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BBC White City, completed in 1990
|Private limited company|
|Industry||Video and Music Publishing|
|Predecessors||BBC Video (1980–2004)|
Future Vision Ltd.(1984–1987)
Video Collection International Ltd.(1987–2004)
|Founded||1980 (BBC Video)|
1984 (Video Collection International)
(As Rushstage Ltd)
September 2004 (2 Entertain)
|Headquarters||London, England, UK|
2 Entertain (stylized as 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 2008. As of November 2013, the 2 Entertain branding is only used on non-BBC releases; the BBC label has since been used on its own material instead.
BBC Video was established in 1980 as a division of BBC Enterprises (later BBC Worldwide) with John Ross Barnard at 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 1984–1986. 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 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 David Attenborough, Pride and Prejudice, The Human Body, Dinnerladies, Walking with Dinosaurs, The Goodies, Dad's Army, Yes Minister, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses, Wallace & Gromit, The Office, Red Dwarf and Doctor Who.
Video Collection International
Video Collection International was a video company based in London, England. 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 Incorporated Television Company (ITC) 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 and also had licensing agreements with Columbia Pictures and TriStar Pictures to re-release their films.
After suffering financial losses in 1995, the company changed its name to VCI. It discontinued the Cinema Club label in 1999 and re-established it under the "FilmFour" name, although 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 2001, VCI became part of the Woolworths Group as a result of the demerger from the Kingfisher Group. In 2004, BBC Worldwide and Woolworths Group merged VCI with BBC Video to create 2 Entertain Video, part of their new joint venture company 2 Entertain.
In 2005, Channel 4 began releasing titles on DVD themselves under the brand name Channel 4 DVD, they would eventually go on to have their DVDs released by Spirit Entertainment, though still using Channel 4 DVD branding.
VCI is perhaps most well known as the main home video distributor of both ITV and Channel 4 television programmes such as Thomas & Friends, Black Books, Drop the Dead Donkey, Peep Show, Jeeves and Wooster, So Graham Norton, Men Behaving Badly, V Graham Norton, Spaced, Shameless, Father Ted, Mr. Bean, Traffik, Emmerdale, Brass Eye, Da Ali G Show and Coronation Street.
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. Perhaps as a result of this, when VCI entered the American market in the early 1990s, they went under the name of Strand VCI Entertainment, and then Strand Home Video; this operation was sold in 1993 to budget video label Video Treasures (later a core component of Anchor Bay Entertainment), who completed the label's absorption in 1994.