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|Public limited company|
|Industry||Video and Music Publishing|
2 Entertain is a British video and music publisher formed by the merger of BBC Video and Video Collection International in 2004. Under CEO Richard Green, the company operated as a joint venture between BBC Worldwide and the Woolworths Group until BBC bought out Woolworths' share following the latter's administration in 2010.
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BBC Video was established in 1980 as a division of BBC Enterprises (later BBC Worldwide) with John Ross Barnard as the head.
At launch, the BBC had no agreement with British talent unions such as Equity or the Musician's Union (MU), so BBC Video was limited in the television programming it could release. Initially, video cassette and laser-disc releases were either programmes with no Equity or MU involvement, such as natural history and other documentaries, or material licensed from third parties, including feature films such as High Noon and the first video release of Deep Purple's California Jam concert.
For the first few years, the BBC produced videotapes in both VHS and Beta-max formats. The company also worked with Philips on early Laserdisc releases, including a notable ornithology disc called British Garden Birds, presented by David Attenborough. This disc was published in 1982 and included digital data in the form of Teletext, which could be read by any suitably-equipped television. This pioneering use of a data channel on a consumer video format led directly to the development of the BBC Domesday Project in 1984–86. Since videos could have stereo soundtracks, BBC Video produced stereophonic versions of many programmes that had been broadcast in mono. These included The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (although release was delayed for lack of an Equity agreement) and the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer.
The label established itself in 1984. The label grew significantly from £13 million turnover in 1989 to nearly £39 million in 1994. In 1991, BBC Video was the number-one video label in the UK when it sold more prerecorded videotapes, by value as well as by unit count, than any other company, including all of the Hollywood studios.
BBC Video was well known for its releases of Fawlty Towers, Doctor Who, and Monty Python's Flying Circus, as well as the children's programmes Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, and Pingu. The company release titles in the United Kingdom through 3M as well as directly, while releasing them in North America through CBS-Fox (from the 1980s to 1990s, originally through the children's subsidiary Playhouse Video for Doctor Who until unedited releases began) and more recently Warner Home Video (2000–present) and in Australia through Roadshow Entertainment and ABC Video/DVD.
Video Collection International
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Video Collection International was a video company based in the UK. It was opened in 1984. Originally part of the Prestwich Group, based in New Southgate, London, the company was subject to a management buyout headed by Steve Ayres CEO and Paddy Toomey (ex-Woolworths) as MD. The vision of "sell through video" was born with the strong Woolworths association driving the retail sales.
With these individuals at the helm, the company expanded rapidly, securing the market lead in retail video sales throughout the mid to late 1980s and into the early to mid-1990s.
The company mainly served as a home video label for ITV television programmes, but launched the Central Video, Granada Media, Thames Video, Channel 4 Video and the Cinema Club labels in the process. The Cinema Club label mainly consisted of re-releases of films from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
After suffering financial losses in 1995, the company changed its name to VCI and discontinued the Central Video label. It discontinued the Cinema Club label in 1999 and re-established it under the "FilmFour" name, though the Cinema Club logo would still be used for occasional budgeted titles after that. At its peak VCI plc consisted of Video Collection Ltd, Music Collection Ltd, André Deutsch (book publisher) and Disc Distribution. In 1999 the business was sold to the Kingfisher group.
In 1999, FilmFour began releasing DVDs. The company split into two arms: publishing (VCI) based in Dean Street, London, and VCI Distribution, which also handled third-party distribution for labels outside its own stable, based in Watford and the old premises in New Southgate.
Soon after, the company discontinued Thames Video and introduced the Granada Media label, which would soon appear on most VCI titles. In 2005 Channel 4 Video (later 4DVD) became a separate company.
Following the formation of ITV plc in 2004, VCI created the Granada Ventures division. In 2006, Granada Ventures was rebranded as ITV DVD and in 2009 as ITV Studios Home Entertainment. VCI had by now become part of the Woolworths Group. BBC Worldwide and Woolworths Group merged VCI with BBC Video to create 2 Entertain Video, part of their new joint venture company 2 Entertain.
VCI is perhaps most well known as the main home video distributor for the iconic children's television programme Thomas & Friends.
Confusion often arose between this UK-based company, and the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based home video label VCI Entertainment, founded in 1976 by Bill Blair. At the height of the UK label's popularity, the US-based label rebranded themselves as United Home Video; however, they returned to the VCI name in the mid-'90s and have retained it ever since.