Canuck actors slam Alliance-Echo Bridge deal


TORONTO -- Canadian actors reacted angrily Friday to news that Goldman Sachs & Co. has sold the international distribution rights to 7,500 Canadian TV titles in the Alliance Atlantis library to U.S. distributor Echo Bridge Entertainment.

"This is another step in the commoditization of our culture. With this sale of yet another significant Canadian cultural library to foreign interests, we are losing control of our cultural heritage," said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of performers union ACTRA.

Goldman Sachs did not disclose the terms of its distribution pact with Echo Bridge, which comes on the heels of a separate deal last December by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to sell its entire international sales catalog to a subsidiary of Britain's ContentFilm, Fireworks International.

Goldman Sachs, which acquired Canadian TV producer and broadcaster Alliance Atlantis Communications last year with Canadian partner CanWest Global Communications, earlier sold the international distribution rights to the popular "CSI" franchise to CBS Paramount.

The U.S. investment bank is understood to have begun shopping the rest of the Alliance Atlantis library's international rights last summer as it began to digest the Canadian acquisition.

As part of its separate agreement, Echo Bridge acquired the worldwide rights, excluding Canada, to classic Canadian TV series like "Due South," "Da Vinci's Inquest" and Gene Roddenberry's "Earth: Final Conflict," and will begin to shop the Alliance Atlantis catalog at MipTV.

The deal, which comes after Echo Bridge arranged new financing from JPMorgan Securities in March, brings to about 11,000 the number of titles Echo Bridge now has in its catalog.