CBS gains international 'CSI' rights

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TORONTO -- CBS Corp. on Monday assumed the international distribution rights to the "CSI" franchise as part of its deal with Goldman Sachs & Co., the series' new co-producer.

CBS now becomes the worldwide distributor of the three "CSI" programs following the close of its 2007 deal with Goldman Sachs. The U.S. investment bank purchased a 50% stake in the franchise last year from Canadian broadcaster Alliance Atlantis Communications, which previously sold it the international rights to the series.

Also Monday, press reports point to Goldman Sachs receiving a new Canadian partner for Alliance Films, the Canadian movie distributor that Goldman Sachs purchased along with the "CSI" stake in its CAN$2.3 billion takeover of Alliance Atlantis with CanWest Global Communications.

As part of its agreement with CBS for the "CSI" franchise, GS Capital Partners, a private equity fund managed by Goldman Sachs, will remain 50/50 partners in producing the shows with CBS.

CBS airs the TV crime series domestically and sells the U.S. syndication rights through CBS Television Distribution.

At the same time, CBS Paramount International Television will assume all existing international agreements for the "CSI" franchise and execute all future international sales for its three TV series.

Separately, Goldman Sachs is expected to see the Societe generale de financement du Quebec (SGF), the Quebec provincial government's investment arm, purchase a 49% stake in Alliance Films from EdgeStone Capital Partners, the Toronto-based equity fund, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday.

In addition to its Canadian movie distribution business, Alliance Films releases films in the U.K. through Momentum Pictures and in Spain through Producciones Aurum. And Alliance Films runs Viva Films, a Quebec distributor of both English- and French-language films.

EdgeStone became Goldman Sachs' Canadian partner in Alliance Films last September so that the U.S. investment bank could conform to Canadian foreign ownership rules which bar international companies from running or controlling a domestic film distributor.

Goldman Sachs formed Alliance Films after it acquired Motion Picture Distribution LP, the movie distribution arm of Alliance Atlantis.

The Globe and Mail newspaper cited sources at EdgeStone Capital Partners, which insist that SGF will pay between CAN$70 million ($68.8 million) and CAN$100 million ($98.5 million) to acquire the Alliance Films stake.

Montreal-based SGF, which invests in Quebec films on behalf of the Quebec provincial government, already is a financing partner for Lionsgate, as is Goldman Sachs.
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