Their films have not done particularly well this spring, including their inaugural partnership with Starbucks for Akeelah and the Bee (they might sell more DVDs at Starbucks this Summer than they did tickets at the box office, unfortunately).
But they continue to stick to what makes them different-- building a big library of valuable programming that should increase in value as distribution becomes more and more streamlined, and continuing to produce films and television programs that stand out from the crowd, appeal to niche audiences ... and are cheap.
And now we're getting more of the same.
The biggest news is that Lions Gate is acquiring distribution rights to a large library from Studio Canal of about 2,000 titles. LGF already owns some rights to some of these films, but will now have stronger TV, Internet, DVD and VOD rights for the collection -- a collection that includes several French classics as well as Evil Dead 2.quite an eclectic mix.
Lionsgate has called its library the "jewel in its crown", and that's certainly been the sentiment on Wall Street as well, as takeover rumors generally are based on the value of the library (5,000+ titles) more than anything else. I think most people feel, as I do, that there's going to be a significant opportunity for profit for content owners as distribution becomes easier, more widely available and faster, both online and through new cable VOD offerings.
One of the ways Lions Gate is pushing this forward, aside from building their library, is by helping to build distribution networks. One of those, CinemaNow, was the source of another bit of news this week. CinemaNow is a Lions Gate-supported company that's focused on online distribution of films, and they have now signed up Echostar as a big new investor, along with some venture capitalists and tech firms (including Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO)). I was especially pleased to see Echostar sign up to support this venture, since along with cash they bring 12 million Dish Network subscribers. It's a good partnership, since the satellite TV companies are desperate to find ways to deliver more content than their relatively narrow bandwidth can carry (Dish can't provide the hundreds of VOD titles that cable is capable of), so I see here another great opportunity to build more audience for Lions Gate's titles.
Their efforts to fill these distribution channels with their own productions are continuing apace, as well ... and they continue to illustrate the wildly broad range of work going on under the Lions Gate banner.
My favorites, from just this week? Deliver us from Evil, a controversial award-winning documentary about sex scandals in the Catholic Church was bought by Lions Gate and will be released this Fall.
And I Pity The Fool, Mr. T's new show, will premiere on TV Land in October. Seriously. Mr. T does an advice show, including live online video chat with the T himself, described quite seriously in the press release as still the #1 Jibber Jabber Attacker.
Even if I didn't like the financial prospects of the company -- and I do -- I think I'd want to be involved in any company that's making this kind of material available to the world.
If you can't get enough Lions Gate info, I wrote about them a while back when I heard an interesting interview with Michael Burns that got into the philosophy and finances of the company, and when I bought more (at not the best price, unfortunately) in the leadup to Akeelah and the Bee.
LGF 1-yr chart: