(Los Angeles, CA) — Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) today announced their proposal, subject to regulatory approval, to form a new joint venture (JV) company to distribute physical (disc) home entertainment product in North America for new releases, library titles and television content. The North American JV will include leadership from both Universal and Warner Bros. and will be run by industry veteran Eddie Cunningham. The announcement was made by Peter Levinsohn, President and Chief Distribution Officer, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and Ron Sanders, President, Worldwide Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures and President, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
It is anticipated that the North American JV will be operational in Q1 2021, combining sales, retail marketing and distribution for the two physical home entertainment operations and be responsible for Blu-ray, DVD and 4K UHD distribution for up to 10 years. The JV will allow for continued innovation while maintaining a diverse choice of product for retailers and consumers. Under the proposed structure, the studios will continue to operate their digital distribution businesses independently and retain content and consumer marketing for both physical and digital.
Separate from the North American JV, the studios have agreed to license arrangements pursuant to which UPHE will assume responsibility for the distribution of Warner Bros.’ physical (disc) home entertainment products in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan, expected to go live Q3 2020, and Warner Bros. will assume responsibility for the distribution of Universal’s physical (disc) home entertainment products in the U.K. (including Eire), Italy and Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), expected to occur in Q1 2021.
“As the home entertainment landscape evolves, we are continuously working to deliver the best entertainment range and value to our fans,” said Sanders. “The physical business is still an important and active category for the industry. This proposed joint venture with Universal gives us the best opportunity to foster innovation in this business, optimize the physical offering and extend the lifespan of the format for our fans and consumers.”
“With market conditions and consumer viewing behaviors continuing to evolve, we wanted a partner who shares in our commitment to deliver the best consumer proposition going forward,” said Levinsohn. “This proposed JV presents a significant opportunity to continue to work with our retail partners to ensure the format’s strength and sustainability for years to come.” On the appointment of Eddie Cunningham, Levinsohn said, “For more than two decades Eddie has been an expert in understanding the evolution of the physical home entertainment landscape. He’s been a dynamic leader in shepherding business innovation and operational effectiveness.”