Reader's Digest, CBS Pact Will Expand Marketer's Video Offerings

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Publisher and direct marketer Reader's Digest Association Inc., Pleasantville, NY, sealed an agreement with CBS Productions to develop TV movies and mini-series based on Reader's Digest magazine articles. The move is expected to expand Reader's Digest's direct mail offerings of video titles and give the company a prominent branding position on network TV. The terms of the three-year agreement were not disclosed.


CBS is planning to advertise video versions of the series with direct response commercials at the end of each of the programs, which will be broadcast under the working banner of "Reader's Digest Presents" or "From the Pages of Reader's Digest." The shows will be based on personal dramas chronicled in the pages of the monthly magazine, which claims 50 million U.S. readers. CBS currently is exploring the magazine's database of past articles in search of ideas for the shows, and also is examining articles the magazine has scheduled for future publication.


The number of shows to be produced has not yet been determined, nor has a schedule or a timetable for its launch.


CBS Productions will be responsible for financing, developing and producing the movies and will retain the movie rights for domestic and international distribution, music and merchandising. Reader's Digest will designate an executive producer for each project and will have the rights for video distribution. As part of the CBS agreement, Reader's Digest also will advertise the movies in its magazine.


Donna Pierpont, a spokeswoman for Reader's Digest, said the company planned to market the videos through a toll-free number, its web site (www.readersdigest.com) and through its music-and-video catalogs. The catalogs mail twice each year, in January and August. Pierpont said they reach "millions of customers" but would not provide specific circulation numbers for the mailings.


"The primary way to sell [the videos] would be through the TV shows when they air," she said. "The others would be ancillary ways."


In fiscal 1998, which ended last June 30, sales of Reader's Digest videos totaled $215.8 million, or 8.2 percent of Reader's Digest's total revenues of about $2.63 billion. The company markets videos on a variety of subjects, including travel, nature and educational topics.
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