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Lionsgate hires MGM's Jim Packer to run television distribution

January 19, 2011 |  6:34 pm

Looking to ramp up its television activities, Lionsgate is hiring longtime Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive Jim Packer to run its TV distribution and digital operations.

Packer will become president of worldwide television distribution and digital, a new position, reporting to Lionsgate President Steve Beeks. Packer will focus on more aggressively selling Lionsgate shows in domestic and international markets and on how best to utilize the Internet. Packer is expected to work with Lionsgate’s chief of TV programming, Kevin Beggs, when selling shows internationally.

Lionsgate has carved out a niche in television, where it has made a mark producing sophisticated dramas and the juggernaut Tyler Perry comedy franchise. Last year, Lionsgate reported TV revenues of $350 million, up more than 50% from the prior year. The studio boasts such Emmy-winning cable shows as “Mad Men,” “Weeds,” “Nurse Jackie” and Perry’s “House of Payne.”

Five years ago Lionsgate expanded its TV business with the acquisition of the TV distributor Debmar-Mercury, which has rights to Comedy Central’s animated sitcom “South Park” and “House of Payne,” along with its spinoff, "Meet the Browns," which scored impressive ratings for TBS. Debmar-Mercury's two founders are expected to operate their division largely autonomously. 

Packer has been co-president of MGM Studios’ television operation, overseeing distribution and advertising sales. He launched the MGM HD channel and the digital broadcast network This TV, and negotiated partnerships with Apple Inc., and Hulu.

Lions Gate executives developed a good working relationship with Packer because he serves on the board of Epix, the movie channel owned by Lions Gate, MGM and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures. Packer will help manage Lions Gate's channel business.

-- Meg James