TF1 Video, Sony launch French co-venture

Catalog of 6,000 titles is 20% of the Gallic video market

PARIS -- TF1 Video and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment officially launched an operational joint venture for video distribution in Gaul last week, after announcing the union in early June.

The new venture, run by TF1 Video CEO Pierre Brossard and SPHE managing director Pascal Fauveau, is now fully outfitted for business and is based out of a Paris office housing 65 employees.

The TF1-SPHE fusion will be a major force in the French video industry with a catalog of more than 6,000 titles, representing over 20% of the Gallic home video market.

The long-in-the-works deal was initiated and negotiated by the Los Angeles representative of TF1, Gordon Steel, whose company is under contract with a number of key international TV and film distribution players.

"After a lot of preparation, we're now real. We're operating fully as a joint venture. We're together, and it's working," SPHE's evp of International Matt Brown, said in an interview in Paris.

"Consumers are asking for more product in more different ways than they ever have before. Our challenge is to provide them with product any way they want it," Brown said.

Both companies are hoping that HD and blu-ray sales will continue to increase over the year. As hardware products continue to become more affordable and consumers are reminded that Blu-Ray drivers are backwards compatible to the DVD format, both Brown and Brossard have high hopes for the new technology in the territory. "The Blu-Ray momentum has been phenomenal this year," Brown said adding, "Consumers get addicted very quickly."

Both TF1 Video and SPHE will control their own acquisitions, publishing and marketing, but will join forces for distribution and are already seeing positive results. "We are seeing for the first time in a while that the market is positive in terms of both volume and turnover," TF1 Video CEO Pierre Brossard said in an interview.

TF1 and SPHE will pool together both their catalog titles and new releases including "Angels & Demons," "2012," "Bruno," "Terminator Salvation" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" from the Sony side and TF1's "Valkyrie," "Millennium" and popular Gallic titles "Lucky Luke" and "A Prophet." "Our catalog titles are having a major impact on our market results. They now account for 70%-80%. This proves that there's room for back catalog," Brossard said.

Both parties agree that piracy has become an increasingly large threat to the global home video market and plan to join forces to fight illegal downloading together. "Piracy is very problematic for us. It's a global problem, and one we're going to constantly invest in fighting," Brown said, adding: "We need to remind consumers that they are getting an inferior product when they access content illegally."

Brossard added, "We're offering legal product earlier. New releases will hit the home video shelves just four months after theatrical release. "Our goal is to maximize revenue. The first step is to set up a strong distribution organization, which we've already done," Brossard said of the multi-year agreement. Is SPHE planning to set up similar joint ventures with local video distributors across the globe? "It's not something to be done lightly -- there has to be a synergy. When it works, as it is here with TF1, it's a good thing, but we don't want to rush into anything," Brown said.