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990104dva

'Funniest' homevids on sale


Posted 01-12-99

Daily Variety
01/04/99
By Page 5

COMMENTARY
An article about Real Entertainment, which sells licensed XWP merchandise.

EXCERPT

PRIMARY SOURCE

   Real Entertainment, the company behind Jerry Springer's "Too Hot for TV"
homevideo series, teams with ABC this week to launch a direct-response program
for "America's Funniest Home Videos."

   The program will begin by touting, in true Real Entertainment fashion, three
videos under the "America's Funniest Home Videos" banner: "Uncensored," "Family
Follies" and "Animal Antics."

   Interest will be drummed up via TV spots, backed by a modest but highly
targeted print component and complemented by a Web site.  

   'Newlywed Game' next

   Scott Barbour, Real Entertainment's 37-year-old founder and president, told
Daily Variety to expect a similar effort in a month or so on behalf of the
"Newlywed Game," the syndicated half-hour produced by Columbia TriStar
Television Distribution.

   "We're having conversations with quite a few other studios, too," Barbour
said. "This sort of activity used to be handled by their licensing and
merchandising divisions. But now that studios realize that branding is destiny,
they're taking a more direct approach."

   That approach has already brought Fox, King World, Paramount, Studios USA and
Rysher Entertainment into partnership with Real Entertainment, which in a mere
four years has seen its revenues explode to $ 50 million.

   The direct marketer cut its teeth in 1995 with maiden video blockbuster
"Cops: Too Hot for TV." Staff has grown to 600 telemarketers based in San Diego
and 45 direct-marketing professionals who handle all aspects of the company's
entertainment-based merchandising campaigns from Real Entertainment's Woodland
Hills headquarters.

   The competition's growing as well. Witness Comedy Central's success hawking
"South Park" merchandise and NBC's direct video hit last May when it advertised
tapes of "Merlin" while the miniseries itself was airing.

   Real Entertainment ranks as a pioneer in that its direct-marketing
infrastructure began falling into place when Barbour worked with Barbour-Langley
Productions (his father is a co-founder) to extend its "Cops" show on Fox into
the aftermarket.

   That direct-marketing effort not only resulted in a homevideo that went to
the top of Billboard's retail video charts but also expanded to include such
"Cops" items as hats, shirts, jackets and even boxer shorts.

   'Xena' goblets

   Real Entertainment later refined its craft with a similar effort for "Xena:
Warrior Princess," which, in addition to homevideos, gave Xenaphiles the
opportunity to order more than 200 products from a catalog offering everything
from "Xena" snowglobes to "Xena" goblets.

   "Everything we do adheres to what I call the golden-goose rule," Barbour
said. "It must make the show itself stronger, or else we're killing the golden
goose."

   Along the way, Real Entertainment has assembled databases that are
direct-marketers' dreams for their size and method of compilation.

   The Jerry Springer database has more than 1.4 million names, for example,
while "Cops" weighs in with 600,000.

   What makes the lists so valuable is that the people on them all volunteer
themselves. That makes them prime for followup orders and other tactics that
brand-loyalty experts contend will dominate the marketing landscape.

   Meanwhile, the business of providing studios with an additional revenue
stream through videos and other merchandise is so good that Real Entertainment
has elected to forgo an extra revenue stream of its own.

   "We never rent or sell our lists," Barbour explained, "because they're much
too valuable for us to even consider diluting their value."

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