It's a Wonder-ful world for SPHE

Resurrected label to focus on children's, family titles

The recently shuttered Sony Wonder label is being resurrected by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which plans to use the marquee as a home for its children's and family product.

Several existing SPHE programs will be branded with the label, including PBS series "The Berenstain Bears," "Dragon Tales"and "It's a Big Big World" and HBO's "Harold and the Purple Crayon" and "Stuart Little."

New programming targeting children and families also will be released under the Sony Wonder label.

"The family home entertainment market has been and continues to be a large and very important segment of our industry," SPHE president David Bishop said. "We are delighted to be able to continue the strong legacy of the Sony Wonder label as one of the most respected and highly recognizable brands within the family entertainment genre."

The new Sony Wonder, he said, "will serve as a cornerstone for our marketing and sales strategic plans for family programming and will house some of the most original and entertaining family titles in the business."

Two executives who worked with Sony Wonder when it was part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment are joining Bishop's team.

Steve Okin, who was vp development at Sony BMG, becomes SPHE vp family entertainment and will oversee the development and acquisitions of nonfeature family programming. Okin will jointly report to Lexine Wong, senior executive vp worldwide marketing for SPHE, and Adrian Alperovich, senior executive vp and GM of the Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group.

Olga Economou, who led the field sales staff in support of Sony Wonder programming at Sony BMG, has been appointed executive director of Sony Wonder. She will report to Marshall Forster, SPHE senior executive vp North America.

Sony Wonder, for years home to the "Sesame Street" line of videos as well as Christmas classics like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," was quietly shuttered this year when parent Sony BMG Music Entertainment decided to concentrate on its core music business.

In January, Classic Media left Sony Wonder for Genius Products, taking with it such perennial top sellers as "Rudolph," "Frosty the Snowman" and the "VeggieTales" line.

Sesame Workshop in February also ended its nearly 10-year association with Sony Wonder and cut a long-term deal with Genius that gives the latter company -- 70% owned by the Weinstein Co. -- North American distribution rights to more than 100 programs, many of them "Sesame Street" episodes.

Sony Wonder's last releases shipped in November and included a 20th anniversary edition of "Transformers: The Movie" and "A Sesame Street Christmas Carol."

Sony Wonder was formed in 1993 and quickly became one of the dominant children's video and audio labels in the business, issuing more than 50 video and 20 audio titles a year. The company early on established itself as a driving force in the sell-through market, largely thanks to a lucrative distribution deal with Nickelodeon and strong ties with such large retailers as Wal-Mart and Target Stores.