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Discovery Communications has followed up acquiring a stake in Lionsgate by tapping the studio to distribute its programming across all U.S. packaged media platforms.
The long-term deal, covering DVD and Blu-ray distribution of Discovery series and specials from network brands such as Discovery Channel and TLC, is another sign Liberty Global’s John Malone’s courtship of The Hunger Games studio is only growing.
The deal starts with the Feb. 23 Blu-ray and DVD release of Racing Extinction, which debuted yesterday on Discovery Channel in more than 220 markets. Discovery and Liberty Global in November each paid $195 million for separate 3.4 percent stakes in the studio behind the Hunger Games franchise.
Those deals were accompanied by comments from leading Lionsgate, Discovery and Liberty Global execs that “strategic opportunities” were possible with the closer investment ties. Lionsgate on Thursday pitched the distribution deal with Discovery as extending their “strategic relationship” unveiled last month when Discovery acquired 5 million shares in the studio.
“We’re thrilled to expand our relationship with Discovery, home of some of the most exciting brands on television, and delighted to bring their diverse and growing portfolio of programming to our home entertainment consumers,” Lionsgate home entertainment president Ron Schwartz said in a statement.
The betting is content producers like Discovery and Lionsgate will secure scale and negotiating leverage by developing closer ties, and having Malone spearheading more possible deals. Malone, who has a seat in the Lionsgate boardroom, owns a 29 percent stake in Discovery and a 25 percent stake in Liberty Global.
Discovery president-CEO David Zaslav and Liberty Global president-CEO Mike Fries were also named last month to join the Lionsgate board. Lionsgate is also touted as a possible merger partner for Starz, the pay TV company led by Chris Albrecht in which Malone controls 33 percent of voting shares.
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