Universal Music Publishing Group Inks Deals To Expand Its Film/TV Assets

As sliding music sales shrink mechanical income for publishers, Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) is looking to expand its foothold in film and TV music.

In a move that bulks up its already significant presence in the genre, the company recently signed worldwide administration deals with HBO, Grammy- and Emmy Award-winning composer James Newton Howard and DreamWorks Studios.

The deal with HBO on its musical works covers films, documentaries and hit TV shows ranging from "Get Smart" to "Big Love," "Bored to Death" and "Entourage." The administration pact with Howard covers all works he controls and future works, while the DreamWorks deal covers music from the studio's future releases, beginning with the new sci-fi movie "I Am Number Four."

"These signings go back to one of our core strengths as a company: being a music publisher aligned with a film studio and handling film and television music," UMPG chairman/CEO David Renzer says. "Additionally, as we know that mechanical [royalties] continue their decline, performance-driven catalogs such as film and TV are becoming more attractive to music publishers."

Although UMPG parent Vivendi recently completed the sale of its NBC Universal stake to Comcast, the publisher's administration deals remain in place with Universal Pictures and NBC, which are signed through deals negotiated directly by UMPG. The company also has other important film/TV administration deals in place with Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Television Production, Aardman Animation ("Wallace & Gromit," "Chicken Run"), Bravo, CNBC, Fremantle and others.

It also maintains a roster of prominent film composers, including A.R. Rahman, Danny Elfman, Atticus Ross, Angelo Badalamenti and-through its administration relationship with Warner Bros.-Hans Zimmer.

Aside from its experience in administering film and TV music, UMPG has the benefit of being the only major music publishing company to be based in Hollywood, although the company's pursuit of movie and TV studios "is a focus of our company, not just in the U.S. but internationally," Renzer says.

Beyond administration, UMPG is planning to unveil in March a comprehensive overhaul of its website, where music supervisors will be able to search for and listen to UMPG-owned or administered songs and excerpts from UMPG-administered film scores. The company also recently launched new production music sites FirstCom.com and KillerTracks.com.

Moreover, Universal is helping studios repackage scores, production music and cues that they own and have used in their films to create a library to shop for third-party licensing for uses in film trailers and background music in other movies.

Aligning with film and TV studios also brings another bonus to UMPG and its songwriters in that a "creative relationship comes with these deals," Renzer says. "When DreamWorks was looking for a partner to handle their music, they were looking for an active music A&R partner," he recalls.

Works by UMPG artist/songwriters like 30 Seconds to Mars, Adele and Snow Patrol appear in DreamWorks' "I Am Number Four" and its trailers.

"The fact that Universal has an incredible roster and is a part of the biggest label group in the world plays into the relationship with the studios," Renzer says. "We try to open all those doors on the film and TV side and it creates a great avenue for our writers and producers as well."