PENGUIN BOOKS, ABC INK DEAL FOR 'CLASSICS' TV FARE: MOVIE SERIES SEEKS TO RIVAL HONORED 'HALLMARK HALL OF FAME' ON CBS

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Penguin Books is striking a hallmark deal with ABC.

Classic book marketer Penguin is linking with ABC-TV for a series of movies positioned under the "Penguin Classics Presents" banner. With the move, the publisher of some 4,000 titles including "The Odyssey," "The Iliad" and "Great Expectations" provides ABC with quality programming while giving its distinctive orange Penguin brand TV exposure in the vein of the "Hallmark Hall of Fame."

"What we are doing is taking some of the great works of literature and bringing them to film, which has always been popular," said Heidi Sinclair, co-founder of BrandX Media, a Los Angeles-based entertainment agency that put together the deal for Penguin Books.

"This is very similar to what Hallmark [Cards] has," Ms. Sinclair said. "That's very much what we are all about."

'MUSKETEERS' FIRST

Its first planned project is "The Three Musketeers," to be released next season during a sweeps period. Under consideration for a second run is a film about the search for the Holy Grail.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but ABC will pay a small license fee, and Penguin Books will make an investment that gives it part ownership in the movies. As the deal stands now, Penguin won't be taking any TV commercial inventory in the movies.

A major component of the linkup with Penguin Books is using ABC's sister Internet network, Go.com, to help sell any re-issue of Penguin Classic books, home video or other products. BrandX hopes this will help mass-market the Penguin brand.

ABC also will benefit from the off-network marketing from Penguin -- a valuable commodity amid an increase of on-air TV clutter. Ms. Sinclair said ABC will gain from in-store promotional efforts through Penguin's relationship with some 60,000 bookstores in the U.S., as well as Internet relationships Penguin has with Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

HALLMARK'S LINKS

ABC, moreover, gains competitiveness in the classic or "traditional story" market against CBS and NBC. CBS has an exclusive arrangement with the "Hallmark Hall of Fame," producing four titles annually. The long-running program is a sister entertainment division of Hallmark Cards with the acquired Hallmark Entertainment.

In recent years, NBC has seen success with such classic stories as "Gulliver's Travels" and "Merlin" from Hallmark Entertainment; last year, CBS had success with "Joan of Arc" from Alliance Atlantis Entertainment, and ABC did well with "Cleopatra," also from Hallmark Entertainment.

"We have seen -- whether it's feature films or made-for-television movies -- how successful and enduring the classics really are," Ms. Sinclair said.

Penguin has already begun to expand its marketing efforts beyond books, in developing a series of Penguin Classic music CDs with Polygram Music, which featured liner notes from Penguin authors and their favorite classical music

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