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Homevid distrib Rentrak takes offers

PPT biz on the block; Warner likely suitor

Rentrak Corp., the middleman distrib that created a revenue-sharing model in the 1980s that has been adopted by nearly every major studio and retailer in homevideo, has hired a consultant to find a buyer for “part or all” of its core pay-per-transaction biz.

Company could be purchased by a studio, and Warner Home Video is believed to be a likely suitor.

Warner, which is to begin direct distribution to retail accounts Sept. 1, has backed rev-sharing as its preferred model. It has delayed an anticipated announcement of how data collecting and auditing of direct revenue-sharing accounts will be handled, presumably while in negotiations for such deals with Rentrak and SuperComm.

Warner could not be reached for comment.

In a preliminary proxy statement filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission last week, the Portland, Ore.-based company said it intends to sell its PPT distrib and information-processing business “to one or more major motion picture studios.”

To this end, Rentrak signed Stephen Roberts, prexy of entertainment consulting firm S. Roberts Co., to assist with a possible sale. Roberts, a member of Rentrak’s board, signed a contract that began in April and expires Dec. 31. If a deal is consummated, he will be paid 2% of the sale price or a minimum of $200,000, according to the filing.

Rentrak CEO Ron Berger could not be reached for comment and Rick Nida, Rentrak’s VP of investor relations, would not expand on the type of deal that is under way or which studio or studios are interested in Rentrak.

Berger acknowledged during a May shareholder conference call that the company “routinely entertains indications of interest from various companies or individuals about one or every part of our business.” He said, however, “We have not had an offer that we would consider anything other than an expression of interest.”

He added that Rentrak planned to move forward with a three-year plan to grow Web fulfillment subsid 3PF.com and expand its data-processing services for studio revenue-sharing programs.

Rentrak also said it has postponed its annual shareholder meeting from Aug. 21 to Sept. 19.

Company is expecting final SEC approval this week of proxy statements for its annual shareholders meeting and board election procedure. In the past month, several preliminary proxies have been filed both by Rentrak and a dissident shareholder group that is seeking control of the board.

In their voting proxies, shareholders will be asked whether to change the company’s bylaws to reduce the number of directors from nine to five and to approve a slate of candidates proposed either by distributor or by the competing group, the Committee for the Achievement of Rentrak Excellence.

When SEC approval is granted, a period of about 45 days is necessary to notify shareholders, mail proxy cards and return ballots, a process that required delaying the meeting.

(Joan Villa is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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