Genius in Discovery DVD pact

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The scramble for more content among DVD suppliers continues. Genius Products today is expected to announce two new distribution lines from Discovery Communications, Animal Planet and TLC.

Genius, 70% owned by the Weinstein Co., will roll out both properties in the fourth quarter, and anticipates releasing 12 titles a year, drawn from both individual programs and series.

Animal Planet- and TLC-branded programs include "Meerkat Manor," "Puppy Bowl," "Corwin's Quest," "Little People, Big World" and "Trading Spaces."

The multiyear distribution agreements expand Genius' initial deal with Discovery, announced in October, to be the exclusive U.S. distributor for Discovery Kids-branded TV programs, including content from the Ready Set Learn! block on TLC and Discovery Kids Channel.

Genius has been on a content-acquisition binge since ex-Warner Home Video executive Trevor Drinkwater took control of the company in February 2005. Since linking with the Weinstein Co. in December 2005 as the nascent film company's exclusive DVD distributor (the Weinsteins subsequently bought controlling interesting in Genius), Genius has inked no fewer than 16 distribution deals with such content owners as ESPN, WWE, Classic Media, Sesame Street, Tartan Video and Discovery Kids. In the process, the supplier's share of the DVD market climbed past the 1% mark, putting Genius next in line behind Lionsgate and the six majors.

"I am extremely proud of our early track record of aligning ourselves with quality content partners that strategically expanded our product offerings across the four key categories of sports, family/faith, lifestyle and independent film," Genius president and CEO Drinkwater said. "The addition of Animal Planet and TLC further strengthens the foundation of our important lifestyle and family verticals and expands our position as a leader in content delivery, be it physical or digital."

Drinkwater said acquiring lots of content is a strategic decision that makes sense, given the growing number of distribution channels used to bring entertainment into the home. It's no longer just about DVD, he said; now, one must factor in high-definition discs as well as the various electronic delivery methods, from such download sites as Movielink and CinemaNow to IP-based systems like Intel's Viiv.

"In this rapidly changing retail environment," Drinkwater said, "our goal was to put together a diverse content portfolio that would that would cater to the evolving needs of both traditional and nontraditional retailers."

Also hot on the acquisition trail: Starz Home Entertainment has just cut a new DVD distribution deal with "walking fitness" expert Leslie Sansone. The deal includes all new Sansone fitness properties, including new productions in the "Walk Slim" series. The first releases are expected in June.

Starz president Bill Clark said the deal with Sansone solidifies the company's strength in the fitness DVD market and expands its reach into the "underserved, de-conditioned and new-to-exercise consumer" segment.
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