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Worldvision's globe design endcap from 1988 to 1991, with World Vision disclaimer.
Home video distributor
|Fate||Merger with Viacom/Paramount Pictures, incorporation into Republic Pictures|
|Successor(s)||Paramount Domestic Television (1999-2006)
CBS Paramount Domestic Television (2006-2007)
CBS Television Distribution (2007-present)
|Founded||1953 (as ABC Film Syndication)|
Taft Broadcasting/Great American (1979-1988)
Spelling Entertainment Group (1988-1999)
Worldvision Enterprises, Inc. was a television program distributor established in July 1953 as ABC Film Syndication, the domestic and overseas program distribution arm of the ABC Television Network. They primarily licensed programs from independent producers, rather than producing their own content.
The company was created in 1953 by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as ABC Films.
In 1971, as a result of the fin-syn rules, the FCC barred the participation of networks in the syndication of their own programs. Worldvision Enterprises was formed by five former ABC Films executives to purchase the network's syndication assets. The purchase was completed on March 30, 1973.
Their home video division released numerous Hanna-Barbera titles and Jack Nicklaus' Golf My Way instructional video series. They were also responsible for the television distribution of a majority of the Carolco Pictures feature film library (inherited from Orbis Communications, which was a division of Carolco before the studio went bankrupt).
Worldvision has been owned by many companies over the years. The growth of its home video division was primarily under the ownership of Taft Broadcasting, which acquired the company in 1979, and later became Great American Broadcasting, under Carl Lindner, Jr.
Television producer Aaron Spelling, attempting to find an outlet to distribute his programs, attempted to buy Worldvision from Great American. Lindner told Spelling that he was not interested in selling the company, but decided to merge with Spelling, giving both of them Worldvision. The merger was finalized on March 1, 1989.
In later years, Aaron Spelling consolidated his companies, and Worldvision as a wholly functioning unit ceased to exist and became folded into Republic Pictures (which Spelling bought in 1994), although Worldvision as a distribution unit continued for many years after until Spelling/Republic merged with Viacom (which also started as a syndication arm of a television network, in this case CBS) in 1999, the same year Viacom announced its acquisition of former parent CBS (completed in 2000). These mergers allowed Viacom to become the second-largest media conglomerate in the world. Viacom later renamed itself to CBS Corporation and spun off its basic cable and motion picture interests into a "new" Viacom (for its impact on the former Worldvision library, see below).
Worldvision's library today
Today, ownership of Worldvision's library is in the hands of different companies. The Hanna-Barbera library and most Ruby-Spears material are now owned by Time Warner, and syndicated by Warner Bros. Television Distribution. Time Warner had inherited the rights to these libraries after purchasing Turner Broadcasting System in 1996. TBS, in turn, had purchased Hanna-Barbera and most of the Ruby-Spears library in 1991. These libraries were used (along with the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and pre-August 1948 Warner Bros. animated libraries, as well as the Fleischer/Famous Popeye cartoons, which were also owned by Turner at the time) to launch Cartoon Network (most classic cartoons are now on sister channel Boomerang).
The rights to the Casper (and other Harveytoons) cartoons once distributed by Worldvision are now owned by Classic Media, including TV and DVD distribution. Universal Studios had previously acquired home video rights in the 1990s in preparation for the release of the 1995 Casper feature film.
Distribution rights to The Addams Family have reverted to MGM Television (successor-in-interest to Filmways). The Program Exchange syndicates the series to TV on MGM's behalf, while MGM has licensed DVD distribution of their library to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Ownership of the rest of the television library is held by CBS Television Studios (who now owns most ancillary rights to Republic's TV library, while sharing the copyrights with Republic), with the company's syndication arm handling distribution. As of 2009, the theatrical output, which Worldvision had distributed, is now handled for television by Trifecta Entertainment & Media (under license from Paramount Pictures)--this includes Republic's theatrical properties.
Most of the Worldvision library has also been released on DVD via different companies, depending on the content and individual underlying rights. For example:
- Lionsgate now holds North American home video rights to Little House on the Prairie, a former Worldvision property now issued on DVD under license from NBC Universal. Lions Gate acquired the rights upon its acquisition of Imavision/Goldhil Home Video. Outside the US, Universal Studios Home Entertainment distributes the series on DVD.
- After years of distribution by Lionsgate, Olive Films now has US video rights to the vast theatrical library once owned by Spelling (and now under Republic and its successor, Melange Pictures), with few exceptions.
- CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) handles the video rights to the TV shows from Aaron Spelling (excepting certain shows owned by Sony Pictures Television), Quinn Martin (with few exceptions), and Republic (including some pre-1973 NBC shows); they also have released the first season of another Worldvision program, One Step Beyond (an in-house production of ABC), to DVD. Paramount also owns video rights (in North America) to some of the films in the Spelling/Republic library, such as It's a Wonderful Life.
- Image Entertainment holds video rights to Combat!, another former Worldvision property whose underlying rights are held by Selmur Productions/CBS Television Distribution while Disney-ABC International Television owns international television rights. Selmur Productions was a division of ABC.
- DVD rights to Get Smart are owned by HBO, who owns the Talent Associates library (sold to Time-Life Films in 1977) - seasons have begun to be available in retail stores from HBO Home Video. Previously, the series could only be ordered through Time-Life (HBO is also owned by Time Warner, which was once the parent of Time-Life as well).
- DVD rights to George of the Jungle are owned by Classic Media, who also owns ancillary rights - DVD distribution is handled by Vivendi Entertainment.
- DVD rights to Milton the Monster are owned by Shout! Factory.
- Most of the Hanna-Barbera shows are distributed on DVD by Warner Home Video, which also holds rights to a number of Ruby-Spears shows (but has not released any of those shows on DVD). Some Ruby-Spears productions have their DVD rights owned by other companies - for example, Rambo and the Forces of Freedom is distributed on DVD by Lions Gate because of their ongoing output deal with current rightsholder StudioCanal, which acquired the cartoon's co-producer Carolco (this deal also includes the DVD rights to most of Carolco's films, including the first three Rambo films). Another example is Lazer Tag Academy, now owned by Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
- DVD rights to Happily Ever After (which Worldvision distributed on video in 1993) are owned by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and later by BCI Eclipse.
- As aforementioned, MGM/Fox owns video rights to The Addams Family.
- Several other films once distributed by Worldvision on TV now have different DVD rightsholders. For example, Strapless is distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment, while Warner Home Video (distributing for Turner Entertainment) owns the DVD rights to A Touch of Class.
As for Worldvision itself, it is known to exist only in-name, as a copyright holder for many classic shows the company once distributed, such as One Step Beyond.
Legal issues of the name
The company's logo, as it appeared at the end of the programs it distributed, carried the following disclaimer: "Not affiliated with World Vision International, a religious and charitable organization." This was due to that fact that, in the mid-1970s, the charity sued the syndicator for its use of the "Worldvision" name. They eventually settled, with Worldvision allowed to continue using the name for the syndication company, provided that a disclaimer was included to distance themselves from World Vision International, which has been implemented since 1974.
- Barbera, Joseph (1994). My Life in "Toons": From Flatbush to Bedrock in Under a Century. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing. pp. 191–192. ISBN 1-57036-042-1.
- Interview with Aaron Spelling. Archive of American Television (November 18/24, 1999).
- "Spelling Entertainment Inc. formed in reorganization of Aaron Spelling Productions Inc.; merger with Worldvision and Laurel also completed.". highbeam.com.
- The latest released WB cartoon sold to a.a.p. was Haredevil Hare, released on July 24, 1948.