CBS creates units for TV merchandise


Hoping to better exploit its TV series, from classics like "Star Trek" to such current hits as "Jericho" and "Everybody Hates Chris," CBS Corp. has formed two new divisions: a DVD unit and a licensing/merchandising unit.

CBS Home Entertainment will be part of CBS Television Distribution, while CBS Consumer Products will operate as part of the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group. Previously, the divisions' functions had been combined as a single entity under CBS Television Distribution.

Ken Ross will head CBS Home Entertainment and Elizabeth Kalodner will run CBS Consumer Products, each as executive vp and general manager. Ross reports to Bob Madden, president and chief operating officer at CBS Television Distribution, while Kalodner reports to entertainment group president Nancy Tellem.

CBS Home Entertainment will be a dedicated business unit for CBS DVDs. The number of releases, from the CBS library as well as Showtime, is expected to increase 20% this year to about 85-90, chiefly complete-season sets. Kalodner said CBS Consumer Products will strive to develop new licensing deals and merchandise to better exploit the CBS portfolio, which consists of about 120 current series and a deep, diverse library of more than 2,600 titles. In the works: "Survivor" camping gear, "The Amazing Race" luggage and "America's Next Top Model" cosmetics.

"The value of merchandise is twofold," Kalodner said. "One, of course, is in expanding the revenue stream, but the second is strengthening the show and the connection to the viewer. These are experiences; viewers love these shows and relate to these shows, and what merchandise does is offer them a different way to connect to their favorite show."

Ross said CBS Home Entertainment is an outgrowth of the booming TV-DVD business. "With its inch-thick complete-season sets, TV-DVD transformed the industry for us," he said. "It took players like us who are not in the feature film business, but in the TV production business, and made us real players to be reckoned with."

The TV-DVD boom coincided with the CBS portfolio of library and current shows "increasing exponentially," most recently with the integration of the Showtime library.

"That bodes well for a dedicated unit that focuses on really maximizing DVD revenue," Ross said.

CBS Home Entertainment also will take the lead in other home entertainment initiatives, including the launch of high-definition discs. Like Paramount, CBS will release titles in the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats. First up: the original "Star Trek" TV series, rolled out on DVD/HD-DVD combo disc in the fourth quarter.

"The reason we chose to do that is to give us the ability to make high-definition transfers of the show available to people who don't yet have high-definition players," Ross said.

A Blu-ray Disc release has not been scheduled.