NBC has confirmed it will lease its Saturday morning block to Discovery Networks, beginning in fall 2002, reported VARIETY. Discovery is reportedly putting up $18 million for a three-year contract. "This is a strategic move to keep NBC competitive in the kids arena," explained NBC West Coast president Scott Sassa, who said that without a weekday platform, it was difficult to promote the Saturday morning block. The block is currently 2 and 1/2 hours of programming, and will be jointly branded by Discovery and NBC.
Los Angeles-based design studio B1 Media has launched a games division, B1/Games, and hopes to develop products for set-top game consoles. B1 Media has primarily been a provider of interactive design for DVDs and has created games and interactive content for numerous DVD titles like DINOSAUR, UNBREAKABLE, THE SIXTH SENSE and PLANET OF THE APES. The company also recently launched a broadcast design division, B1/Broadcast.
R!OT and Liberty Livewire LLC's Interactive Services Group, both units of Liberty Media Group, have launched a joint venture aimed at developing interactive television applications. Under the plan, R!OT will link its broadcast post-production services with the Interactive Services Group's Web authoring, data management and e-commerce services. As part of the new venture, Liberty Livewire's Interactive Services Group has relocated its creative staff to the R!OT campus in Santa Monica.
Toonz Animation India has acquired Toonsense Studios in Mumbai, India. Focusing on the creation of traditional animation for the advertising community Toonsense Animation Studios has created animation for dozens of diverse television commercials, combining traditional animation with live-action and computer graphics. Toonsense founders Suhael Merchant and Shrirang Sathaye will remain with the company.
After a four-year organizing drive, the membership of the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, Local 839 IATSE (M.P.S.C. Local 839) has unanimously ratified a collective bargaining agreement with BKN Studios, Inc. (BKN). "The BKN contract marks the successful end of one of the longest organizing drives in the union's history," business representative Steve Hulett said after the vote at the local's membership meeting on November 27, 2001. M.P.S.C.
An AP Newswire brief stated that Sega Corp. has reported a $169 million loss for the first fiscal half, largely because the declining value of its investments more than offset the improvement in its video-game business. Sega, which earlier in 2001 abandoned production of its Dreamcast game system, has also announced another reduction in price for the discontinued console. The Dreamcast system, which originally retailed for $199, will now be available for $49.99. Sega hopes the drastically reduced price will move the remaining 270,000 units out of stores by the end of the holiday season.
Scandal-plagued children's television producer Cinar Corp. has laid off staff and appointed new auditors in an attempt to restructure its entertainment and corporate divisions. Under the restructuring, Cinar's Montreal staff has been reduced from 164 to 110. While most of the layoffs were corporate positions, 22 employees were cut in Cinar's studios and animation department. The restructuring is the latest of several administrative steps taken during the past 20 months by Cinar's current management to put the company on solid footing once again.
SIMPSONS producer Film Roman, Inc. announced a revenue decrease of 26%, or $1.3 million, to $3.7 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2001. This number is down from $5.0 million for the previous year at this time. Total revenue decreased primarily because the company delivered fewer prime time fee-for-services episodes offset by more Saturday morning fee-for-services episodes.
In an aggressive attempt to discredit Nickelodeon, the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw) has launched an advertising campaign requesting Nickelodeon Animation Studios adhere to the standards of the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) Code of Business Practices or the Fair Labor Association (FLA) Workplace Code of Conduct. The request is in reference to the licensing and manufacturing of toys and other merchandise based on two Nickelodeon animated characters SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS and JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS.
TV-Loonland AG has its eyes set on 29.9 percent of the British DVD and video distributor Metrodome Group plc., London. If the green light is given at a general meeting on November 29, 2001, TV-Loonland will buy 4,184,250 new shares from Metrodome at a price of 17 pence (approximately US$.25) per share as part of a capital increase. At the same time TV-Loonland is prepared to extend a £1.5M ($2.18M) loan to Metrodome for the purpose of buying new film and DVD/video rights.
In further developments of the MTV restructuring that has so far resulted in layoffs and the closing of MTV Animation production, Abby Terkuhle is no longer president of MTV Animation. However, according to an MTV spokesperson, Terkuhle will continue his relationship with the company, although the nature of this relationship could not be discussed at press time. Sources suggest that Terkuhle will have a first look producing deal or some similar arrangement.
Blue Sky Studios, currently at work on the upcoming CG animation feature ICE AGE, has laid off a significant number of their animators. Sources say approximately 100 people have been let go, which could not be confirmed by Fox as of press time. However, a Fox rep did concur that animators have been laid off because the studio is ramping down as principle animation on ICE AGE is nearing completion. The Fox corporate representative also said that Blue Sky has a project in development that has not yet been announced.
Pixar Animation Studios, which currently has the United States top motion picture for a second week in a row, recently reported a 30 percent decline in third quarter earnings. Pixar said earnings fell to $6.2 million or 12 cents per diluted share in the third quarter, which concluded at the end of September 2001, a month before MONSTERS, INC. hit theaters. This figure is down from $8.8 million or 18 cents per share in the period a year ago. Pixar also announced that it is raising projections for 2001 EPS from the previous range of $0.50 to $0.58, to a new estimate of about $0.60.
In a follow up to a story about the Secret Lab closing that was written in VARIETY and subsequently reported in AWN and numerous other media outlets, AWN was told that the layoffs were part of an overall restructuring of Disney, including the feature animation department, that was announced in April 2001.
Liberty Livewire Pictures Group member R!OT Santa Monica will be integrating both artists and support staff from sister company 525 Studios. As a result, 525 Studios will curtail operations, effective by year's end.
Interactive media provider Pulse has inked a deal with text-to-speech (TTS) technology provider Rhetorical Systems making Pulse the exclusive North American reseller of Rhetorical Systems' technology for Web-based solutions. Under the agreement, Pulse will integrate Rhetorical Systems' rVoice software and sell interactive media solutions featuring a selection of character and photo-real 3D personalities with automated lip-synching and realistic human speech in both genders and a range of accents and speaking styles. Specific financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
In an attempt to reach a previously announced goal of making its online gaming unit successful by the year 2003, game company Electronic Arts (EA) said it will cut as many as 250 jobs at its EA.com division, reported REUTERS. The cuts represent about 1/3 of EA.coms employees. Electronic Arts employs over 3600 people worldwide and is the number one video game publisher in the U.S. The company is also the exclusive game provider to AOL. EAs first foray into the subscription online gaming arena, the five-episode suspense thriller MAJESTIC, launched online in August 2001.
According to a VARIETY news report, layoffs may be imminent at newly acquired Fox Family Worldwide. The Walt Disney Company recently completed their buy out of Fox Family for a final purchase price of $5.2 billion and the changes have already begun. The companys flagship Fox Family cable channel has been renamed ABC Family and it will be rebranded with an interim ABC Family logo starting this weekend.
Activision, Inc. has discontinued its previously announced public offering of common stock due to current market conditions. The company has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission an application for the withdrawal of its registration statement covering the 6 million shares of its common stock that were to be issued in the proposed public offering. The company has also discontinued any further marketing efforts in connection with the offering. However, the companys Board of Directors has approved a three-for-two split of its outstanding common shares.
The 3DO Company has finished the fiscal second quarter ended September 30, 2001 in line with expectations. Revenues were $9.9 million, compared to $20.2 million reported for the second quarter of last fiscal year. The net loss for the quarter decreased by 42% to $9.7 million, or $0.20 per share, compared to a loss of $16.7 million, or $0.45 per share in the same quarter last year. The company recorded an adjustment to the second quarter of the prior fiscal year, which resulted in a reduction of $1.8 million of revenue and $0.5 million in cost of sales.
On Monday, October 29, 2001, MTV Networks announced a worldwide restructuring plan resulting in 450 lay-offs, approximately 9% of its full-time staff. The departments most significantly affected are the online divisions and MTV Animation. The once separate online operations will be integrated with the television businesses meaning staffers for the online division will be moved out of their current location at 770 Broadway and merged with the television operation in midtown Manhattan. This move represents the majority of the staff cuts.
Disney has announced plans to close The Secret Lab, the visual effects unit of its Feature Animation group. The Secret Lab was formed two years ago, emerging from Oscar-winning effects house Dream Quest Images, which was founded in 1979 and became a division of Disney in 1996. In a VARIETY report, Walt Disney Feature Animation president Thomas Schumacher stated that The Secret Lab is no longer actively seeking outside contracts. However, he also said, If the studio comes to me and says heres a movie that we have a special demand for, then fantastic.
The Walt Disney Company has completed its previously announced acquisition of Fox Family Worldwide, Inc. from Haim Saban and Fox Broadcasting Company. The acquisition closed on October 21, 2001 with a final purchase price of $5.2 billion, including approximately $2.9 billion in cash and the assumption of $2.3 billion in Fox Family. Michael D.