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Warner Bros., Universal propose JV for physical disc distribution

AT&T Inc.'s Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures Home Entertainment proposed a new joint venture company that will distribute physical home entertainment products in North America.

The proposed joint venture will combine sales, retail marketing and distribution for both studio operations and will be responsible for distributing Blu-ray, DVD and 4K UHD discs for up to 10 years. Under the proposed structure, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. will continue to operate their digital distribution businesses independently and retain content and consumer marketing for both physical and digital, according to a Jan. 15 news release.

The new company will be led by Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, but include leadership from both studios. The joint venture is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2021, subject to regulatory approval.

The studios also agreed to license arrangements under which Universal Pictures will distribute Warner Bros.' physical home entertainment products in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan beginning in the third quarter, while Warner Bros. will distribute Universal Pictures' physical home entertainment products in the U.K., Italy and Benelux. The latter distribution deal is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2021.