Par licensing back in-house

Had been run by Nick-Viacom unit

NEW YORK -- Paramount Pictures said Thursday that it will take back oversight of its licensing operations from Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products because of increased merchandising opportunities created by the recent expansion of the studio's international and digital businesses.

From the studio's Hollywood offices, Paramount Licensing will oversee worldwide licensing and merchandising for all films and related product categories, including programs for Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films. Paramount licensing programs will extend across a broad range of categories, including consumer products, book publishing, themed restaurants, theme parks and location-based entertainment, live stage plays and film clip licensing. Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products first took over responsibilities for Paramount licensing in 2004.

"The recent expansion of our digital and global distribution businesses has created a wide range of new merchandising and licensing opportunities for Paramount," said Rob Moore, Paramount's president of worldwide marketing, distribution and home entertainment. "Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products has done a great job in significantly expanding both the variety of Paramount properties and our stable of licensing partners, but it is clear that the most efficient and effective way forward for Paramount is to have direct oversight over the exploitation of our properties."

Paramount Licensing will continue to be led by Michael Bartok, who was named executive vp licensing in October, reporting to Moore. Previously, Bartok held senior positions within Viacom companies including vp and associate general counsel at Paramount Communications; senior vp and general counsel at Paramount Parks and executive vp business affairs at Paramount Parks.

"Mike's extensive relationships with international licensees and intimate knowledge of our brands will be a major asset as we take full advantage of our global opportunities and take our licensing operations in new directions," Moore said.

Paramount Licensing said its recent activity includes the "Charlotte's Web" publishing program, which yielded a No. 1 New York Times best-seller; the rapidly growing Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant chain based on "Forrest Gump," now in 24 locations across the U.S.; and a promotion for Gap's "return of the skinny black pant," featuring clips from the classic film "Breakfast at Tiffany's." It is seeking licensees for upcoming film releases "Beowulf," "Stardust" and "Blades of Glory."