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Sony Launching DTC Programming Unit

Sony Pictures Television (SPT) will alter TV distribution windows under a groundbreaking plan announced Tuesday to sell scripted comedy, drama, and animated series directly to consumers.

The studio, which had a strong network development season, intends to remain an active player in the traditional TV business, but has launched a new company, Culver Entertainment, to create and produce programs directly for the DVD and international marketplaces.

The first programming to originate under the plan will be 13 half-hour episodes of a new animated Spider-Man series for 2007.

While it could later opt to sell the shows to broadcast and cable networks, syndication, broadband, and other digital outlets, the shows will not be dependent on them for license revenue.

SPT President Steve Mosko said the plan capitalizes on Sony’s independent status by utilizing nontraditional means to distribute new product.

 “With the growing demand for original content here and abroad, it’s the perfect time to deliver programs directly to consumers,” Mosko said.  “SPT has all of the systems in-house to bring in advertisers, develop, and execute marketing support, and deliver top-shelf programs.”

The undertaking, based on the successful direct-to-video market for films, is believed to represent the first step of SPT’s broader strategy of going directly to the consumer with product.

Phase two is expected to involve a comprehensive digital distribution strategy for SPT’s library product. Currently, the studio is streaming some of its first-run syndicated shows online. And its new 10 p.m. Wednesday series for NBC, Kidnapped, is earmarked for NetFlix.

Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, SPT’s production and programming co-presidents, will oversee development and production for Culver Entertainment. The announcement said they will work closely with Sony’s home entertainment and international TV units.