Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman will be playing with fire if he tries to sidestep questions about Nickelodeon’s declining ratings on Monday when he addresses the annual UBS Global Media & Communications Conference: Even some of his company’s more faithful supporters are beginning to wonder what the hell is going on. Today, Nomura Equity Research’s Michael Nathanson joined the pack, decreasing his price target for Viacom shares by $1 to $54 based largely on what he calls the “inexplicable declines” at the channel. He says that Viacom’s total ad growth could be as low as 3% in the last three months of 2011. The reason: Nick’s contribution to Viacom’s ad sales jumps from about 15% most of the year to 25% during the holiday season as companies turn to the kids channel to market toys, movies, and gifts. Nathanson says that’s a problem now given that Nick’s ratings “are down in the high teens, and that the remaining networks are also down (by about -4%).” The poor results plus Viacom’s refusal to provide guidance on ad expectations “remains the core controversy,” Nathanson says. (He still has a “buy” recommendation for Viacom, in part because its plan to repurchase $10B of its shares offsets the new earnings risks.) Early this month, Dauman described the drop in Nick’s ratings beginning in September as a “blip” largely attributable to problems with Nielsen’s measurements …
EXCLUSIVE: Lifetime has picked up 10 more episodes of its flagship drama Army Wives. The series is currently in production on its 13-episode sixth-season order. I hear Lifetime’s decision to stockpile more episodes was made now so the show could stay in continuous production. It comes after both of the network’s new series launched this past summer, The Protector and Against The Wall, underperformed. By not branding the pickup as a new season, Lifetime can have all original cast members locked in. The actresses don’t have deals beyond Season 6 but their contracts requires them to do all episodes produced, which would include a 23-episode sixth season.
The 23-episode order will likely be split into two batches but, from a contractual standpoint, Lifetime could make the stars of the show return for the 10 episodes at their current salary. While legal, such a move is generally frowned upon. I hear that Lifetime, which is currently deficit financing the ABC Studios/Mark Gordon Co-produced Army Wives, has offered the main cast members a raise of $10,000 per episode. That represents an increase of 10%-20% for the actresses, whose salaries vary but are all in the 5-figure range, but is far less than what they would get if they have to negotiate new contracts for a seventh season.
He is arguably the best actor on the ATP Tour with his spot-on impersonations. Now world’s No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic is set to make his professional acting debut with a cameo in The Expendables 2. Djokovic has already arrived in Bulgaria, where the sequel is filming. The tennis champion will play himself in the movie after getting an invitation from producer Avi Lerner. Djokovic, who won three of the four tennis Grand Slams this year during one of the best tennis seasons on record, is as well known for showmanship as he is for his tennis skills. Earlier this year, he filmed a parody of tennis player Maria Sharapova’s Head commercial, prompting the tennis equipment manufacturer to make a new commercial featuring both Djokovic as the Russian beauty and Sharapova herself. Below is a clip from the 2007 U.S. Open, where Djokovic was asked to do a couple of impersonations of fellow tennis players.
Yahoo has fielded offers this week from at least three bidders seeking a stake of about 20% of the company, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported, and the company’s directors will likely discuss those offers at a regularly scheduled board meeting Wednesday in Sunnyvale, Calif. Bidders include private-equity firm TPG Capital and a group consisting of Silver Lake Partners, Microsoft Corp. and others. Separately the Chinese online company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Softbank Corp. are looking to buy back Yahoo’s 40% stake in Alibaba and 35% stake in Yahoo Japan, sources said. Yahoo is also expected to receive an update on a continuing strategic review of the company at Wednesday’s board meeting. Yahoo would like to strike a deal on the minority stake sale by the end of the year, but failing that alternatives will be considered. The bids received this week place a per-share value on Yahoo of between $16 and $18, the sources said. Yahoo seeks a slightly higher price. The aforementioned firms have signed confidentiality agreements that limit their potential purchase to a minority stake. Bain, Blackstone and other firms including Providence Equity Partners and Hellman & Friedman have not signed confidentiality agreements with Yahoo because it would prevent them from going after the whole company. Additionally, Thomas H. Lee Partners is investigating an offer for Yahoo’s U.S. operations such as Yahoo Finance and Yahoo News and an Internet advertising business, other people familiar …
In some of the most startling testimony yet in the British government’s investigation into press ethics and phone hacking, former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullan declared Tuesday that departed editor Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were well aware of and actively encouraged illegal voicemail interception. To a direct question of whether Coulson and Brooks knew phone voicemails were being intercepted, McMullan replied, “Yes.” Coulson and Brooks have repeatedly declared either their ignorance or denied that the activity was taking place. Defending the practice, McMullan said ”I don’t think anyone realized that anyone was committing a crime at the start” and asserted that “Phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool given the sacrifices we make, if all we are trying to do is get to the truth.”
EXCLUSIVE: NBC’s The Munsters will be brought to you by The Bryans. X-Men and Superman Returns helmer Bryan Singer is finalizing a deal to direct and executive produce Bryan Fuller’s reboot of the 1960s comedy, which recently received a pilot order by NBC. Universal Television is producing the project, described as an imaginative reinvention of The Munsters as a visually spectacular one-hour drama. Singer, who had been interested in the project since before it got the greenlight by NBC two weeks ago, will executive produce with Fuller.
After originally developing The Munsters last season, Fuller redeveloped it with NBC’s new executive team this summer and delivered his new script at the beginning of this month. Like Fuller’s previous series, Pushing Daisies, The Munsters calls for striking visuals mixed with all the classic Munsters archetypes, and NBC had been looking for a top director to create the world of The Munsters circa 2011. The pilot for Fuller’s Pushing Daisies also was directed by a feature helmer, Barry Sonnenfeld, who earned an Emmy for his work. The first pilot Singer directed was House, and he continues to serve as an executive producer on the long-running Fox medical drama. Singer has since directed only one other pilot, ABC’s Football Wives, and he served as an executive producer on the ABC drama series Dirty Sexy Money. Earlier this year, he produced the Warner Premiere Digital Web series H+. On the feature side, …
EXCLUSIVE: Veteran Gersh TV lit agents Amy L. Retzinger and Rob Golenberg have left the agency. Both had been there for more than a decade. The move is a fallout from Gersh’s recent hire of CAA TV lit agent Roy Ashton as Partner and Head of the Television Literary Department and part of a restructuring at the department under Ashton. Neither Retzinger nor Golenberg have lined up their next gigs yet. There has been speculation that Retzinger might be headed to upstart Verve, while Golenberg is in the process of starting a representation/production business, which he will likely announce after the first of the year.
UPDATE: Paramount Responds To Melrose II Fund Lawsuit Over Profits From ‘Transformers’ And Other Films
UPDATE: Paramount has responded to the Melrose II lawsuit. “Paramount has complied with its obligations to Melrose 2 and has been forthcoming in the audit process. We are disappointed that these sophisticated investors would choose to file a lawsuit filled with hyperbole that ignores the true facts rather than seeing that process through to completion. The Melrose 2 investors have already received almost 90% of their investment back under the financing agreement, and a number of the films in which they participate (such as the successful Transformers 3) remain in the earliest stages of their earning potential.
“While we intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit, the differences between the parties’ positions are relatively modest in amount and we are confident they can be resolved in the ordinary course.” –Virginia Lam, spokesperson for Paramount Pictures.
EARLIER, 3:47 PM:
See the full complaint here.
LOS ANGELES, November 29, 2011 – Kirkland & Ellis LLP is representing Melrose Investors 2 LP (Melrose 2) in a breach of contract case in which Melrose 2 seeks to recover profits related to its nearly $375 million investment in 29 films produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation and DW Studios L.L.C., formerly known as Dreamworks Studios (Defendants).
The 29 films, which include such hits as Mission Impossible 3, Charlotte’s Web, Dreamgirls, Flags of Our Fathers, Blades of Glory, Jackass 2 and all three Transformers films, among others, have grossed close to $7 billion to date.
“The investor group was hoping to avoid being the third co-financing vehicle to have filed suit against Paramount and DW Studios LLC, but despite our ongoing efforts to settle our differences, Paramount has refused to cooperate,” a spokesperson for the investor group stated.
The complaint alleges:
· In 2006, Defendants entered into an agreement with Melrose 2 through which Melrose 2 would own up to a 25% copyright interest in up to 30 films that Defendants produced. To acquire this ownership interest, Melrose 2 agreed to fund a pro rata amount of the production costs.
· Melrose 2 met its obligations and has to date, provided nearly $375 million to Defendants to produce 29 films.
· In the five years since the agreement was signed, Melrose 2 has not received any profits from their nearly $375 million investment.
· Defendants have repeatedly hindered Melrose 2’s audits, engaged in obstructionist tactics, overstated losses and understated the revenues received in connection with the exploitation of the Melrose 2-funded films.
UPDATE: Paramount Says Jeremy Renner Never Told ‘Extra’ He’s Taking Over ‘Mission: Impossible’ From Tom Cruise
2ND UPDATE 8:30 PM: Extra has now revised its website. Here is the full account of how Jeremy Renner replied to the question about “the rumors his Mission: Impossible character might possibly take over in a 5th installment of the franchise. Renner shot down the rumor, replying: ’I don’t think that’s really ever a possibility. I think the possibility, first and foremost, is for audiences to receive this movie and like it, want to see more. And then it’s Tom’s willingness to want to do another one, to put together another big movie like this. These aren’t easy to put together. So if Paramount and Tom want me to do it, I’d be happy to be a part of it. I’d be up for it… assuming my character doesn’t croak. I’m not going to tell ya!’ “
UPDATE 7:30 PM: Now Paramount is denying the Extra account of its interview with Jeremy Renner. In fact Deadline was just played a portion of the tape by the studio. Renner is asked about the rumors that he would replace Tom Cruise on the Mission: Impossible franchise. And Renner responds: “No, I don’t think that’s ever really a possibility.” Sounds like Extra didn’t present Renner’s full reply and in doing so changed the meaning of what he said. But it’s also clear from the way the studio jumped into the fray that Paramount wants to ensure no bad blood between Renner and Cruise.
PREVIOUS: During an Extra interview …
If Summit Entertainment is actually serious about a merger or a sale, the company has the benefit of wheeling and dealing while it is at a high-water mark. Summit announced today that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1, flew past $500 million in global box office in just 12 days. The film is at $508 million today. It was released November 18 and single-handedly has brightened the overall box office picture. The film has generated $223 million domestic, making it one of only 12 films to reach $220 million in 10 days. Creatively, I thought the movie would have been much better had director Bill Condon finished Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn book in one movie. Let’s face it, the Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) wedding and subsequent pregnancy were sooooo drawn out, and nothing much happened. But then again, I am not a teenage girl or a Summit executive looking at another half-billion dollar haul once the second installment comes out next November 16.
EXCLUSIVE: Training Day scribe David Ayer has been hired to write the new version of Scarface for Universal Pictures. The film will put a contemporary spin on the outlaw tale first released in 1932 with Paul Muni playing an Italian who took over Chicago, and then turned into the spectacularly violent 1983 film that starred Al Pacino as Tony Montana, a Cuban who took over the cocaine trade in 1980s Miami. The new film is being produced by Marc Shmuger and his Global Produce banner along with Martin Bregman, who produced the Brian De Palma-directed version. When the studio set up the project in late September, the intention wasn’t to do a remake as much as to marry the common elements of the two films with a contemporary crime context. Basically, the focus is on an outsider, an immigrant who barges his way into the criminal establishment in pursuit of a twisted version of the American dream, becoming a kingpin through a campaign of ruthlessness and violent ambition.
Ayer tells me that he is not at all cowed by stepping into an iconic title. “This is a fantasy for me, I can still remember when I saw the film at 13 and it blew my mind,” he said. “I sought it out; I went after it hard. I see it as the story of the American dream, with a character whose moral compass points in a different direction. That puts it right in my wheelhouse. I studied both the original Ben Hecht-Howard Hawks movie and the DePalma-Pacino version and found some universal themes. I’m still under the hood figuring out the wiring that will translate, but both films had a specificity of place, there was unapologetic violence, and a main character who socially scared the shit out of people, but who had his own moral code. Each was faithful to the underworld of its time. There are enough opportunities in the real world today that provide an opportunity to do this right. If it was just an attempt to remake the 1983 film, that would never work.”
Considering how low interest rates are these days, it’s easy to see why Disney is joining the pack of companies looking to sell debt. The company says in a prospectus filed at the SEC that it expects to raise $1B from global notes that mature in 2014 and pay an annual interest rate of 0.875%, and $600M from global notes due in 2041 that pay 4.125%. The cash will be used for “general corporate purposes,” which may include repayment of other debt, and “to fund share repurchases.” Moody’s gave the notes an A2 rating, while Standard & Poor’s and Fitch rated them A. BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank are the lead underwriters. Disney’s offer follows a $1.85B bond sale in August, and a $500M sale in May.
ABC Family has picked up one of its top series, Pretty Little Liars, for a third season, which is slated to launch next summer. The size of the order is a whopping 24 episodes, which rivals those for broadcast drama series. It matches the mystery series’ sophomore-season order, which was consequently upped to 25 episodes with a Halloween special that aired last month. Pretty Little Liars, from Warner Horizon and Alloy, returns for the second part of its second season on Monday, January 2. The series, which broke ABC Family ratings records in several young demos when it premiered last year, has become one of the network’s top three shows, or as ABC Family’s president Michael Riley calls them, ABC Family’s “triple-threat”: Switched At Birth, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager and Pretty Little Liars.
ABC’s November 18 order of one additional episode to freshman drama Pan Am stands. Back then, the network opted for a one-episode back order to the 1960s drama, bringing the first-season run of Pan Am to 14 episodes, but producer Sony Pictures TV didn’t accept the offer right away. The negotiations between the sides stretched into the holiday weekend and were still in full force yesterday. To help shore up a full-season order, Sony added Steven Maeda as showrunner a month ago. In the end, the studio took ABC’s original offer and will produce one extra episode. This morning, one of the show’s stars, Karine Vanasse, tweeted that the cast and crew have “received THE call” and that “Pan Am is only coming back for one more episode after Christmas.” As ABC stated back on November 18, it will make final decision on the fate of the show beyond its first season in May. On ABC’s midseason schedule, Pan Am is being replaced by new dramedy GCB on Sundays 10 PM beginning in March.
Los Angeles, CA, November 29, 2011 –The International Press Academy today announced that acclaimed director Peter Bogdanovich will receive the 2011 Auteur Award at this year’s 16th Annual Satellite Awards™ on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 in Beverly Hills, Calif. IPA defines “Auteur” as a filmmaker whose singular vision and unique artistic control over the elements of production give a personal and signature style to their films. Past recipients of the International Press Academy’s Auteur Award include: Alex Gibney, Roger Corman, Baz Luhrmann, Robert Altman, Julian Schnabel, and George Clooney.