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Arena football joins ESPN's roster

NEW YORK — ESPN added a new page to its playbook Tuesday, forging a five-year rights deal with the Arena Football League that also includes a minority stake in the league. ESPN takes over the AFL from NBC, which carried the league under a revenue-sharing agreement but declined to renew its contract after it expired this year. The sports network plans to put many of its platforms to work with the AFL, including carrying 17 regular-season games and nine playoff games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC beginning in March. Financial terms of the deal weren't announced.



'Grindhouse' pair among Senator deal

COLOGNE, Germany — Senator Film has signed a distribution agreement with the Weinstein Co. for German theatrical and DVD rights to a slate of genre films from the company's Dimension division, including the new "Grindhouse" double bill from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The pact also includes Stephen King's "1408" and director Frank Darabont's "The Mist." The deal with Weinstein Co. is the first major, multititle licensing agreement for Senator since a group of investors led by Weber and Helge Sasse acquired the Berlin-based film group last year. Senator said the deal will result in about a 20% sales increase for the company next year.



Hudson earns P.S. breakthrough prize

Jennifer Hudson will be honored with the breakthrough performance award at the 18th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, set for Jan. 4-15. The former "American Idol" contestant, who already has picked up a best supporting actress Golden Globe nomination for her performance in "Dreamgirls," will be presented the award Jan. 13. Felicity Huffman was the previous recipient of this award.



Hellyar to oversee Kodak's EI group

Eastman Kodak has replaced Entertainment Imaging president Eric Rodli, who is leaving Kodak, with Mary Jane Hellyar, president of Kodak's photofinishing systems group. She begins overseeing EI and her other divisions under the aegis of the photofinishing systems group Jan. 8.



BBC footing bill for U.K. digital switch

LONDON — The bill for helping elderly and disabled householders switch off their analog sets and convert to digital television will total £600 million ($1.2 billion) and be paid for by the BBC, U.K. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said Tuesday. The pubcaster will use license fee cash to pay for the program. The culture secretary's announcement came as U.K. media regulator Ofcom on Tuesday outlined the timetable for selling off the spectrum that will be freed up when the analog system is switched off in 2012. The auction is set for 2008 and will allow the winners to bid for national television or telecoms services. The U.K. expects to complete the switchover process in 2012.



Live Nation adds Spain's Gamerco

In a move that will expand its presence from five to seven major music markets worldwide, Live Nation said Tuesday that is has acquired Gamerco, Spain's leading concert promoter, and also has entered into an agreement to buy a majority stake of France's Jackie Lombard Prods. The purchase of Gamerco — along with its affiliates Iguapop, Troubleshooter and Cetisa — brings principals Gay Mercader, Pino Saggliocco and Roberto Grima under the Live Nation umbrella. Gamerco produces more than 250 concerts per year primarily in Madrid and Barcelona. Jackie Lombard Prods., led by Jackie Lombard, produces concerts in Paris and throughout France.
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