Genius strolls down Sesame St.


Genius Products, the independent DVD distributor now 70% owned by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, has entered into a long-term distribution and co-production agreement with Sesame Workshop.

The nonprofit educational organization behind the seminal children's TV series "Sesame Street" has picked Genius to be the exclusive North American home entertainment distributor for its library of children's TV programming, which consists of more than 100 titles. The multiyear deal includes titles from four franchises: "Sesame Street," "Sesame Beginnings," "Elmo's World" and "Pinky Dinky Doo," which premiered in April. "Sesame Street" videos previously were distributed by Sony Wonder.

It's the latest in a series of deals and acquisitions Genius has cut during the past year in its quest to grow its market share and be seen as a serious player in the home entertainment arena. Genius finished 2006 with an estimated market share of 1.4%, according to Home Media Research and studio estimates, putting it right behind Lionsgate and the six major studios.

"I consider this to be one of the most important acquisitions I've ever been involved with, both on an artistic and commercial level," co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said. "Sesame Street," he said, has been a "major fixture" in homes since it premiered in 1969, "and is one of the most highly regarded and well-known brands existing today. It educates kids and their parents and as a father of three, I can personally say that Sesame Street has played an important role in my household."

Sesame Workshop CEO Gary E. Knell said the deal with Genius "provides the opportunity to strengthen our ability to reach millions of kids in America with one of the fastest-growing entertainment content distributors."

Genius will maintain home video and select digital distribution rights for the duration of the agreement. The transaction automatically pushes the Genius Products library past the 100-title mark and enhances its stake in the growing family market. Already, Genius distributes DVDs from, among others, Discovery Kids and Classic Media, which includes Christmas stalwarts "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman."

"This partnership enhances our position as an aggressive leader in the family vertical," Genius CEO Trevor Drinkwater said. "By adding award-winning 'Sesame Street' and 'Pinky Dinky Doo' to our current offering of children's entertainment, we now have one of the world's leading portfolios of contemporary, classic and new children's product."