MGM to Reanimate its Dromant TV Division

Sep 6, 2006–MGM has reanimated its dormant TV division, promoting Jim Packer to the new post of president of the MGM Worldwide TV Distribution Group and kicking off its strategy with the international TV sale of upcoming James Bond movie “Casino Royale,” and “Rocky Balboa,” the sixth and final installment of the “Rocky” theatricals.

In an interview, Rick Sands, chief operating officer of MGM and Packer's boss, said the juicing up of the TV operation parallels the March decision to get back into the distribution and marketing of theatrical movies and the more recent shift of homevideo rights to MGM's 4,000-plus movie library from Sony to a partnership with Fox Video.

“We want to control our own destiny in TV distribution,” Sands said. “There is so much upside to the expansion of cable and satellite, the growth of video-on-demand, and the fact that telephone companies are spending tens of billions of dollars to get programming into people's homes.”

While the movie library and the 10,000 hours of TV series represent the spine of the TV group, Packer will spearhead a worldwide sales campaign for five new sequels: “Legally Blonde 3,” “Species 4,” “WarGames 2,” “Cutting Edge 3″ and “Into the Blue 2.” Most of these will go direct to video in the U.S., although one or two may be sold as premieres to basic-cable networks.

Sands said MGM TV will emulate the strategy of Harry E. Sloan, chairman-CEO of MGM, in focusing on distribution rather than setting up a separate development and production operation.

The international marketplace for TV series is humming, said Sands. Two of the key series in the MGM catalogue for foreign sale are “The L Word,” which Showtime has picked up for a fourth season, and “Stargate SG-1,” which racked up more than 200 episodes before the Sci Fi Channel canceled it last month.

Packer joined MGM in 2001 as executive VP of domestic TV, becoming exec VP of worldwide TV distribution in April 2005. Before MGM, Packer spent 15 years with Disney's Buena Vista Domestic TV Distribution.

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