wgbh, the Boston, Massachussetts-based public broadcasting station, is taking on its own distribution business. The station, which produces pbs mainstays like nova, The American Experience and This Old House, will handle all promotion and distribution responsibilities through WGBH International.
According to wgbh, one of the principle rationales for the new division is to build relationships with international broadcasters in hopes of forging new coproduction partnerships. The arrangement is not expected to increase revenue in the wgbh coffers in the near future, as the station will now be absorbing promotion and marketing costs.
‘Over the years,’ explains Tom Koch, director, wgbhi, ‘we’ve found that oftentimes the distributor’s interests and our interests are not necessarily 100% allied. While we certainly like the income, we really need the contacts with the broadcasters more. We need to be talking to the broadcaster directly.’
While the possibility of future dealings with distributors has not been completely dismissed, wgbh is confident it can go it alone. ‘WGBH Enterprises [which oversees wgbhi] has been around now for a number of years. We’ve been very successful distributing our home videos domestically to niche markets. We’ve managed to license some other titles to big distributors very successfully. We’ve also been involved in publishing for many years. We just find it’s easier, and makes more sense, to bring everything in-house.’
wgbh is re-acquiring rights to its programs from the distributors who now control them. While they don’t have plans to actually buy back rights, they do intend to retain them as contracts expire. More than 500 titles are coming home to wgbh within the next few months, including almost 100 nova and 35 American Experience episodes.
In the last two years, wgbh has kept most of the rights to its projects, building an increasingly extensive catalogue of its own.
The move places wgbh in a good position for 2003, when pbs becomes a fully digital system. Repurposing large catalogs for distinct digital channels – a NOVA Channel, for example – could be an attractive property for a multi-casting public broadcaster.
Also in Upfront:
-Discovery goes local with new Eastern European producer fund
- CNN puts Perspectives on indie documentary production.