active in theatrical distribution via the acquisition or co-production of films destined for wide release.

“There is a big void, a very scary hole — quality, full-service major distribution. We’ll be filling it,” Sloan said.

MGM will theatrically distribute 14 films this year and 20-22 next year. Slate titles include “Lucky Number Slevin,” “Harsh Times,” “Fragile” and “Breaking and Entering.”

Sloan trotted out vertiginous numbers concerning global investment in new-media platforms — another of MGM’s new interests, hence Lee’s appointment.

“Between $200 billion and $250 billion is being committed to new technology. Digital terrestrial television is a juggernaut in Europe,” he said.

The MGM roadshow is due to hit Prague today — “Casino Royale,” the latest “James Bond” pic, is shooting there.

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