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Sony makes a deal for gameshow libraries

Sony Pictures Entertainment has taken the lead in its race with the Family Channel to launch an interactive cable gameshow channel next year, striking deals with gameshow producers Mark Goodson Prods. and Barry & Enright Prods. for rights to their programming libraries.

Under the agreement announced yesterday at the California Cable TV Assn.’s Western Cable Show in Anaheim, Goodson is receiving an undisclosed equity stake and partnership interest in the Game Show Channel. Goodson topper Jonathan Goodson would not specify the company’s interest in the new venture. He described it as “not a majority, but significant.”

The Game Show Channel, expected to start operations in 1993, is being launched in association with United Video. SPE TV Group president Mel Harris said it is also talking to other “strategic, interested parties” about investment.

Key element in the Goodson agreement is a 10-year, exclusive licensing deal granting the new channel rights to more than 20,000 episodes of programming, including “What’s My Line,””The Price Is Right,””To Tell the Truth” and “Family Feud,” among others. The company described it as “the largest number of programming hours ever licensed to any single broadcast or cable outlet from a single production source in the history of the medium.”

The deal also calls for Goodson to produce new, original gameshows for the channel. It has begun developing some, but the company would not share specifics.

In a separate deal, Sony said it has an agreement to acquire Barry & Enight’s gameshow library. That will bring more than 4,000 episodes to SPE’s library. Included in the B&E library are “The Joker’s Wild” and “Tic Tac Dough.” Pact’s pricetag wasn’t disclosed.

The deals had been in the works for some time. More than two months ago, sources close to the negotiations said Sony had agreements in principle with the two producers (Daily Variety, Sept. 16).

But the negotiations dragged on, reportedly because of Goodson’s conviction that it would not strike an agreement without an equity stake. In addition, the situation was further complicated by the death of Barry & Enright principal Dan Enright.

The Game Show Channel now has a programming library of more than 35,000 episodes from which to start. Sources in the cable industry describe it as a significant advantage for Sony in getting its new channel on cable systems.

Harris said the Game Show Channel will be interactive, to some degree, from day one. But it has not committed to any specific technology. It may use 800- and 900-phone numbers to start, but the company wants to move past that quickly.

So far, Sony has not signed up any cable operators to carry its proposed service, since it has not started pitching it in earnest. Harris said it will begin that process after the first of the year.

Since Sony and the Family Channel announced plans to launch gameshow channels at the National Cable Television Assn. convention in Dallas in May, many observers have said there is only room in the market for one such channel (Daily Variety, May 1 2).

The Family Channel is continuing its efforts to sell the industry on its Game Channel at the Western Cable Show. In an inducement to operators, it’s offering what it terms a “no-cost” licensee guarantee for charter affiliates. MSOs that sign an affiliate agreement before the launch, expected to be at the end of the first quarter 1993, will be eligible to receive reduced fees and increased phone revenues.

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