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Corus TV chief to tackle troubled Nelvana

Toronto, - Corus Entertainment is combining the operations of its troubled Nelvana animation unit and its TV division into one integrated business unit headed by Paul Robertson.

The announcement Wednesday came two weeks after Corus announced that Nelvana founder Michael Hirsh would step aside as the wholly owned subsidiary's chief executive but remain as an adviser.

Corus chief executive John Cassaday said Wednesday that Robertson, while president of Corus Television, "has consistently delivered outstanding financial results and programming schedules, always with customer service as a top priority."

"We're confident that both Nelvana and our television businesses will gain significant momentum under his leadership," Cassaday said in a release.

Corus added Nelvana to its diverse list of holdings, which include YTV and other kid-oriented specialty TV channels as well as radio stations and advertising services, in a takeover two years ago.

At the time, Cassaday and Hirsh said Nelvana, one of the world's leading producers of animated children's programming, would fit well within the Corus group. But the anticipated financial rewards have not materialized.

On Oct. 23, Corus took a $200-million, fourth-quarter writedown on Nelvana, nearly half the $540 million that it paid to acquire Nelvana in late 2000.

One of the criticisms levelled at Nelvana is that it hasn't been able to fully exploit its critically acclaimed TV programs, such as Babar, Little Bear and Franklin, to make money from spinoff products and toys.

Robertson has had a long career in Canada's television industry, including periods as president of YTV, president of Baton Broadcast Sales and senior vice-president of programming and marketing for CTV Television Network Ltd.

Corus also announced that Peter Moss, head of programming for Corus Television, has been given the added title of executive vice-president of development for Nelvana.

Emmy Award-winner Scott Dyer will continue as executive vice-president responsible for all Nelvana production. And Emmanuele Petry has been promoted to senior vice-president responsible for program sales, licensing and co-production in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

The Nelvana executive team will be rounded out by a senior position focused on the commercial aspects of Nelvana with responsibility for all sales, marketing, publishing, consumer products and brand building, Corus said.

Corus shares (TSX:CJR.B) traded at $21.19 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, down 31 cents from the previous close -- about half what they traded at two years ago when Corus acquired Nelvana.

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