Lieberfarb’s legacy: solid vid amid skid

His division cited as reason for AOL-TW revenue growth

Twenty years into his tenure at the helm of Warner Home Video, it is apparent that president Warren Lieberfarb’s legacy will be as the father (or godfather) of DVD.

But this week he appears to be the man who is at least temporarily propping up AOL Time Warner.

Warner’s video division was cited in Wednesday’s earnings report as being the primary reason for revenue growth in the filmed entertainment unit on the strength of a studio record of more than $1.1 billion in net revenue worldwide in the second quarter alone.

Worldwide, revenue from the DVD format championed by Lieberfarb doubled, while VHS revenue rose 36% compared with the same period last year.

The filmed entertainment unit was credited by CEO Richard Parsons in a conference call with analysts as being the largest contributor to overall revenue growth at the company, both in percentage terms and absolute dollars.

WHV boosts market share lead

Warner has increased its 2001 overall homevideo market share lead of 20% to a commanding 21% so far this year as net revenues have jumped to $1.65 billion, according to Lieberfarb. The next closest competitor — Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment — is well back in second place at 16.9%, according to Variety sister publication Video Business (Variety July 15).

To reach the $1 billion plateau, studio used a mix of new blockbusters like “Ocean’s 11” and the year’s biggest release so far in “Harry Potter” (43 million units shipped worldwide), packages of TV series like “Friends,” “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” and video premiere releases of “Scooby-Doo” and library titles.

DVD now represents 58% of the unit’s total revenue worldwide, Lieberfarb said.

That annual revenue now stands at $3.7 billion, a notable increase from the $73 million the unit was generating when Lieberfarb arrived in 1982.

Lieberfarb, who brought the video division and sales units together under Warner Bros. from its prior home at Warner Communications and brought in $4.7 billion in incremental revenue in a shrewd pickup of distribution of the United Artists library that then became MGM, still rattles off numbers and data like Sumner Redstone reading the weekly box office returns.