Flicks Shift From Paramount Domestic

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Domestic distribution of Paramount’s valuable 3,600-title theatrical film library, as well as future movie titles from that studio, will shift from CBS boss Les Moonves’ side of the company to a new distribution arm being formed by Tom Freston’s Viacom film unit.

CBS entities will still be left with 70,000 hours of TV product to sell, one of the largest TV libraries in the business, as well as future programming. Says CBS spokesman Chris Ender: “The breadth, depth and variety of hit programs across all genres make this one of the most vibrant domestic and international distribution pipelines. That doesn’t change.”

A studio spokeswoman confirmed the move to B&C days after Freston leaked word to the press about the film library shifting from the international TV distribution unit, too. Viacom’s Janet Hill now says that longstanding rumors—earlier denied—were true: Freston’s Viacom film unit will handle all forms of free and pay TV sales worldwide starting next year.

“In terms of consolidation it really makes sense,” Hill says.

But the immediate question becomes how buyers will react to Viacom splitting up TV and film distribution at the upcoming Mipcom international TV sales conference, set for Oct. 17-21 in Cannes, France. Hill says it should not be an issue, saying most of the feature titles have already been sold. Additionally, both companies have said they will honor existing deals after the split.

TV studios sometimes use theatrical movie packages as drivers to sell programming. But Paramount has suffered through a prolonged box office slump.

A number of candidates have been considered for the job overseeing Freston’s new distribution division, including Scott Koondel, who currently leads sales as executive vice president of Paramount Domestic Television.

Koondel, who knows the film library well, was brought to Los Angeles from New York in April and has amassed a strong sales record on the theatrical side. 

Not to be outdone by Freston, CBS officials have discussed lining up output deals with independent film companies for international theatrical distribution. That could help pave the way for Moonves’ stated desire to eventually enter the movie business.

Sumner Redstone, who will serve as chairman of both separately traded public companies, will apparently have to play referee between his top executives, or maybe cheerleader since he gets to share in either's success.

Moonves’ move to expand his empire beyond TV, radio, and billboards would put him in direct competition with Freston, who in turn has also expressed his interest to get into TV production.

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