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Sony drives new disc biz

Studio kicks off direct-to-DVD division

Sony Pictures TV has launched a direct-to-DVD arm as a means to distribute certain TV projects without a network attached.

Division, named Culver Entertainment, will kick off with a new animated version of “Spider-Man.” Culver will produce 13 half-hour segs of the toon, which will be released on DVD next year.

Sony Pictures TV prexy Steve Mosko said Culver projects will be distributed internationally to run on TV, including Sony’s own channels.

Here in the U.S., projects that break out could be sold to other platforms, such as broadcast, cable, syndication or even online outlets.

“Our core business is still creating shows for the networks,” Mosko said. “We view this as one piece of our business.”

Sony Pictures TV production/programming presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg will handle development and production of the direct-to-DVD properties, working closely with Sony’s homevid and international arms as well.

Mosko said Culver will first focus on existing franchises or remakes of known commodities (hence the “Spider-Man” skein). Future projects will include scripted comedy and drama skeins as well.

“Initially, the franchise stuff makes more sense — there’s brand recognition,” he said. “For us it’s the smart way to go, as the marketing is much easier.”

Idea came out of a company retreat for the studio’s department heads.

“What came out was our home entertainment and international group were looking for more TV product,” Mosko said. “We came up with this idea: Let’s come up with more TV content this way.”

Testing the direct-to-consumer market was a natural for Sony Pictures TV, Mosko said, given its status as a studio not aligned with any TV network. Without that direct pipeline, the company was looking for alternative means to distribute “ideas that we were passionate about.”

Meanwhile, Sony is talking to advertisers about various partnerships to further cover some of the costs of producing the DVDs. And it’s still experimenting with broadband as another means of distribution.

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