Franchise division explores platforms

2 prod'n units merged to create new franchises

HOLLYWOOD — When a new owner moves in — to a house, a storefront or even a multinational entertainment conglom — they usually want to repaint and reorganize the place. Such has definitely been the case since the merger formation of Vivendi Universal. Among the actions taken by Universal Pictures, execs earlier this year created a new entity, Universal Pictures Franchise Development, under the leadership of Louis Feola.

With the startup of UPFD, U brought two production units that create original programming mainly for the straight-to-vid market and children’s animation fare under the same umbrella as the conglom’s consumer products arm.

“If you bring the people responsible for licensing consumer products and those for producing programming into the same division and under the same leadership, hopefully they can figure out strategic ways to create new franchises because they know those markets and know their consumers,” says Rick Finkelstein, prexy and chief operating officer of U Pics.

As much as it was a proactive move, Finkelstein says part of UPFD’s raison d’etre was a recognition that the company had not fully capitalized in the past on franchises such as “The Land Before Time.”

The newly minted division is part of a series of realignments designed to make U faster on its feet when it comes to responding to both the shifting fortunes of the increasingly global entertainment biz, and the challenges and opportunities of various output platforms — DVD, video-on-demand, Web-based streaming media, et al.

“We weren’t as efficient as we could have been,” Finkelstein says. “Because of all the new methods of distribution, the coordination of release windows, marketing and pricing needs to be in one place.”

Unified distribution

To that end, almost simultaneously with the formation of UPFD, execs brought TV distribution operations led by co-prexies Philip Schuman and Belinda Menendez, into the U Pics fold. Previously, TV distribbing had reported directly to U Studios head Ron Meyer.

Perhaps as a sign that the leaner-not-meaner U operations are clicking over more elegantly than their industry counterparts, the company recently signed a trendsetting cable VOD deal with InDemand, the dominant pay-per-view distrib in the U.S. At present, there are only 500,000 VOD subscribers nationwide. U’s July deal will begin to funnel the likes of “The Mummy Returns” and “The Family Man” into the VOD pipeline.

“We’re ahead of the curve,” says Finkelstein. “No one else has taken the plunge. Cable operators are ready to make the investment but they need product.”

More News

  • A.P. BIO -- Pilot -- Pictured:

    "A.P. Bio" Revived for Forthcoming NBCUniversal Streaming Service

    “A.P Bio” has made the grade after all, with NBCUniversal reviving the comedy for its unnamed, yet-unlaunched streaming service. The NBC series, which ran for two seasons before getting canceled, performed well online, according to the network, with ratings showing a long tail on streaming platforms as new viewers came to the show late. Nearly [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    'Morning Joe' Airs Archival Footage Linking Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump

    President Donald Trump told reporters recently that he hasn’t spoken to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein in more than a decade and that he was “never a fan” of the one-time banking wunderkind and accused sex-trafficker. But footage aired Wednesday morning on “Morning Joe” appears to suggest some of what Trump said wasn’t accurate. The footage [...]

  • Veronica Mars -- "Spring Break Forever"

    'Veronica Mars' Team Talks Leaning Into Noir Mystery for Hulu Series

    After three seasons on broadcast television in the mid-aughts, followed by a fan-funded feature film, “Veronica Mars” is heading to Hulu with an eight-episode standalone season and, most importantly, a new mystery. “I don’t want it to be a nostalgia show,” creator Rob Thomas tells Variety. “Kristen [Bell] says she would do it until it’s [...]

  • Alicia Keyes Kyle Jarrow

    Alicia Keys, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul to Exec Produce Showtime Musical Drama

    There’s music in the air for Showtime. The premium cable network has made a series commitment to a yet-to-be-titled musical drama series executive produced by Alicia Keys, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The series, which will be produced by Fox 21 Television Studios, “traverses generations to tell an emotionally complex family story that interweaves modern-day [...]

  • CAA Signs Jay Shetty

    CAA Signs Jay Shetty

    CAA has signed award-winning host, storyteller, and viral content creator Jay Shetty for representation. Shetty’s videos have been viewed more than 4.5 billion times and he’s amassed more than 30 million followers across social media, becoming Facebook’s No. 1 creator on the platform with 24 million followers. After graduating university in the U.K., Shetty moved [...]

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • ‘Eisenhorn’ Series Based on ‘Warhammer 40,000’

    ‘Eisenhorn’ Series Based on ‘Warhammer 40,000’ in the Works From Frank Spotnitz

    “Eisenhorn,” a live-action series based on the “Warhammer 40,000” game and books is in the works. “The X-Files” exec producer Frank Spotnitz will be showrunner. His shingle, Big Light, has teamed with Games Workshop, which owns “Warhammer 40,000” to develop the property. Billed as a genre-bending sci-fi and fantasy series, “Eisenhorn” is set in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content