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The marketing muscle of a major Hollywood star is helping an ambitious "Civil War"-size documentary about Native Americans land some impressive media and merchandising partners.

Tig Productions, Kevin Costner's Burbank, Calif.-based production company, has signed Alfred A. Knopf Inc., Random House Audio, Microsoft Corp., Epic Soundtrax and Warner Home Video for the 8-hour documentary titled "500 Nations." It will be produced by Mr. Costner and will air in prime time on CBS in April. A documentary of this scope on network TV is unprecedented.

Mr. Costner, whose starring film credits include "Dances With Wolves," will host the four-night documentary, and his on-camera involvement helped clinch the deal with CBS, said Jack Leustig, director and senior producer of "500 Nations."

"The rest of the deals came slowly, but once we got CBS, it was the engine for all the other deals," Mr. Leustig said, adding that talks are under way among the five licensees for a cross-promotional campaign.

Rights fees from CBS, Knopf and Warner Bros. were substantial enough to cover most of the documentary's estimated $9 million budget. Rights fees from foreign distribution will cover the rest.

CBS will sell ad time for the documentary, but Mr. Leustig said there's a possibility that Tig and the network can sign a major corporation to sponsor the series, like General Motors Corp. did with "Baseball," which aired on the Public Broadcasting Service last fall.

Knopf will publish two books. Already in stores is "500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians"; "From the Heart," a compilation of excerpts from Native American speeches, will soon follow.

Random House has just released a 3-hour Audio Book of Knopf's "500 Nations" read by the documentary's narrator, Gregory Harrison.

In April, Microsoft will release a companion multimedia software title under the Microsoft Home brand, and Epic will release the sound track, composed by Peter Buffett. By second quarter 1995, Warner will make the series available on home video.

Kate Fitzgerald coordinates Promotion Marketing News. Reach us by fax at (312) 649-5331 or e-mail address [email protected]

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