Filmgroup buys online video rights to 60 US blockbusters

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The Independent Online

Filmgroup, the soon-to-be-floated company developing the UK's first internet-based video-on-demand (VoD) service, yesterday said it had agreed to buy exclusive rights to more than 60 US blockbuster films with a combined production budget of $1.5bn (£950m).

Filmgroup, which hopes to launch its platform by year-end, will acquire the UK VoD rights to films such as The Whole Nine Yards, starring Bruce Willis, The Pledge, with Jack Nicholson and Get Carter, the Sylvester Stallone remake, from Intertainment, a film licensing and production firm listed on Germany's Neuer Markt.

Financial details were not disclosed, but filmgroup said the acquisition would be completed in stages over five years, with each of the rights bought carrying a term of seven years.

Filmgroup has also boosted its offline distribution activities by buying the UK rights to 15 films, including 3000 Miles to Graceland, with Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell, and The Big Kahuna, starring Danny DeVito and Kevin Spacey. The rights are valid for 15 years, and the deal also gives the UK group free TV rights to six films for 10 years.

Simon Franks, filmgroup chief executive, said: "Content strategy will determine the winners and losers in the VoD sector. Our exclusive film content sets us apart from our competitors and will be the key to the success of our VoD service."

Filmgroup's online service is expected to offer more than 200 VHS-quality films to homes direct through the Net. The company has already launched its website, films2.com, paving the way for the VoD service.

The company's management team includes Cliff Stanford, the entrepreneur who founded Demon Internet; Stewart Till, former president of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment; and Larry Chrisfield, chairman of the British Film Commission.

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