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Buena Vista homevid ups Warrener to Euro prexy

With “The Lion King” poised to become Europe’s all-time top-selling video, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has reinforced its presence in the region by promoting Stuart Warrener to the new post of president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The move comes as “The Lion King” heads toward sales of 17 million units across the continent, and as BVHE gears up for the launch of its first two CD-ROM titles in Europe this November.

In the past three years, the company’s European revenues have more than doubled, with BVHE now claiming more than 35% of the European sell-through market. Warrener has worked his way up the Disney video ladder since joining the company eight years ago, and has been senior VP since 1992.

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He has played a central role in setting up BVHE’s own distribution subsidiaries in eight countries, most recently in Switzerland. As president, he will add to this number, as well as introducing Disney product to new territories by licensing deals.

The next targets for licensing include the Czech and Slovak republics, and several countries in the Middle East, notably Lebanon.

According to industry estimates, Disney has shipped 17 million units of “The Lion King” across Europe, and expects to sell out. That compares to 14.5 million units for “Snow White” and 14 million for “The Jungle Book”.

Disney’s own figures show that 3 million units of “The Lion King” were shipped in the U.K., with 2 million already sold to consumers after two weeks of release. In Scandinavia, shipments of 1.2 million units have resulted in sales of 750,000.

Spain shipped 1.6 million and has sold 1.2 million to date. Benelux buyers have snapped up 500,000 units out of 1.1 million shipped. No sales figures are yet available for Italy, Germany or France, but Disney shipped 1.9 million, 2.1 million and 3 million units respectively in those territories.

For all its dominance of the sell-through market, Disney is now exploring ways to re-ignite the flagging rental sector by introducing rental to supermarkets. Talks are under way with some major European grocery chains.

But BVHE is about more than just video. The company has created six different local-language versions of two CD-ROM titles – “The Lion King Animated Storybook” and “Aladdin Activity Center” – which will be released in Europe next month. Up to a dozen new CD-ROM releases are due next year.

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