STUDIOS REVAMP TO MAKE BRANDING HIGHER PRIORITY;TIME WARNER, VIACOM LOOK TO CREATE PRODUCTS BASED ON SHOWS

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Time Warner and its recently acquired Turner Broadcasting System are expected to announce today that Warner Bros. Consumer Products will take over Turner Home Entertainment. And Viacom Consumer Products, which handles licensing for parent Viacom and its Paramount Pictures, will soon announce a restructuring built around branding and synergy.

Those re-engineering moves follow changes at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, which has transformed its MGM/UA Licensing & Merchandising division into MGM Consumer Products.

CREATING PRODUCT LINES

These shakeups reflect how the licensing and merchandising departments of several major movie studios are looking to create product lines from their properties.

"Everyone is looking for different ways to develop profitable new businesses and to get better at creating consumer products based on their properties," said Richard Cohen, president of MGM Consumer Products and MGM Home Entertainment.

Viacom Consumer Products will create two new posts, both VPs of strategic property development. Neil Newman, currently VP-marketing, will handle TV properties and the "Star Trek" franchise. Debbi Petrasek, presently VP-domestic licensing, will handle film properties.

Both will report to Terri Helton, who moves from VP-merchandising to senior VP-licensing.

LONG-TERM STRATEGIES

With selling of licenses and implementation of marketing programs now handled by new VP-Domestic Sales Pam Newton, formerly executive director-product development, Ms. Helton said Mr. Newman and Ms. Petrasek can better focus on long-term strategic marketing. That approach, she said, is better suited for Viacom's properties, which skew more toward teens, adults and sophistication.

"We're taking a page out of the consumer foods business," said Ms. Helton. "For many of our properties, we need to develop a vision for a brand, map it out and take it there. It used to be more scatter shot."

RETAIL RELATIONS

Viacom has also created a new division devoted to retail relations. Annie Seaton, director of retail relations, heads this branch and reports to Ms. Helton.

"Retailers are demanding distinction and longevity in properties. They're also looking for a competitive edge," said Ms. Helton.

At MGM, Mr. Cohen's new division is charged with developing brands and creating integrated marketing programs at retail. Properties getting the branding treatment include "Rocky," "The Pink Panther" and the studio's roaring lion logo.

"We're developing a plan that, first, will identify the meaning and the value of the brands that we control, and second, figures out how to capitalize on them, instead of selling them willy-nilly because someone wants to license them," said Mr. Cohen, who added that the developing strategy will guide such changes as structure and staffing.

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