Sony, TF1 launch distribution venture

Duo team to create homevideo company

Sony Pictures Home Ent. has teamed with TF1 Video to create Gaul’s biggest homevid distrib.

The joint venture, which launches Monday, claims a near 20% share of the French homevid market for March. It also boasts a combined 6,000-plus title library.

The two partners will still maintain separate control over acquisitions, publishing and marketing.

Upcoming releases include “Valkyrie,” “Angels and Demons,” “Terminator Salvation,” “2012,” “In the Electric Mist,” and an HD edition of “The Tudors.”

The alliance will be headed by Pierre Brossard, prexy of TF1 Video, and Pascal Fauveau, head of Sony Pictures Home Ent. SNC France.

Hollywood-French linkups on the home entertainment front are not uncommon in France. Another Gallic mini-major, Gaumont, teamed in video distribution with Columbia TriStar in the 90s. Fox has linked to another, Pathe.

Working with a strong local partners makes a lot of sense for Sony in France, said Helen Davis Jayalath, head of video at London-based entertainment industry analysts Screen Digest.

French films have beaten U.S. movies at the Gallic box office twice in the last three years, punching domestic market shares of 44.6% in 2006 and 45.4% last year.

“As a market, France has the strongest domestic product of any local territory in Europe, and TF1 is a very strong local player, distributing for a lot of smaller local players,” she added.

The partnership will allow for economies of scale and also pooled expertise as the new partners battle to popularize the Blu-ray format in France amid signs of longterm DVD market decline.

Total distributor revenues last year in France — both retail and rental — dropped to Euros 959 million ($1.4 billion), down 26% from $1.6 billion in 2005, when the country’s DVD market peaked, according to Screen Digest figures.

Brossard, Davis Jayalath added, is one of France’s most-respected and experienced home entertainment executives.

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