Universal, Sony Merge Australian Home Entertainment Operations

The joint venture to start DVD, Blu ray distribution in 2012.

SYDNEY -- Universal Pictures International Entertainment (UPIE) and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) will form a new joint venture company which will distribute Universal and SPHE home entertainment product in Australia, Eddie Cunningham, president, Universal Pictures International Entertainment and Matt Brown, SPHE’s executive vice president – International, announced Tuesday.

The new joint venture is scheduled to begin distributing Universal and Sony’s film, TV and special interest releases on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia during the first quarter of 2012.

The yet to be named company will be led by Jim Batchelor as managing director. Batchelor is currently managing director, Universal Pictures Australia and New Zealand. Kim Overall, managing director, Australia & New Zealand for SPHE since 2008, will move to a senior position with SPHE early next year, and will continue to maintain an advisory role in the new venture following its commercial launch.

The partners said local acquisitions in Australia will continue to be an important business for both UPIE and SPHE. Both Universal Pictures Australia and SPHE acquisitions teams will be supported by separate, dedicated sales and marketing teams within the proposed joint venture.

The joint venture agreement does not include New Zealand, where both Universal and SPHE’s existing operating companies continue to trade.

“We are absolutely delighted to partner with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in Australia to form a home entertainment joint venture. In this incredibly important territory, the best of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Universal’s talent will combine to form a first rate operation, providing improved efficiencies for our customers and offering consumers an extensive range of world-class home entertainment product.” said Cunningham.

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s and NBCUniversal International’s other film, television and digital distribution businesses in Australia are unaffected by the new joint venture.

The joint venture will be conditional on approval by anti-trust regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.