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Viv gets back to nature

Picks up exclusive rights to National Geographic content

Vivendi Entertainment has snapped up exclusive homevideo and digital rights to National Geographic programming in the latest in a string of acquisitions for the indie DVD supplier.

Under the new multiyear pact, Vivendi gains distribution control of more than 200 Nat Geo catalog titles as well as up to 40-45 new releases annually. First slated releases roll out in February, including “Climbing Redwood Giants,” “Bizarre Dinosaurs,” “Secrets of Shangri-La: Quest for Sacred Caves” and “Drain the Ocean.”

Previously distributed through major studio Warner Home Video, Nat Geo represents a big get for the Vivendi, which is increasing its profile. Nat Geo is considered one of the biggest providers of nature documentaries. Over the last five years, its titles have collectively sold more than 8 million units.

Earlier this year, Vivendi acquired distrib rights to a wealth of premiere brands at Genius Products, including the Weinstein Co. catalog, World Wrestling Entertainment and Classic Media’s “Veggie Tales.” Prior to snagging the core distribution biz of Genius, Vivendi was best known for releasing niche artpics and urban titles. The company operates as a unit of Universal Music Group Distribution.

Vivendi credits this growing strength, while still retaining its indie sensibilities, for attracting National Geographic away from Warner. Nat Geo will get Vivendi’s undivided attention, promise execs, and the nature brand won’t have to rub elbows with theatrical blockbusters.

Vivendi is already prepping Nat Geo’s tentpole fourth quarter release, “The Great Migration.” Spanning four hours, “The Great Migration” will first air across Nat Geo networks in the fall of 2010 before launching on homevideo later that year.

Besides offering promotional heft, Vivendi also believes it will accelerate Nat Geo’s release schedule from past years. The companies have committed to between 30 and 35 new titles annually, but Vivendi expects that number will be closer to 45.

Ramping up Nat Geo Blu-ray releases will be another Vivendi distribution goal.

Vivendi will utilize Nat Geo’s wide broadcasting/publishing reach to market titles. Currently, Nat Geo brands reach more than 370 million people worldwide, according to the company.

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