In February, Warner Bros Television Group said it had entered into an agreement to acquire the businesses of Netherlands-based producer Eyeworks outside the U.S. Today, the studio confirms it has received the required regulatory approvals and has completed the transaction. In yet another instance of key consolidation in the indie TV production space, Warner is buying Eyeworks’ interests in 15 territories across Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. The deal adds 13 new markets to Warners’ international network of production companies, helping it establish a strong foothold. Warner Bros is also taking over all of Eyeworks’ international distribution activities for both formats and finished product.
Tracey Lentz joins AMC from 3Ball Productions/Eyeworks USA, where she was VP of development. In her new role as VP unscripted programming, Lentz will focus on developing unscripted series for the network. She will be based in L.A. and report to Eliot Goldberg, SVP unscripted programming. At Eyeworks, Lentz was involved in the development and sale of shows including Celebrity Splash (ABC), Catch A Contractor (Spike), Hungry Investors (Spike), My Big Fat Revenge (Oxygen), Funniest Wins (TBS), Remote Survivor (Nat Geo) and Opposite Worlds (Syfy). She also helped manage American Chopper and the re-launch of Trading Spaces. She previously held creative positions at Current TV, ABC Media Productions, TLC, GSN/Game Show Network and Showtime Networks.
Speculation has been swirling around a Warner Bros acquisition of Netherlands-based TV producer Eyeworks for several weeks. Warner Bros Television Group now says it has entered into an agreement to acquire all of Eyeworks’ businesses outside the U.S., in 15 territories across Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. The purchase is an important part of WB Television Group’s growth strategy as it aims to establish a strong foothold in major TV production markets around the world. Ronald Goes, EVP and head of Warner Bros International Television Production, said today, “Eyeworks has the scale to help grow our presence in the global marketplace, as well as quality production capabilities and broadcaster relationships. I am confident that, as part of Warner Bros, it will continue to create and produce high quality content that can become franchises and be exported to create local versions in other markets around the world.” Among shows Eyeworks already makes are Celebrity Splash!, Extreme Weight Loss and Test The Nation. The company also recently signed a development deal with Fox Television Studios to jointly develop scripted programming originating from Scandinavian writers for the U.S. and international markets.
The acquisition by Warner Bros, for which financials were not provided, is subject to regulatory approval. The deal will add 13 new territories to Warner’s existing network of local production companies. Warner already has a majority stake in UK production group Shed Media and in BlazHoffski Holdingan, an indie producer that operates in The Netherlands and Belgium.
Global Showbiz Briefs: ITV Orders Quiz Show ‘The 21st Question’; Eyeworks’ ‘Beat The Blondes’ Format Adapted For China
ITV Orders Quiz Show ‘The 21st Question’
ITV has ordered The 21st Question, a new tactical quiz show from Chocolate Media. In the game, one power player faces 10 challengers through a series of tense “winner stays on” rounds designed to test strategy and wits of all players. Only one of the players will successfully fend off all the competition, and whoever is left standing faces a chance to win big — provided they can answer the 21st Question. The 10-episode hourlong show will be executive produced by David Mortimer and Alan Brown and air on ITV1 later this year.
Eyeworks’ ‘Beat The Blondes’ Format Adapted For China
Eyeworks’ Beat The Blondes format is headed to China. 3C Media will adapt the show for the market and produce 13 episodes in the spring for a selection of regional free TV channels in Jiangxi, Henan, Chongqing, Shanxi, Qingdao TV and Hubei. The adapted local version will have one male contestant competing with 50 long-haired beauties in two rounds of general-knowledge battles. Said 3C Media President and CEO Xichen Liu, “We are using long-haired girls instead of blondes due to the traditional Chinese saying, ‘Women’s wit does not match their long hair, thus women are short-sighted.’” Eyeworks’ Celebrity Splash format launched in China last year.
Warner Bros isn’t talking, but Dutch media is reporting today that the company is in talks to acquire Netherlands-based TV producer Eyeworks, Reuters said. Warner Bros International Television Production already has a majority stake in UK production group Shed Media and in BlazHoffski Holdingan, an indie producer that operates in The Netherlands and Belgium. Eyeworks produces and distributes unscripted programs in 16 countries including many in Europe as well as the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Latin America. Among its shows are Celebrity Splash, Extreme Weight Loss, Test The Nation and I Know What You Did Last Friday. European production companies have been increasingly attractive acquisitions targets in general over the last year, with ITV taking majority stakes in the UK’s Big Talk, The Garden and So Television while Modern Times Group bought Nordic outfit Nice Entertainment and FremantleMedia took controlling interest in Denmark’s Miso Film. Also, NBCUniversal owns Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films.
In October last year, Banijay International requested an injunction against Dutch producer Eyeworks on the grounds that there were “approximately 100 similarities” between its eight-year-old format Stars In Danger: High Diving and Eyeworks’ newcomer Celebrity Splash. A Dutch court has now poured cold water on Banijay’s claims, but both sides say they are considering further legal action.
Global Showbiz Briefs: “Documentary” Sting Nabs Alleged Pirate Kingpin; ‘Now You See Me’ Tops Box Office In China; More
It’s The Old Consult-On-A-Movie-About-Maritime-Piracy Trick
If this real-life tale were pitched as a movie, it might go something like this: “Imagine Argo meets Captain Phillips, with a little In Bruges thrown in.” Mohamed Abdi Hassan, an alleged pirate mastermind, was arrested during the weekend after arriving in Belgium from Nairobi. He was led there by the belief that he was signing a deal to act as an expert adviser on a documentary about the Somali piracy business. Instead, he was met by authorities, who arrested him. Hassan, aka Afweyne or “Big Mouth”, was charged with hijacking the Belgian ship Pompei in 2009 and kidnapping its crew, per the Associated Press. Some of the pirates involved in that attack were caught and convicted, but Hassan remained at large. When he evaded capture in Malaysia in 2012, Belgian authorities took the undercover route and approached an alleged accomplice, Mohamed Aden, saying they wanted Hassan to “collaborate as adviser and expert in the matter on a film about maritime piracy,” federal prosecutor Johan Delmulle told The New York Times. After months of back-and-forth, Hassan and Aden agreed to travel to Belgium. When they arrived on Saturday, they were arrested and sent to Bruges for a court hearing. Today, the hearing was pushed to October 30.
‘Now You See Me’ Opens Atop Chinese Box Office With $9.1M
Heist pic Now You See Me was No. 1 at the Chinese box office over the weekend. The film about a group of magicians who pull off a complex caper made $9.1M in its first four days of release over the local holiday, FilmBizAsia reports. Local pic Love Will Tear Us Apart opened with $5.21M in its first two days and in its third weekend, Tsui Hark’s Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon took a further $6.93M for a cume of $88.7M, outperforming Hark’s last pic, 2011’s Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Malala Yousafzai Documentary; Danny O’Donoghue Exits ‘The Voice UK’; S. Korea’s ‘Mr Go’ At Bat; More
Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald Prep Documentary On Malala Yousafzai
Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald are to produce a feature-length documentary chronicling the story of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student who last year survived a brutal assassination attempt by the Taliban. Davis Guggenheim is directing the film that’s financed by Image Nation Abu Dhabi. Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by gunmen who targeted her for speaking out on behalf of education for girls in her community. She recovered in Birmingham, England, and became the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Parkes says, “There are few stories Laurie and I have ever come across that are as compelling, urgent or important as the real-life struggle of Malala and her father Ziauddin on behalf of universal education for children. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to try to bring the lives of these extraordinary people to the screen.” The film will debut in theatrical release in late 2014. Yousafzai is repped by Ron Bernstein of ICM on behalf of Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.
Coach Danny O’Donoghue Exits ‘The Voice UK’
BBC One’s The Voice UK has lost last season’s winning coach Danny O’Donoghue. The Irish musician will not be returning to the show due to recording commitments …
ABC‘s new injury-plagued Splash isn’t the only reality diving show hampered by safety concerns. Xinhua News Agency reports 18-year-old Peng Jiaxuan, assistant to martial artist/contestant Shi Xiaolong on China’s Celebrity Splash China, drowned in a pool during a training session April 19. The show broadcast on China’s Zhejiang TV and ABC’s Splash are both spin-offs of the original Dutch format. The death happened a day after US Splash contestant Nicole Eggert was injured on the set of ABC’s American version and subsequently hospitalized. In recent weeks fellow contestant Rory Bushfield ruptured an eardrum and Louie Anderson suffered bruised ribs in training, while show-related injuries forced Katherine Webb and Chuy Bravo to quit the show in its first month on the air.
Niklas Lagergren Leaves MPA For News Corp’s Brussels Office
News Corp. has named Niklas Lagergren as SVP government affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Lagergren joins the company from the Motion Picture Association where he was most recently VP for EU affairs, working closely with the Hollywood majors at the European level. He will start the job on March 1, based at the company’s new Brussel’s office. Lagergren, who has been with the MPA for over 10 years, said, “I have been both professionally and personally committed to representing the public affairs interests of media companies and I am now fortunate to be able to take my efforts to a new level by joining the leader in global media.” News Corp. also appointed Benjamin King director of government affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa, reporting to Lagergren. He was formerly public affairs manager for News International.
In one of two recent format disputes, the Banijay Group has won a ruling to stop broadcaster SBS and The Voice creator Talpa Media from using the title The Next Popstar for an upcoming Dutch talent show. Banijay objected to the name, saying it too closely resembled its own format, Popstars. That show, which has spawned versions in more than 50 countries, ran for three years on SBS’ SBS6, the same channel that The Next Popstar was targeting in the Netherlands. In its decision, the District Court of The Hague prohibited Talpa and SBS from using the name going forward based on an article of the Paris Convention relating to well-known trademarks. Banijay recently acquired a majority stake in Australian production company Screentime, which in 1999 created the Popstars format that served as a precursor to the Idol series of singing competition shows.
When Fox last week greenlighted Stars In Danger: High Diving, a two-hour reality special/backdoor pilot for celebrity diving competition to air during the upcoming holidays, it was unclear whether ABC would proceed with their very similar straight-to-series project Celebrity Splash, which is not slated to premiere until next year, after the rival Fox show.
ABC put speculation to rest today, booking its first piece of talent for Celebrity Splash, four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, who will serve as a judge. The series, produced by Eyeworks USA, will feature celebrities performing dives from heights of up to 10 meters, increasing in difficulty each week. A professional diving instructor will train each celebrity for several weeks leading up to the competition. Louganis will serve as one of three judges who will rate the dives.
This is the latest example of Fox jumping ahead of ABC with shows that have concepts similar to ABC series, like Nanny 911 vs. ABC’s Supernanny and Trading Spouses vs. Wife Swap.
BBC Comedies Vie For Commissions At Salford Sitcom Showcase
The BBC is taking a shot at remaking It Takes A Village, the 2010 ABC pilot by Casey Johnson & David Windsor that starred Leah Remini. Whether the UK version actually goes forward, however, will be in the hands of a live studio audience next month. For the second year in a row, the BBC is testing a crop of potential shows in front of a live audience at the Salford Sitcom Showcase, a three-day event during which six comedy pilots are performed onstage to a packed house as execs take notes. The first edition spawned commissions for family sitcoms Citizen Khan, which BBC One just picked up for a second season, and Hebburn which debuted on BBC Two this month. On deck at this year’s showcase with It Takes A Village are the battling-neighbors show 1987, from Sherlock producers Beryl and Sue Vertue; Just Us, about a couple forced to downsize from London that’s exec produced by Don Taffner for DLT Entertainment and stars Downton Abbey‘s Samantha Bond; The Gatekeeper, from exec producers Gareth Edwards and Saurabh Kakkar about a 40-ish man who works the nightshift as a security guard; the Pete Thornton exec produced Chain Gang about life in a Bristol coffee bar and family show Homeboys from exec producer Mario Stylianides for Lucky Giant. This year, the Salford Showcase runs from Nov 21-23.
Seven Network Unveils New And Returning Lineup
Australian Seven Network has commissioned Eyeworks to produce a local version of Celebrity Splash, a Dutch format that U.S. network ABC also has embraced, and it will co-produce The Mole-Culture Clash with FremantleMedia Australia. These were among the new shows for 2013 unveiled by Seven, the top-rated prime-time network for the past six years, on Tuesday night. Debutantes include A Place to Call Home, an Australian drama series about a woman whose privileged family is rocked by scandal, set in a rural town in the 1950s, created by Bevan Lee (who created Seven’s hit Packed to the Rafters); and Mrs. Biggs, a British drama series starring Sheridan Smith as the woman who married notorious train robber Ronnie Biggs, a co-production between ITV Studios, Seven and December Films. Among the fresh U.S. series will be Last Resort, Red Widow and Zero Hour. Returning shows include Revenge, Downton Abbey, The X-Factor, Dancing with the Stars and Australia’s Got Talent.
EXCLUSIVE: The U.S. reality pool is getting crowded. Fox is taking a plunge into the competition celebrity diving reality arena with Stars In Danger: High Diving, a two-hour special that will air this winter. It will be produced by Bunim/Murray Prods based on a format owned by its parent company Banijay International. If successful, it could spawn a regular series.
The Stars In Danger green light comes on the heels of ABC giving a straight-to-series order earlier this month to Celebrity Splash, a competition celebrity diving reality series from Eyeworks USA, also based on an European format owned by Eyeworks. Stars In Danger: High Diving is expected to hit the water (air) first.
While Celebrity Splash only premiered in August in the Netherlands (as Sterren Springen), Stars In Danger: High Diving has long traditions. It has aired as a yearly two-night, three-hour special on ProSieben in Germany since 2004 as TV Total Turmspringen. (Watch bellow a video of a classic belly flop courtesy of an American-born member of boy band US5.) Its eighth edition is slated to start filming on November 24. In fact, there have been reports that Banijay is mulling filing a lawsuit against Eyeworks over Celebrity Splash. “We think ours of the best format because it’s the original, and with our sister company having produced the show for eight years, we will use all their experience and put it in our show,” said Bunim/Murray’s Jonathan Murray.
In Fox’s Stars In Danger: High Diving, approximately eight celebrities from different areas will first complete a crash-course in diving techniques, overseen by a renowned diving coach. After an intense training period, which will be featured in the special, they will compete in a series of Olympic-style dives, including solo high diving and synchronized diving, from a variety of heights ranging from 3, 5, 7.5 and 10 meters. An expert judging panel will award points and eventually narrow down the men, women and teams until the finalists battle it out dive-for-dive to determine the winner.
Diving, a main attraction during TV coverage of summer Olympics, will return to primetime way before the Rio games in 2016. ABC has picked up what is being described as television’s first diving, reality competition show from Eyeworks USA (formerly 3 Ball Prods.) The project, ordered straight to series, is based on the Dutch format Celebrity Splash and ill be executive produced by JD Roth, Todd A. Nelson and Brant Pinvidic.
According to the producers, in Celebrity Splash, celebrities perform dives from dizzying heights, which increase in difficulty each week, including backflips, somersaults and other gymnastic feats. Leading up to the competition, a professional diving instructor gives each celebrity weeks of training. The set up echoes ABC’s veteran Dancing With The Stars and its short-lived spinoff Skating With The Stars.
Celebrity Splash, called Sterren Springen in the Netherlands, the country that gave us Big Brother and The Voice, was a breakout hit for broadcaster SBS when it debuted there in August, reaching a 26.5% market share during the show’s Saturday primetime broadcasts and dominating the competition. (Watch a clip below. No knowledge of Dutch necessary.) The August launch date probably benefited from viewers’ interest in diving sparked by the London Olympics. Eyeworks already has sold the format to major broadcasters in the UK, France, and Australia, with additional sales expected at next week’s MIPCOM.