It’s a big day for $1B+ overseas TV deals. French conglomerate Vivendi has agreed to pay €1.02B ($1.4B) in cash for media group Lagardère’s 20% holding in Canal Plus France. This will give Vivendi a 100% stake in the French pay-TV unit, which falls under the Canal Plus Group, of which Vivendi already holds 100%. The agreement follows years of back-and-forth that has seen Lagardère consider a float of its holding on the Paris stock exchange and also sue Vivendi for €1.6B earlier this year in a dispute over a cash-management agreement. The parties have been in mediation for months and said today’s sale agreement “puts an end to all disputes between the two groups related to this participation.” Vivendi is in the process of exploring a split into two separate companies. The Universal Music Group owner would create a new international media group with interests in music, film, pay-TV and online as one business, and mobile phone operator SFR as the other. Canal Plus France, which traditionally makes its money from sports and movies, has been locked in a costly battle with Al Jazeera-backed BeIN Sport over soccer and other rights since the latter entered the fray in 2012. The deal, however, allows Vivendi to shed a minority shareholder with whom its had a bumpy ride and at a time when …
Leading French pay-TV operator Canal Plus is planting its first flag in Canada under this new deal with Dailymotion, Europe’s answer to YouTube. Canal+ Canada will launch in November as a VOD platform carrying original programming plus movies, TV series (including Les Revenants and The Tunnel), and documentaries. Sports for the moment are not part of the package. The service will be accessible in all of Canada, but the content will be delivered in French. Unlimited access to Canal+ Canada will be available via a monthly $7.99 subscription. There’s also an à la carte option. As with the Canal Plus flagship channel in France, the online Canadian outlet will air its news and entertainment shows unencrypted. Those include daily programs Les Guignols, Le Petit Journal and Le Grand Journal (for regulars of the Cannes Film Festival, that’s the one that broadcasts from the Croisette throughout the event).
Global Showbiz Briefs: Murderous Coloring Book Yanked; China’s Pop Culture Snobs; Canal Plus Series Lineup Set; More
Coloring Book Based On Horror Movies Yanked In UK After Marketing Gaffe
UK retailer Tesco has pulled a horror-movie-themed coloring book from its website after it was mistakenly marketed to children ages 5 to 8. The book, Colour Me Good Arrggghhhh!! includes images from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction. According to the BBC, Tesco said the book had been placed in the wrong category when listed on its website by a third-party seller. Author, artist and publisher Mel Elliott said the book is indeed meant for an adult audience of “playful grown-ups.”
Brit TV Dramas Drive ‘Snobbish Pop-Cultural Hierarchy’ In China
British dramas such as Downton Abbey and Sherlock are big hits at home and abroad, but in China they’re also part of what the Wall Street Journal calls “an increasingly snobbish pop-cultural hierarchy.” Described by local media as a “disdain chain,” it works like this: British drama fans look down on folks who prefer U.S. shows, and they in turn look down on Korean soap fans. The lowest of the low in the disdain chain are fans of domestic dramas. The taste for high-end British fare like Downton and Sherlock is a growing phenomenon. Entgroup compiled levels of discussion on different social media sites to find that British dramas are catching on with the wealthy youth and account for upwards of 9% of foreign TV discussion. Also notable, more than half of those who follow British dramas on social media sites have at least a bachelor’s degree, Entgroup found. Hit Brit shows like Downton are expected to have 160M online followers in the next two to three years. Sohu.com, Youku Tudou and Tencent all have dedicated online channels for British dramas and the Journal says the latter two are competing to sign exclusive deals with distributors like BBC Worldwide and Fremantle Media to stream the shows.
Nary a day went by at last month’s Cannes Film Festival without some sort of non-movie-related scandal erupting on the Croisette. Thieves who made off with millions in jewelry have yet to be apprehended, but a man now identified as Stéphane Cros has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for shooting blanks into the air during a live taping of Canal Plus‘ nightly news program Le Grand Journal. On May 17, Cros fired two shots from his perch in the audience of the show which broadcasts across from the Martinez Hotel throughout the festival. Daniel Auteuil and Christoph Waltz were being interviewed onstage at the time and were quickly evacuated. Cros was immediately immobilized by police after the incident. It’s now known that Cros purchased a replica Smith & Wesson the same day and was also carrying a fake grenade. In court on Monday, he read what was an incoherent statement, according to French daily Le Figaro, and then said he had wanted to get onto the Canal Plus set to “take myself hostage.” Ahead of the sentencing, the judge commented, “To use terror and violence as a way to impose one’s political ideals is the definition itself of terrorism. I’m not saying this was an act of terrorism, but intellectually the method is the same, only the degree of violence makes the difference.”
EXCLUSIVE: British TV writer-producers Simon Mirren and David Wolstencroft have come on board to rewrite Versailles, an English-language period drama series for French pay TV network Canal Plus. The duo will executive produce the 12-episode series, set at the Court of French King Louis XIV, alongside Anne Thomopoulos, who executive produces another European historical drama series, Borgia. On Versailles, co-produced by CAPA Drama and Zodiak’s Marathon, Mirren and Wolstencroft replace Mad Men‘s Andre and Maria Jacquemetton, who were signed for the project two years ago. Versailles is being fast-tracked for possible production start in early 2014. Zodiak Rights will handle worldwide distribution in non-English speaking territories.
Global Showbiz Briefs: François Ivernel Exits Pathé; Canal Plus France Legal Battle Will Go To Mediation
Veteran Exec François Ivernel Exits Pathé To Launch Production Company
Pathé said today that veteran top executive François Ivernel has resigned to launch Montebello Productions, a London-based film-production company that will open June 3. He most recently held several titles within the French company, serving as chairman of the board and managing director of Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé, deputy managing director of Pathé, as a member of its executive board and as president of Pathe U.K. Ivernel’s executive producer credits include the Best Picture Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire and Palme d’Or-winning The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Vivendi Agrees To Mediation With Lagardere Over Canal Plus France
Vivendi agreed Friday that a mediator should decide its legal spat with Lagardere over their pay-TV venture Canal Plus France. Lagardere had said in February it was suing Vivendi for 1.6 billion euros ($2 billion). Reuters reports that the media group wants Vivendi to return the sum to Canal+ France because it claims Vivendi – which owns 80% of the venture — is making permanent use of the business’s entire cash surplus under a disputed cash management agreement between the venture and its Vivendi-owned parent. Vivendi has in turn accused Lagardere of trying to destabilize it and force it to buy back Lagardere’s 20 percent stake in Canal+ France, a move Vivendi.
Canal Plus‘ nightly news program Le Grand Journal, which broadcasts live across from the Martinez Hotel here in Cannes, was interrupted tonight when gunshots were heard in the crowd. Jury members Christoph Waltz and Daniel Auteuil were being interviewed on the set when the incident occurred. The audience and talent on stage quickly evacuated. Grand Journal host Michel Denisot came back on air shortly after to say that Cannes police had taken the perpetrator into custody and that he had shot two blanks into the air as well as having a fake grenade in his possession. According to Le Figaro, the departmental head of public security for the Alpes-Maritimes region said the man was carrying an alarm pistol. There were no injuries. Here’s a video of the interruption:
Global Showbiz Briefs: New BBC Chief Takes Reins, HBO & Canal Plus, China’s TV Docu Market, Bona Film Group
New BBC Chief Says “Best Days Lie Ahead”
Today was the first day on the job for the BBC’s new director general, Tony Hall. The broadcaster’s former head of news returned to the Beeb after more than a decade as CEO of the Royal Opera House. The organization he confronted today is in far different shape than it was when he left. After going into crisis mode last October when the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal broke open, the BBC was rocked by the mishandling of a Newsnight report that mistakenly identified a senior politician as an alleged pedophile. Those events led to the resignation of former director general George Entwistle after only 54 days on the job. Mark Thompson, Entwistle’s predecessor, left in September to become CEO of The New York Times Company and under his watch austerity measures were put in place after the license fee that was frozen until 2017. Two major unions went out on strike at the BBC last Thursday in protest over what was referred to as “a modern-day BBC sweatshop” along with bullying claims at the company. Hall made a handful of appointments prior to starting at the BBC, but has yet to name a head of news or head of television. In an email to staff today, he said, “With imagination and hard work, the BBC’s best days lie ahead of us.”
Rodolphe Belmer Ascends At Canal Plus
Rodolphe Belmer has been appointed to the board the Canal Plus Group and named director general of the company. The executive, No. 2 at France’s dominant pay-TV company, was formerly deputy director general. Among his functions will be oversight of the free and pay-TV activities of Canal Plus in France as well as other activities. He will not, however, oversee international expansion or film-related activities which will remain under president Bertrand Meheut. According to Le Monde, Meheut, whose mandate at Canal Plus chief ends at the end of 2014, has been preparing his succession for several months. Belmer has been second in command at Canal since 2003 and recently oversaw the acquisition of free-to-air channels Direct 8 and Direct Star from the Bolloré group.
Yahoo To Bow Out Of South Korea
Yahoo Inc’s South Korean operation said today it will exit the country, underscoring its struggle against Google, Facebook and local competitors expanding aggressively into mobile advertising and online services. South Korea is the first Asian country Yahoo is leaving. Yahoo Korea, which started business in 1997 and is wholly owned by the U.S. search company, has around 200-250 employees in South Korea. It will terminate Korean online portal services in December. In the South Korean market, it has failed to beat local rivals such as NHN Corp, Daum Communications Corp and SK Communications Co.
Gaumont International TV said last month that it planned to turn the iconic Barbarella character into a series, much the same way it did in producing Hannibal that has been picked up by NBC and Hemlock Grove which is at Netflix. Now fellow European-based studio Canal Plus has joined in on the TV project, which is being executive produced by Martha De Laurentiis and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), who also is directing. The character made famous by Jane Fonda in the 1968 sci-fi movie produced by Dino De Laurentiis came from Jean-Claude Forest’s graphic novel about a sexpot tasked with finding and stopping the evil weapons inventor. Forest’s son Julien Forest and Hollywood Comics principal Jean-Marc Lofficier are co-exec producing the TV project.
France’s Canal Plus and The Walt Disney Company have pacted to offer Disney movies and TV shows on Canal’s VOD service Canalplay Infinity. The paid subscription service will now offer some 100 film titles from Disney including the Pirates Of The Caribbean and National Treasure films, among others. Full seasons of ABC TV shows like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives will also be available. The 9.99 euros per month unlimited service was launched in November in a burgeoning and competitive market that includes Allociné’s iCinema platform and Wild Bunch’s FilmoTV. Netflix, for the moment however, is not a player in France.
France’s leading pay-TV group Canal Plus is digging deeper into Poland via a partnership with local media groups ITI and TVN to create a new pay-TV platform. Outside France, Canal has long been active in Poland and also reaches subscribers in French-speaking Africa and Vietnam for a total of 12.7 million subs worldwide. The new deal gives Canal the option of taking a larger stake in the new entity down the line.
Paris, Luxembourg, Warsaw (December 19, 2011) – CANAL+ Group, ITI Group and TVN Group today announced the entry into a strategic partnership to combine their Polish pay-TV businesses and for Canal+ Group to become a key shareholder in TVN.
This combination of Cyfra+ and TVN’s ‘n’ creates a leading direct-to-home (DTH) platform with an expected combined base of 2.5 million post-paid customers by the end of 2011. Canal+ Group will own 51% of the share capital of the newly-created pay-TV Company, with TVN Group and UPC owning 32% and 17% respectively.
While sports broadcast rights have been making headlines recently in the U.S., another battle has been waged on the soccer fields of France. France’s leading pay-TV operator Canal Plus, traditionally the destination for soccer in France, has been under siege of late from newcomer Al Jazeera Sport, but today the group finally scored a goal with the UEFA Champions League. Canal announced this evening in Paris that it’s won the rights to the top pick of games for the 2012-2015 soccer season, including the finale, for a total of 13 games. The news is of special interest given the full-frontal charge the group has been facing from Al Jazeera, but also because the rights for these particular big-ticket games generally go to the nation’s leading free web TF1. A Canal Plus spokesman tells Deadline that TF1 was in the bidding for this round, but he was unaware if Al Jazeera had also put in an offer.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Warner Bros UK Preps Inaugural Creative Talent Initiative; Hugh Bonneville Reprising ‘Twenty Twelve’ Role; More
Warner Bros UK Gears Up For Creative Talent Initiative
Warner Bros UK has recruited its first group of scholars, apprentices and trainees for the inaugural season of Warner Bros Creative Talent. The first selection will participate in the program to gain industry insight and work experience across Warner’s UK film, TV, games and theater operations. The initiative is part of Warner Bros’ long-term commitment to the UK’s creative industries. Among the first folks chosen to take part are students Rienkje Attoh, Sam Coleman and Sam Hughes who are receiving the first Prince William Scholarships supported by BAFTA and Warner Bros. Four others will work as camera trainees and sound trainees on Ron Howard’s Heart Of The Sea and Guy Ritchie’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. More information on the program is available here.
Hugh Bonneville Back As Ian Fletcher In BBC’s ‘W1A’
Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville will reprise his role as Ian Fletcher in a new BBC comedy, W1A. The show is a follow-up to BAFTA-winning comedy series Twenty Twelve, from BBC In-House Comedy. Shooting starts next month on the series that sees Fletcher, the ex-head of the Olympic Deliverance Commission, taking up his next big job – the (fictional) Head of Values at the BBC. His task is to clarify, define, or redefine the core purpose of the BBC across all its functions and to position it confidently for the future. In Twenty Twelve (available on iTunes in the U.S.), the network poked fun at the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics and here looks to be taking a shot at itself after the broadcaster suffered a string of PR scandals in the past year. But John Morton, who wrote the series, says: “It isn’t a demolition job on anybody or anything, and it isn’t one giant in-joke, and this isn’t a game of guessing who is supposed to be who. If it is satirical then it’s satirical about an environment, an ethos, and the absurdities of modern corporate life itself. The key principle is to operate at a level of reality just to the left or the right of fact, to create stories that haven’t actually happened but that could happen or might have happened.“ Says Mark Freeland, head of BBC In-House Comedy: “This is a kind of love letter to the BBC. But a letter that gets mislaid, because the remote computer system is not working.” Twenty Twelve’s Morton also directs the comedy that’s produced by that show’s Paul Schlesinger and executive produced by Jon Plowman. There will be an initial run of four 30-minute episodes to be screened in 2014 on BBC Two.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BSkyB Opens Sky Store To Nonsubscribers; Netflix Eyeing France Launch?; More;
BSkyB Opens Its Sky Store Rentals To All Broadband Users
BSkyB set a challenge today to streaming providers in the UK such as Netflix and LoveFilm by announcing it has opened its Sky Store movie rental service to anyone with a broadband connection. The service does not require a Sky subscription, meaning all users in the UK and the Republic of Ireland will have access. Sky, which is controlled by 21st Century Fox, says new films including Man Of Steel and Despicable Me 2 are available from today with other fresh titles available at the same time as they drop on DVD. Those will rent for £3.49 ($5.70) each. Library titles will go for 99p-£1.99. There are already about 1,200 movies online which can be streamed through SkyStore.com, or via NOW TV, Roku and YouView. Sky’s had success with renting movies to its existing customers with 2.1 million rentals in the third quarter.
Report: Netflix Mulls Expansion Into France
Netflix has been a long time coming to France, Europe’s third-largest market, but is the tide about to turn? According to Reuters, executives from Netflix met with the staff of French President François Hollande this week to discuss the move. Netflix is available in 41 countries including France’s neighbors to the north such as the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic region. A French launch has been rumored over the years, but moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery for the streaming service given a complex film-windows chronology. There is no such protection for TV series, but many U.S. shows air as much as a year later than they do in the U.S. on traditional networks like TF1. TF1 has a VOD service that offers first-run U.S. series on a one-day delay and pay-TV leader Canal Plus airs first-run series within a few days; it even launched a new channel this year on which to showcase them. But movies are hampered by rules that prohibit films from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. Rentals via a set-top box are permissible four months after theatrical. The windows issue has long been a thorny one in France, with industry opinions divided, but discussions are ongoing. A Hollande rep told Reuters, “Netflix wanted information about the legal conditions that would affect its potential arrival in France.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: Anurag Kashyap Petitioning India’s High Court Over Anti-Smoking Disclaimer; Berlin’s Zoo Palast Reopening; More
Anurag Kashyap To Petition India’s High Court Over Anti-Smoking Disclaimer
Indian director Anurag Kashyap is reportedly filing a petition with the High Court of Mumbai against the local censor board after it sought to have the filmmaker insert a government-mandated anti-smoking warning into his drama Ugly. The movie, which debuted in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, is set for release on January 3 in its home territory. The Bollywood Hungama blog says Kashyap contends the disclaimers, which would appear when anyone lights up on screen, restrain filmmakers’ rights to freedom of speech and expression. Per the blog, Kashyap claims the warning also destroys the aesthetic value of a film and distracts the audience. India’s censors cracked down on smoking last year, and last month Woody Allen pulled his Blue Jasmine from release in India over the disclaimers.
Berlin’s Historic Zoo Palast Reopening After Renovation
Berlin’s Zoo Palast cinema is to reopen on Thursday after a major renovation. AFP reports that the former Cold War-era theater will have seating for 1,650 moviegoers in seven screening rooms. The theater originally opened in 1919 as the Ufa-Palast am Zoo and was the largest cinema in Germany until 1929. It was a major location for film premieres, including Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph Of The Will under the Nazis in 1935. It was destroyed in a 1943 Allied bombing raid and replaced in 1957 by the Zoo Palast. The recent three-year restoration cost €7.4M ($10.1M), according to AFP. The Zoo Palast also was part of the Berlin International Film Festival until 1999 when the fest moved its center of activity to Potsdamer Platz.
EXCLUSIVE: Back when he was in France to head the Cannes Film Festival jury, Steven Spielberg dropped a bombshell when he announced that he would turn an un-produced Stanley Kubrick screenplay about Napoleon Bonaparte into a miniseries. Well, here’s another bombshell: They are courting Baz Luhrmann to direct the mini at HBO.
Deals are a long way from being made, but I’m told the plan is for Luhrmann to take on what becomes the highest-profile miniseries at that payweb. When Spielberg first revealed the project in an interview with Canal Plus on French TV, he said that this was the project Kubrick had dreamed of making, only to drop it when Hollywood studios refused to fund it, even after Kubrick promised in a letter to studio executives in 1971 that it would be the best movie ever made. Indeed, the movie has been coined “the greatest movie never made.”
Luhrmann, who last directed the hit The Great Gatsby, isn’t the only helmer interested in the diminutive French conqueror. Warner Bros just set Snow White And The Huntsman helmer Rupert Sanders to direct a feature about Napoleon. This isn’t the first time Lurhmann has been in a competitive situation on an historic project: He was gearing up to direct Leonardo DiCaprio in Alexander The Great, but was beaten …
Les Revenants — an American remake of which is in development at A&E — was named best drama series of 2013 at the International Emmy Awards tonight, while Sean Bean won the best actor trophy for his role as a lit teacher with a cross-dressing alter ego in the British anthology Accused. Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro won best actress for her role in The Sweet Mother. The UK’s Moone Boy, about an Irish boy and his imaginary friend, took best comedy. Former The Daily Show correspondent (and newly named HBO show host) John Oliver hosted this year’s International Emmy ceremony, whose Founders Award went to J.J. Abrams, while the Directorate Award was presented to RTL Group Co-CEO Anke Schäferkordt.
Les Revenants, the French TV series based on an obscure 2004 movie that sold only 32,000 tickets in France, was a hit on Canal Plus and sold around the world — including the UK, where it aired subtitled as The Returned this year to great interest, and on Sundance Channel. The drama is about a small town turned upside down when several local people who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, having not aged and unaware of their own fatality. As they attempt to resume their lives, strange phenomena and gruesome murders begin to occur. A second season is planned for Canal Plus.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Biddy Baxter Set For BAFTA Honor; TrustNordisk Sells ‘Ragnarok’ In Multiple Territories; More
Biddy Baxter Set For Honor At British Academy Children’s Awards
BAFTA will present TV producer and writer Biddy Baxter with its Special Award at this year’s British Academy Children’s Awards on November 24. The award recognizes an individual’s outstanding contribution to children’s media and the entertainment industry. David Attenborough will make the presentation to Baxter. She first joined the BBC in 1955 as a radio studio manager, later becoming the producer of Listen With Mother and School Radio’s Junior English programs and then of BBC Television Children’s Programmes. She was editor of kids show Blue Peter from 1962-88, receiving 12 BAFTA nominations and winning two statues during her tenure. In 2003, she founded the John Hosier Music Trust to provide scholarships to enable talented but impoverished music students to undertake postgraduate studies.
TrustNordisk Sells ‘Ragnarok’ To China, India, Other Territories
TrustNordisk has concluded further deals on its Norwegian action-adventure pic Ragnarok. The film previously sold to Magnolia in the U.S. and has added China (Melting Culture Ltd.), Indonesia (Pratama Film), Spain (Artwood), Brazil (Mares Filmes LTDA) and Thailand (IPA) to its list of territories. It premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin and was released locally on October 4. It is currently the top local film of 2013 at the Norwegian box office. Ragnarok stars Kon-Tiki’s Pål Sverre Hagen as an archeologist obsessed with the Oseberg Viking ship. …