Turner riding VOD rush

Conglom demands Sony pix

In a first-of-its-kind deal, Turner Broadcasting has bought a five-pic package from Sony that includes exclusive video-on-demand rights to “The Pink Panther” and upcoming Will Ferrell starrer “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

Highlighting the growing importance of nonlinear platforms to TV networks, Turner is actively pursuing on-demand rights for both original and acquired programming. Additional VOD announcements from Turner are expected shortly.

Last summer, TNT struck a similar groundbreaking deal with NBC Universal for VOD rights to one-hour skein “Las Vegas,” paying $450,000 for the off-net episodes/VOD package (Daily Variety, June 22). But aside from the “Vegas” agreement, most major studio distributors have not included on-demand rights as part of series/movies sales.

Sony pact includes exclusive, four-year rights to “Panther,” “Talladega,” “RV,” “Fun With Dick and Jane” and upcoming Steven Spielberg/Robert Zemekis CGI pic “Monster House.” Turner will have an exclusive six-month window to each film following its network premiere. “Pink Panther,” “RV,” “Dick and Jane” and “Talladega” will be available in the latter half of 2008, “Monster House” in early 2009. Sony will retain digital sell-through rights to the pics, which will allow the studio to make the movies available for rental or sale via the Internet and broadband.

Turner and Sony execs declined to comment on license fees, mainly because the total depends on how well the movies perform at the box office. But industry estimates figure Sony will pocket 10%-12% of the box office gross for each of the pics.

Mark Lazarus, president of entertainment for Turner, said the company was in discussions with a number of studios to obtain VOD rights to its programming, which it hopes will better brand TNT and TBS in the on-demand realm.

“As our environment expands to nonlinear platforms, from broadband to VOD, we’re looking to extend our sets of rights so we can better branch out our businesses and product,” Lazarus said.

While networks continue to bolster content for the digital and wireless platforms, the push to get VOD rights will become even more important to cablers because cable operators are insisting the networks deliver an on-demand service with a channel’s regularly scheduled lineup. VOD rights that are exclusive become a bonus to operators.

Turner also will explore ways to add ad coin into the VOD equation. “We don’t get this package of movies for another two years, so we’re taking that time to carefully consider how and if we’re going to bring in advertisers,” Lazarus said.

“The world is changing so fast, we’re open to trying all sorts of things,” he continued. “The smart companies are going to be trying and testing things that will work for the consumer, but that also work economically for the buyer and seller.”

TNT-on-Demand and TBS-on-Demand are available on Time Warner Cable and Comcast. TNT’s lineup includes a catalog of the cabler’s original movies; TBS’ VOD fare has included standup comedy, previous originals like “Minding the Store” and “Outback Jack” and spec “Earth to America.”

Lazarus said upcoming original series including “Saved” on TNT and “My Boys” on TBS will be made available on-demand.

Jonathan Katz, senior VP of program planning and acquisitions, negotiated the deal for Turner.

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