Sony ceases Wonder label

Vid unit said to be winding down

Sony Wonder, once the home of "Sesame Street" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," will soon be history. Sources say Sony BMG Music Entertainment is shuttering its children's audio and home entertainment arm to focus on its core music business.

A company spokesman declined comment, but sources said Jim Wilson, the division's executive vp and general manager, is leaving the company, and the recent loss of Sesame Workshop and Classic Media to Genius Products came after Sony BMG officials informed their various partners of their plans to shutter the division.

On Sony Wonder's Web site, the division still bills itself as "a leading producer and distributor of children's entertainment ... recognized for releasing some of the market's most popular content." The site mentions "partnerships with Sesame Workshops, Random House and Classic Media."

Sesame Workshop left Sony Wonder in February, cutting a new long-term deal with Genius Products that gives Genius the North American DVD rights to its 100-plus titles, many of them consisting of "Sesame Street" episodes. Sony Wonder had distributed Sesame Workshop titles for more than a decade.

Classic Media exited the month before, bringing to Genius such high-profile titles as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman" and the animated VeggieTales franchise.

Shout! Factory, another of Sony Wonder's distributed labels, is reportedly moving to Vivendi Visual Entertainment for DVD distribution, bringing with it an assortment of eclectic music and TV product.

Sony Wonder reportedly is in the final stages of winding down its operations, with the first Sesame Workshop titles distributed by Genius slated to debut in April. The last slate of DVDs Sony Wonder brought to market shipped in November and included "A Sesame Street Christmas Carol" and a 20th anniversary edition of "Transformers: The Movie."

Sony Wonder was formed in 1993 and before long was releasing more than 50 video and 20 audio titles annually. The supplier was a driving force in the nascent sellthrough market in the 1990s, with its early success fueled by a distribution deal with Nickelodeon prior to MTV's purchase by Viacom. Sony Wonder aggressively courted mass merchants with tie-ins, cross promotions, and ample point-of-purchase displays and signs and focused on product for preschoolers, which at the time was an underserved market.