Weinsteins, Halmis in TV deal

Duo will co-produce, co-finance television projects

The Weinstein Co. is expanding into scripted television, pacting with TV movie giant RHI Enterprises in a production and library deal.

Under terms of the five-year agreement, TWC and RHI will co-produce and co-finance an unspecified number of television projects including series, miniseries and telepics.

The Weinstein brothers exec produce Bravo hit “Project Runway,” but move marks their first major foray into scripted television.

“These co-productions will combine marquee talent and high production values not normally associated with television,” TWC said in a statement.

As part of the deal, TWC, through homevid arm Genius Products, will distribute RHI’s 600-title library on homevid; library encompasses movies and miniseries including “Lonesome Dove,” “Gulliver’s Travels” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Genius said that in some it cases, it may even cut separate, unedited versions for homevid release.

In October, RHI Enterprises, owned by Robert Halmi Sr. and Jr., paid Crown Media $160 million to buy back more than 600 TV movies made by them over the last several decades. Crown originally bought the movie library from the Halmis in 2001.

Genius is acquiring both physical and digital distribution rights to the titles, and Genius topper Trevor Drinkwater said in an interview that the company could seek to sell downloadable versions via platforms like iTunes and the Wal-Mart download site.

Genius will also consult with TWC and RHI on discussions for co-productions. “We program for the retailer the way producers program for television, so it makes sense for us to be involved,” Drinkwater said.

RHI makes separate library deals for TV rights; it recently pacted with Ion Networks to program 12 hours a week on the net using programming from its library.

For both TWC and Genius, move continues a significant expansion. Over the last few months, companies have made distribution and production deals with the likes of the WWE, Televisa and Christian shingle Impact Entertainment.

Genius has been ramping up its library content with the help of TWC; company has been bulking up with ESPN and Discovery Kids in addition to acquiring a range of movies. Genius now puts its number of homevid properties at 1,800.

Meanwhile, despite dramatic contraction in the market for telepics and miniseries over the last few years, the Halmis have remained a major force in television production. In addition to being the largest producer of originals and minis, they’re regarded as putting together both profitable deals and elegant productions.

RHI produces as many as five big-budget minis per year. It also has a deal to produce 12 movies and three minis for the Hallmark Channel and recently signed deals to produce 12 original movies for Spike TV and 10 for the Sci Fi Channel.