Two leaders in LDS leisure activities are joining forces in a relationship that likely will lead to more family-oriented products available in more places.
Deseret Book Co. said Monday it has acquired Excel Entertainment Group for an undisclosed amount, bringing together two companies that had some competing operations and others that were complementary.
"In a really great marriage, you bring two people together and the sum of the two is way better than either of them are individually, and I think we will be far stronger together than either of us have been individually," said Sheri Dew, Deseret Book's president and chief executive officer.
Deseret Book publishes, distributes and sells religious books and music primarily for customers who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Excel has distributed LDS films and produced and distributed music, with "God's Army," "The Other Side of Heaven" and "Charly" in its portfolio of films. Deseret Book published the latter two, and the companies jointly marketed DVD and VHS versions of all three. The combined company's first project will be "The Work and the Glory," a film from the Deseret Book best-selling book series that hits Utah theaters next week.
Excel president Jeff Simpson becomes executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Deseret Book.
"We think this is all about the customer. You see media companies all over the world coming together to form stronger companies to meet their customers' needs better. We hope this means we can be a stronger driving force in wholesome family entertainment," Dew said.
"Jeff and his company have proven as have some other companies that also are doing this that there is a thirst for wholesome family entertainment. I can tell you that several of the top 10 items sold in our stores all year long are LDS movies. For the customer, what this means, I hope, is that we can do a better job of making those movies and the music and getting it distributed to more and more people and being sure our customers have a steady stream of wholesome family films and great music."
Deseret Book will keep the Excel Entertainment name for the combined company's movie distribution division and for select music artists. All music products and artists will be managed under Deseret Book's Shadow Mountain music label. Simpson will oversee the development and marketing of products in the film, music and publishing divisions.
Dew said the combined music division should be strong because each of the two music divisions has been "very good at certain kinds of music and certain kinds of music promotion . . . but there's not really a lot of overlap. There's only a little bit of overlap and a lot of unique talent on both sides."
As for the film division, "Internally, we won't see it changing a lot except we can now bring to bear the distribution we have that we think can enhance the distribution they have had in the past."
Simpson and Dew had been talking for a couple of years about ways to "benefit the whole industry," Simpson said, adding that the transaction's final form was discussed the past six months or so. Plus, they said, such strategic relationships are common among media companies.
"It's been sort of an evolution of talks we were having about how do we do what we do better," he said. "Then it seemed to be a lot of adding of elements that, if we put them together, they would be stronger."
In the music arena, Simpson said Deseret Book has a "bigger marketing machine," including its stores' distribution channel, whereas Excel's has been more "grass-roots-oriented, a lot more PR-oriented and promotions-oriented."
"We will take those strengths and put them together," he said. The record labels, he said, "we've come to think now that they may be complementary rather than competitive."
Ultimately, the audience will be the winners as the combined company does a better job of "finding, creating and developing better cultural relevant media that is faith-based and values-based and doing a better job at delivering that to the audience," he said.
He added, "They may not see anything tomorrow change, or the next day change, but hopefully they'll see an evolution in the entire marketplace and see better media and stronger media that really is aligned with their values, that is faith-based and works for them."Neither Simpson nor Dew expect the transaction to affect content of future films. Deseret Book has sold every Excel product so far.