Uni expands DVD reach in Japan

Geneon buy also will allow local-slate growth

Universal Pictures International Entertainment is fueling its drive into Japan's home entertainment market by snapping up a majority stake in Japanese DVD distribution label Geneon.

The deal sees UPIE take a majority equity interest in Geneon, now a 100% subsidiary of Dentsu Inc. Once the ink is dry, Geneon will be merged with Universal Pictures Japan, a subsidiary of UPIE.

UPIE will own an 80.1% interest in the newly combined entity, with Dentsu holding a 19.9% interest, the parties said Wednesday. Dentsu will remain a minority shareholder to "collaboratively support the joint venture," the companies said.

No financial details were disclosed, but the deal is expected to close early next year.

The newly combined company will market and distribute all Universal home-entertainment content in Japan -- including new releases, catalog and TV titles on DVD -- and develop an expanded slate of local content for the Japanese market.