On Wednesday, June 7, 2000, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered that the worlds largest software company, Microsoft, be split into two separate companies. The ruling came as no surprise as the current conclusion to this phase of the antitrust case brought against the mega-firm. Quickly after the decision was handed down Microsoft pledged it would appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.
The FCC and Department of Justice have given the go ahead for AT&T to merge with MediaOne making the combined company the largest cable firm in the nation. One stipulation on the US$58 billion deals approval is that the company seal off its holdings in Road Runner, a high-speed Internet access service. The FCC also said that either AT&T has to sell its stake in Time Warner Entertainment, divest programming assets like Liberty Media or unload various cable systems within the next year. AT&T has six months to decided which of the three courses of action it will take.
Amidst the resignation of their three-month term CFO, Cinar Corp. announced it would regain CA$10 million more of the $122 million that was invested without the company boards approval. Cinar expects to receive the $10 million from Nassau, Bahamas-based Globe-X Management Ltd. after the investment matured May 31, 2000. Cinar said Globe-X required five business days from May 31 to "process transactions for administrative purposes" and that Cinar expected to receive the $10 million within that time.
New York City-based visual effects house, Black Logic, had launched a new broadband division. "We routinely take advantage of the Internet to show our advertising and broadcast clients their work-in-progress, as well as finished spots," said Alfie Schloss, Black Logic's VP of marketing.
Vancouver-based EnterCor Entertainment Corp. has signed a deal with Johannesburg-based TV and film conglomerate, Sasani Limited. As part of the deal, EnterCor will represent Sasani in North America. EnterCor COO Ed Richardson said, "I think North Americans will be astounded to see the level of sophistication of the Sasani Group and the extent of their world-class facilities.
Wild Brain Inc., a San Francisco-based animation producer, has landed US$20 million in its second round of financing, led by first round backers Interfase Capital Partners, LP. The new round of investment dwarfs the original round by $14 million. The funds will be used to continue wildbrain.coms Webisodes; produce POOCHINI, a TV series co-production with German EM.TV; and growing their CGI division with the completion of HUBERTS BRAIN.
Millimages, a France-based animation production house, has opened a new Internet production division. The Flash produced products will be targeting a teen and adult audience. The company will create a minimum of fifty 20 second to 2 minute episodes per season. The animation firm with locations in London and Paris hopes to create content that converges television and the Web. Millimages is currently working on the development of 12 original Net series, some of which are co-productions with companies such as Magma Films (Ireland) and Happylife (Sweden).
India-based UTV Toons, a division of UTV Group a media and entertainment company, has signed a US$65 million deal with Ottawa-based Funbag Animation to produce nine animated series. Funbag will produce 26-episodes of each program over the next 3 years. Both companies will own all global merchandising rights. "This deal clearly puts India on the global map for animation," said UTV Group chairman Ronnie Screwvala. Recently, UTV produced JASON AND THE HEROES OF MOUNT OLYMPUS for Fox/Saban, co-produced KONG with BKN and co-produced FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE with Funbag.
On Monday, May 22, 2000, The Walt Disney Co. announced that its majority-owned Toysmart.com has gone off-line. Disney purchased 60% of the e-commerce site for educational toys in August for an estimated US$50 million. Disney execs, which made up 3/5s of the board, decided to shut down operations after a new round of financing was denied. One hundred-ten of the remaining employees were laid off. In April, 205,000 Web surfers visited the site compared to 1.3 million for Toysrus.com and 1 million for EToys said Media Metrix.
Phillip Bowman and Malcolm McGookin have formed a new animation house in Brisbane, Australia called ASTERISK* Animation. Bowman will serve as executive producer and McGookin as producer and director. Bowman has vast experience in both live-action production and animated television series. His credits include ABC network's LIZZIE'S LIBRARY and KITU AND WOOF. McGookin first started his animation career on the Cosgrove Hall shows COUNT DUCKULA and DANGERMOUSE. Afterwards, McGookin moved on to writing and directing AVENGER PENGUINS and TABALUGA in the U.K and Australia.
Four of the U.K.'s leading CGI artists, Richard Scott, Graham McKenna, Stuart Aitken and Dana Dorian, together with Scottish new media group VIS Interactive PLC, have launched Axis Animation, a high-end 3D and digital post-production facility based in Glasgow, Scotland. Axis' focus will target the advertising, broadcast, film and computer game markets for animation and visual effects. The four founders were the core team at award-winning digital content creators Digimania.
The former owners of Cinars subsidiary, HighReach Learning, Inc., have filed a lawsuit against the parent company to recover alleged losses related to a stock purchase agreement concluded with Cinar as part of the purchase price of HighReach in 1998. The complaint contains allegations that Cinar is liable for losses in stock due to the ongoing investigation into their alleged fraudulent actions. "These legal proceedings pertain to circumstances surrounding the stock purchase agreement negotiated between Cinar and the former owners of HighReach Learning in 1998.
The Harvey Entertainment Company announced that its first quarter income has improved nearly 25% over last years results. Net operating revenues improved to US$882,000 in the first quarter of 2000, compared to $562,000 in 1999. Harvey saw a reduced loss from operations of $598,000 in the first quarter of 2000, compared to a loss of $2,412,000 a year ago. These figures do not include the CASPER owners recent purchase of PM Entertainment.
Marvel Enterprises and Artisan Entertainment have entered into a joint venture that will send 15 Marvel superhero characters to Artisan for feature, TV, direct-to-video and Internet programming. Both companies will share in the money made from the properties and tied-in merchandising. Each company will own the programming library.
Time Warner chairman, Gerald Levin, announced that the company has reached a "agreement in principle" with Disney about the carrying of Disney cable stations on Time Warner operating systems. The recent dispute over the price Time Warner would pay for the cable networks led to Time Warner aggressively pulling ABC from its cable system. This action quickly drew heat from regulators and the public, who had service interrupted during sweeps week specials of WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONARE?
As anticipated, Marvel's net sales decreased over last years first quarter period due in part to film licensing revenue. The year-ago quarter included a non-refundable advance from Sony Pictures Entertainment for the feature film license of Spider-Man, as well as an advance from Universal Studios for a feature film based on The Hulk. Also, year-ago first quarter revenues reflected strong initial distribution shipments for the Toy Biz divisions new line of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) products.
The continuing tribulation around the merger of Time Warner and America On-line now includes impending separate fines looming over the two firms. The Los Angeles City Attorneys Office and Information Technology and General Services Committee are looking to the recent dispute between Disney and Time Warner, which resulted in Time Warner pulling ABC from its cable service. The move affected some 400,000 subscribers for 36 hours, which included the sweeps week celebrity broadcast of WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONARE.
Quebec Animation, an alliance of animation companies in Quebec, announced that Oscar award-winning Productions Pascal Blais has joined the group. Productions Pascal Blais THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA recently won the Oscar for best animated short. Formed in 1999, the organization highlights the creativity and mastery in animation and visual effects of its members, while each company stands as an independent entity. "The rise of Montreal as an internationally recognized shooting center in the past ten years has been impressive," said Pascal Blais, President of Productions Pascal Blais.
A Canadian Television Fund (CTF) commissioned report calls for stiffer conflict-of-interest rules for the distribution of their CA$200 million in funds. Two reports, one by consultants François Colbert and David Silcox for CTF and one by KPMG for the Heritage Ministry, pointed out several serious administrative problems in the way Canadian funds are handed out to production companies. Both reports recommend that Telefilm Canada, a second government agency that helps fund and produce Canadian productions, should get out of the funding business and concentrate on producing feature films.
Nelvana Limited announced that it has filed with the Ontario Securities Commission to offer 3.75 million subordinate voting shares of the company in the U.S. and Canada. A portion of the money gained from the new offering will be used to repay loans for the purchase of Klutz Publishing, a leading U.S. childrens book publisher. The remainder of the funds will be used to pay off borrowings under the firms credit facilities. The producer of children favs BABAR and FRANKLIN is selling 3,684,032 shares and the remaining 65,968 shares are being sold by two unnamed shareholders.
Cinar has been quiet about an internal investigation looking into the use of company funds to renovate the co-founders Montreal home. No comment, was all Suzan Ayscough would give the press about co-founders Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg using almost CA$500,000 (US$348,000) of company funds to touch up their home without the knowledge of the board of directors. In March, Charest stepped down from her positions as co-CEO and chairman and Weinberg left his post as president and co-CEO.
Independent film producers are calling foul over the amount of funds going to Quebec. French-language productions are guaranteed at least a third of the CA$200-million a year provided by the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) and Quebec-based film companies this year are receiving nearly 40% of the federal funds. Another sore point is that in years past Cinar Corp., the Montreal-based producer of childrens series, has received as much federal funding as the entire Alberta industry. Currently, Cinar is under investigation for using false Canadian names on scripts by U.S.
Station X Studios Project: Messiah 3D animation development team, composed of Station X president and co-founder Fori Owurowa, Station X co-founder Dan Milling and software developer Lyle Milton, have spawned a new Santa Monica-based visual effects production facility. The yet-to-be-named new companys business plan is to enhance and expand the character animation tools introduced with Project: Messiah at SIGGRAPH 99. The new production house will keep close ties to Station X and the three principals will remain shareholders.
Canadian securities watchdog, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), has barred officers, directors and insiders of Cinar Corp. from trading in shares of the troubled children's television production company. OSC issued a temporary cease-trading order against 57 Cinar individuals as a result of the Montreal-based company's failure to meet regulatory filing requirements. On April 18, 2000, Cinar missed the deadline of filing the results for the year ended Nov. 30, 1999.
Harvey Entertainment Company announced that The Chase Manhattan Bank is arranging a US$25 million, five-year revolving credit facility and that Harvey has completed the acquisition of 100% of the capital stock of PM Entertainment Group Inc., an independent entertainment production and distribution company. The PM Entertainment Group purchase consisted of $6.5 million in cash and $1.45 million in Harvey Entertainment Common Stock paid at closing, as well as a $2.05 million subordinated note, payable over the next five quarterly periods.