Australian media scion James Packer is getting into the Brett Ratner business. The billionaire will personally back film development, production and finance company, RatPac Entertainment. Ratner and Packer are looking to produce and finance independent films and co-finance “blockbusters” with studio partners. Two projects have been identified to be co-financed, although details have yet to be disclosed. “We intend to build a major independent film company which not only has the ability to fully finance its films, but which also offers creative independence for its filmmakers,” Ratner said in a statement that was short on information. Packer is the chairman of Oz-based gaming and entertainment company Crown Limited. He is the son of the late Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer. In October, his Consolidated Media Holdings voted in favor of a $2.1B takeover bid by News Corp.
Shout! Acquires EuropaCorp. Titles
Shout! Factory has picked up U.S. rights to the EuropaCorp. films, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc-Sec, directed by Luc Besson, and A Monster In Paris by Bibo Bergeron. Shout will roll the films out on a cross-platform release including home entertainment, VOD, SVOD and television. The César-winning Adèle Blanc-Sec is an adaptation of the Jacques Tardi comic book series and was released in France in 2010. Louise Bourgoin and Mathieu Amalric star. Shark Tale director Bergeron’s Monster is a CG-animated adventure based on his own original story about an inventor, his best friend and a monkey who inadvertently create a monster with a talent for music. Vanessa Paradis, Sean Lennon, Adam Goldberg, Danny Huston, Bob Balaban, Catherine O’Hara and Jay Harrington form the voice cast.
Scott Free London Lines Up ‘The Fishing Fleet’
Ridley Scott’s Scott Free London has acquired film rights to the Anne de Courcy novel The Fishing Fleet. The company will develop the project as a feature with Scott Free’s Liza Marshall producing. The book is a social history of husband hunting by young British women in India. The deal was negotiated by Blake Friedmann’s Conrad Williams and Carlo Dusi for Scott Free London.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Mark Wahlberg On Canadian Film Tax Incentives, Shine Group & Adrian Steirn, Australia’s Ten Network, Prime TV New Zealand
Mark Wahlberg Calls On Canada To Restore Film Tax Incentives
Mark Wahlberg is urging the Canadian government to restore federal tax incentives for film production. “We are really trying to encourage the government to reinstate these tax incentives to bring film and cinema back to Canada,” Wahlberg told The Globe And Mail in Toronto. Wahlberg, who has made seven movies in Canada, says a steady reduction in government tax subsidies means fewer Hollywood projects will be made there. Wahlberg’s Canadian-shot films include Fear, Shooter, The Big Hit, and Max Payne.
Australia’s Ten Network Sinks to Loss, Flags Further Cuts
After recording a net loss of $A12.9 million ($13.3 million) in the year to August 31, Australia’s Network Ten has flagged another round of cost-cutting, including voluntary buyouts. The broadcaster reduced TV costs by 6.6% or $42 million in fiscal 2012 but chief executive James Warburton insisted “that has not come at the expense of content.” Warburton said a strategic review launched earlier this year is ongoing and covers all departments. Revenue from continuing businesses fell by 15% to $729 million. In the first half of this year Ten captured 25.5% of the capital city television advertising market, trailing Seven’s 40% and Nine’s 34.5%, as the overall market shrunk by 3.6%. Ten’s shares edged up to 32.2 cents after hitting a record low of 30 cents yesterday after the company revealed a deal to sell its outdoor advertising business Eye Corp. to private equity firm Champ for $145 million had fallen over. Ten said it’s still negotiating with Champ. Broker CBA has raised the prospect that Ten’s four major shareholders, chairman Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon, who collectively own 40% of the stock, will opt to take the company private. – Don Groves
Netflix Goes Live In Sweden, Denmark And Norway
Netflix began rolling out this week in the Nordic territories. The UK’s ITV Studios Global Entertainment has now pacted …
Global Showbiz Briefs: The BBC’s Jimmy Savile Investigations, Oz’s Nine In Debt Restructure, European Discovery Nominees
BBC Appoints Independent Reviewers In Jimmy Savile Case
The BBC is pressing on with its investigations in the Jimmy Savile scandal that involves serious allegations of child sexual abuse against the late TV host. The corporation named former Court of Appeal judge Dame Janet Smith to lead the independent review into the allegations as they relate to the culture and practices of the BBC during the time Savile worked there and whether today’s policies are up to date. The group also appointed former head of Sky News Nick Pollard to oversee a review into Newsnight, the BBC current affairs program which shelved a segment investigating Savile last December. The Pollard Review will also look at the BBC’s handling of material that might have been of interest to the police or relevant authorities. BBC executive board member Dame Fiona Reynolds said, “These reviews will demonstrate the BBC’s determination to open itself fully to scrutiny from independent experts, emphasising our belief that the basis of the public’s trust is full openness and accountability.”
Australia’s Nine Staves Off Administration With Debt Restructure
Nine Entertainment‘s creditors reached a deal Wednesday to restructure $3.3B in debt. The senior lenders, led by U.S. hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management, were owed $2.3B. They will now emerge with a 95.5% stake in the company. The mezzanine lenders led by Goldman Sachs, which were owed $1B, will receive a 4.5% stake valued at around $100M. CVC Asia Pacific, which bought Nine from James Packer for $5.5B in debt and equity in 2007, exits with nothing. Nine’s board was desperate to avoid going into receivership, which would have imperilled its $100M a year programming deal with Warner Bros. and contracts to televise National Rugby League matches and Australian Test cricket. “We have a fully capitalized business,” Nine’s chief executive David Gyngell told reporters. – Don Groves
Global Showbiz Briefs: Rome Fest Lineup, News Corp Bid For Consolidated Clears Hurdle, Cecchi Gori In Deal With Daro
Rome Film Festival Announces 2012 Lineup
The 2012 International Rome Film Festival lineup includes 59 world premieres and 5 international premieres. There also are two surprise films yet to be announced. Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III starring Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman is competing for the event’s top prize, as is Gabriel and Alan Polsky’s The Motel Life, starring Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson. Also on the competition list are Japanese director Takashi Miike’s thriller Aku No Kyoten, Jacques Dollion’s Un Enfant De Toi, and Enrique Rivero’s Mai Morire. The festival will be held November 9-17 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. You can read the entire line-up on the festival’s website.
Global Showbiz Briefs: News Intl Fights Pricey Doc Disclosures, Nine Financial Woes, Honor For ‘Rise Of The Guardians’
News International Fights Expensive Document Disclosures In Phone-Hacking Case
News International has argued against pricey document disclosures relating to civil damages in the ongoing phone hacking case, warning that the cost to the company might reach $12.1M. The branch of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has already spent $1.6M on disclosure searches of documents and emails pertaining to litigation, with consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers spending a further $5.6M. News International counsel Dinah Rose QC argued at a high court civil case management hearing that the disclosures served the interest of prosecuting legal teams and not their clients. They are claiming for compensation related to News International’s four-year denial of phone hacking, when no claimant has pleaded this. “That’s the source of this problem,” Rose said. “We have here a superstructure created not because of the claims of a particular claimant, but [because of] the interests of a legal team.” Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking continues, with a senior counter-terrorism detective charged Monday with breaching the Official Secrets Act. Detective chief inspector April Casburn is charged with feeding information pertaining to the Met’s inquiry into phone hacking to staff at the News Of The World. Police have also made two more arrests in the computer hacking investigation. One is believed to be a former News Of The World journalist and the other a private investigator. – Joe Utichi
Global Showbiz Briefs: More Sun Arrests, BBC News Changes, Nine Debt Crisis, Turkish ‘Private Practice’
Two Sun Journalists Arrested
Fifty people have now been arrested in Scotland Yard’s ongoing investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to public officials. Two journalists from News Corp. tabloid The Sun were detained this morning as was a police officer. The arrests were the result of information provided by News Corp.’s Management Standards Committee, the Metropolitan Police said. They relate to suspected payments to a public official and suspected disclosure of confidential information by a police officer.
New BBC Chief To Boost News Women, Keep Lid On Salaries
George Entwistle is making headlines in the UK during his first week as the BBC’s new director general. He said he would install more female news presenters in an interview with Radio 4. Male TV hosts have nothing to fear, he said, as he wouldn’t “remedy one inequity by indulging in another, turfing out a whole load of blokes who might be doing their job brilliantly with a view to getting women in.” Regardless, nobody should be looking for a star salary. The BBC has been in a period of austerity since its revenues were cut sharply through 2016 due to a freeze on the TV license fees that help support it. Entwistle told Radio Times the network will not “bankrupt” itself to hold onto to big names.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Keanu Reeves Doc, 007 Tour, Seven’s Bid For Consolidated, Nine’s Financial Woes
Keanu Reeves Goes ‘Side By Side’ In Poland
Plus Cameraimage, the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography that takes place in Poland, has added Keanu Reeves’ documentary Side By Side as its opening film. The film’s director, Chris Kenneally along with cinematographer Chris Cassidy, producer Justin Szlasa and producer/host Keanu Reeves will attend the screening in Bydgoszcz and talk about the film. Side By Side includes interviews with filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, George Lucas and martin Scorsese who discuss pros and cons of 35mm vs. digital. It was previously announced that David Lynch will receive the fest’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Directing. Fest runs Nov. 24 to Dec. 1.
007 Bond Tour Kicks Off Monday In The UK
James Bond is set to travel the UK to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise. Beginning Monday, Roger Moore and other Bond film stars will appear at locations around the country that have been used in the 007 movies including Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland, Penbryn Beach in Wales and Stoke Park in England. Former Bond girls Eunice Grayson, Britt Ekland and Shirley Eaton as well as Richard Kiel will join the 007 Days of Bond tour which ends in London on Sept. 24. The 23rd Bond picture Skyfall opens in the UK next month.
Goldman Sachs Preps Debt-To-Equity Scheme For Nine Entertainment
Goldman Sachs is putting together a deal for a group of U.S. hedge funds to take control of Australia’s debt-laden Nine Entertainment Co., according to the Australian Financial Review. The plan involves the hedge funds converting part of the media company’s $A3.8 billion ($3.9 billion) debt into equity. Goldman manages mezzanine debt funds owed around $1 billion by Nine. Private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific bought Nine Entertainment, which includes the Nine Network, Australian News Channel, Ticketek, the Allphones Arena and a 50% stake in NineMSN, from James Packer for $5.5 billion in 2007. Last week the firm sold its publishing division ACP Magazines to Germany’s Bauer Media Group for a reported $500 million. Under Goldman’s plan Nine would retain $1.25 billion in debt through a new five-year facility. The paper said Goldman was due to put its proposal to Nine Entertainment’s lenders including hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management. -Don Groves
Australian Exhibitor Hoyts Enters VOD Biz
Launching in the first quarter of 2013, Hoyts will be the first major Australian exhibitor to offer a VOD service offering new releases day-and-date with DVD, plus classic movies and TV content. Monikered Hoyts Stream, the service aims to tap into Hoyts’ customer base which includes 547,000 members of its loyalty programs and 200,000 people who regularly use its DVD rental kiosk business Oovie. The initiative will put Hoyts Stream in direct VOD competition with Foxtel on Demand, Quickflix, iTunes, Big Pond Movies, Fetch TV, Google Play and Xbox. Nearly every Hollywood film and most indie titles are now available simultaneously on VOD and DVD in Australia. Neither of Hoyts’ major exhib rivals, Village Roadshow and Event Cinemas, has indicated any intention of entering the VOD business. Crispin Tristram, Hoyts chief marketing officer, who will run Hoyts Stream, said the firm is in advanced negotiations with U.S. majors and leading independents to acquire VOD rights. He declined to reveal pricing but said fees would be competitive. A subscription service for library film and TV content is to be introduced later in 2013. Hoyts chairman David Kirk said the company recognizes a need “to provide our customers choice for how they consume filmed entertainment from Hoyts, be it on the big screen, small screen or now any screen.”
Tokyo Hosts ‘Trouble With The Curve’
Clint Eastwood-starrer Trouble With The Curve will close the Tokyo International Film Festival on October 28. Directed by frequent Eastwood collaborator Robert Lorenz, the film stars Eastwood as an aging baseball scout and Amy Adams as his estranged daughter. Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Matthew Lillard and Robert Patrick also star. Warner Bros has set the U.S. release for September 21. The festival opens October 20 with Paramount’s 3D Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away, exec produced by James Cameron and directed by Andrew Adamson.
News Corp Presses Binding Offer
News Corp has moved to solidify its hold on Australian pay-TV platform Foxtel and the Fox Sports channels with a binding takeover bid for Consolidated Media Holdings. CMH owns 25% of Foxtel and 50% of Fox Sports. News is offering $A3.45 ($3.55) per share, valuing the company controlled by James Packer at $1.94 billion. That’s a bit less than News Corp’s non-binding cash offer made in June, but shareholders will receive a 6 cents per share dividend. Said Packer, exec chairman of 50% shareholder Consolidated Press Holdings: “This is a great outcome for CMH shareholders and for News and it reflects a fair price.” There was no immediate response from Seven Group Holdings, which has a 25.3% stake in CMH and has asked regulators whether it could buy the balance. A decision is due September 13. News owns 25% of Foxtel and the other 50% of Fox Sports. If the News deal proceeds it’s expected to close in November. Citi media analyst Justin Diddams told Deadline it’s unlikely the Kerry Stokes-controlled Seven Group will make a counter-offer. -Don Groves
UK Phone-Hacking Could Haunt Murdochs For Three More Years
Rupert Murdoch could be 84 years old before the British police complete multiple investigations into The News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who’s in charge of three overlapping probes into alleged criminal wrongdoing by journalists, said the task may continue through 2015, according to the Guardian. Akers, who is retiring in October, told a Commons home affairs select committee that “resources have been factored in for the next three years.” She said the force had identified more than 4,700 potential phone-hacking victims and found 1,069 were likely to have had their voicemail messages intercepted. So far 79 people have been arrested including former News International legal adviser Tom Crone, former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson. Akers said the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service would consider the likelihood of further criminal prosecutions, adding, “We are now prioritising getting cases through court.” Scotland Yard still has 185 officers working on the investigations.
Network Ten Shares Slide To Record Low
Australia’s Network Ten board members Lachlan Murdoch (chairman), Gina Rinehart and Jack Cowin seem powerless to stop a steep slide in the company’s fortunes. The share price hit a record low of 37.5 cents today, down from 80 cents in March, and broker Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research forecasts it will sink as as low as 30 cents. Ten’sratings have taken a hit from the failures of three Australian shows launched after the London Olympics, Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive and Don’t Tell the Bride, which resulted in the exit of chief programmer David Mott. The only new show that has any traction is Puberty Blues, a drama inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 feature. The ratings of Ten’s main channel have declined by 5% this year while Nine is up by 5.3% and Seven is off by 0.3%. The broker said Ten is “working hard to reposition itself and build out a new programming lineup, however we see continued ratings/revenue share risk given the large number of hours that need to be replaced and expect the TV ad market to remain challenging.” - Don Groves
Seven Group Still Undecided On News Corp.’ $2B Offer For Consolidated Media
In June, News Corp. launched a $2.1B bid for Consolidated Media Holdings, a 25% owner of pay-TV platform Foxtel and 50% owner of the Fox Sports channels, but Seven Group Holdings still hasn’t decided whether to sell its 25.3% stake in CMH. During an earnings report today, Seven Group chief executive Peter Gammell said News has yet to make a formal proposal and there would be no response until then. Gammell said the Seven Group’s request to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to review whether it could buy the balance of the shares in CMH did not mean the company would make a counter-offer, only that it wanted to know whether such a transaction would be approved. The ACCC will announce its decision on September 13. James Packer, who owns 50% of CMH, has said he will accept News’ bid in the absence of a higher offer. Seven Group reported today its net profit for fiscal 2012 more than doubled to $165.9M on revenues of $4.46B. But it wrote down by $483.5M the value of its investment in Seven West Media which owns the Seven Network, Pacific Magazines and West Australian Newspapers. The group also announced Ryan Stokes, son of the company’s chairman Kerry Stokes, has been appointed COO. – Don Groves
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
News Corp.’s move to acquire James Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings is nearing completion. Reporting revenues today, CMH said the deal should be finalized in six weeks, pending the completion of due diligence and approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board. The Australian regulator cleared the deal earlier this month. News Corp. made its offer in June and via the acquisition is poised to increase its holdings in Foxtel, Oz’s leading pay-TV platform, from 25% to 50% and take full ownership of lucrative sports channels provider Fox Sports. Today, CMH reported a 15.6% fall in statutory net profit to $85.8M for the year to June, reflecting the costs of Foxtel’s takeover of regional satcaster Austar. Foxtel (excluding Austar) contributed $42M to CMH’s operating profit, up $4.4M on the prior year. Fox Sports contributed $49.4M, down $2.1M due to softer subscriber numbers and increased broadcasting costs. Foxtel had 1.68M subscribers at June 30, just 30,000 more than a year earlier. Combined with Austar’s subscribers, the total count was 2.3M. The company made no mention of a possible rival bid from Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings, which has a 24% stake in CMH and has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to review a proposal for Seven to acquire the balance of the shares.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
The debt-ridden private equity owners of the Nine Entertainment Co. are poised to sell the ACP Magazines division after meeting with potential buyers including Germany’s Bauer Media Group, the Sydney Daily Telegraph reports. That suggests the rumored $A3 billion ($3.1 billion) offer for Nine Entertainment from former Hollywood MGM mogul Harry Sloan and U.S. private equity group TPG hasn’t developed. A source close to Nine Entertainment tells Deadline that Sloan-TPG were “tirekickers” who were never going to make a serious bid.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
News Corp.’s $A2 billion ($2.1B) bid for James Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings, which owns 25% of Australian pay-TV platform Foxtel and 50% of the Fox Sports channels, has been cleared by the government regulator. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it would not oppose the proposed acquisition, which would give News full ownership of the sports channels and boost its stake in Foxtel to 50%. “Given that News Corporation has no interests in other free-to-air or subscription TV entities in Australia,” agency chairman Rod Sims said, “the ACCC’s view is that this acquisition is unlikely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any relevant market.” The ACCC is still assessing a possible counterbid for Packer’s CMH by Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings, which has a 24% stake in CMH. Packer has recommended shareholders accept News’ bid. Some media analysts believe a counter-offer from Seven is unlikely because News controls the management of Foxtel and Fox Sports and Packer prefers to sell to News.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
The hedge fund which bought Australia’s Nine Network and magazine group from James Packer for $A5.5 billion in 2007 and has since struggled to pay down the debt may have find a lifeline- although it may be forced to take a sizable haircut. Hollywood mogul Harry Sloan is teaming with private equity group TPG to launch a $3 billion bid for Nine Entertainment Co., according to The Australian Financial Review. Nine’s owner, CVC Asia Pacific, is under pressure to do a deal as it is obliged to repay $2.8 billion in senior debt in February 2013. It also owes about $1 billion to mezzanine or second-tier lenders led by a Europe-based Goldman Sachs fund. The paper said TPG managing partner Ben Gray met with Nine chief executive David Gyngell and other senior management in Sydney this week. Nine comprises east coast free-to-air TV stations, ACP Magazines, the Ticketek agency, the Allphones Arena in Sydney and a 50 per cent share in NineMSN. In May the Fin Review reported Sloan had met with CVC Australia boss Adrian McKenzie to discuss a proposal whereby Sloan’s Global Eagle Acquisition Corp. would raise the capital to pay back Nine’s senior lenders and take a controlling stake in a refinanced Nine listed on the Nasdaq.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
If Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings is serious about lodging a counter bid for Consolidated Media Holdings, topping News Ltd.’s $A2 billion play for control of the Australian pay-TV investment company, many investors aren’t convinced. The share price of CMH is trading at $A3.41, below News’ offer of $3.50 for the firm which owns 25% of dominant pay-TV platform Foxtel and 50% of the lucrative Fox Sports channels. “The share price hasn’t moved because the market does not believe Stokes will make a higher bid,” one media analyst tells Deadline. Stokes owns 24% of CMH, the second largest shareholder behind James Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings which has 50.5%. The proposed deal, which Packer welcomed, would give News full ownership of Fox Sports and 50% of Foxtel. Two days after News revealed its bid, Seven Group Holdings asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to review a proposal for Seven to acquire of all of the shares in CMH which it does not own. The analyst noted that Stokes could afford the $1.5 billion-plus he’d need from the resources of Seven Group Holdings and related company Seven West Media to make a counter offer, but doubted that’s his intention as News controls the management of Foxtel and Fox Sports.
Just days after News Corp made a $2Bn offer to buy James Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings, the Oz regulator has revealed that a rival bid may be afoot. Billionaire Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings, which currently owns 24% of CMH, is “actively considering acquiring further shares” in the company, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said. It added that Seven asked the commission “to review a proposal to buy all of the shares in CMH which it does not currently own.” Earlier this week, Packer welcomed News Corp’s bid which would double Rupert Murdoch’s holdings in pay-TV platform Foxtel and give it full ownership of Fox Sports Australia. At the same time, Stokes’ Seven said it would review the News Corp proposal and consider its options. SNL Kagan analyst Derek Baine tells Deadline that such a move by Stokes is not a surprise as “they’ve always been competitive.” He estimates that a bid from Seven could drive the price of CMH higher. “Even if Murdoch ends up with it, it does give some people joy to get the price up and make him bid up.” Sitting on $10.7Bn in cash, News Corp has been implementing COO Chase Carey’s strategy to “either own and operate or monetize” its assets. Among purchases it’s made since the company reluctantly aborted the BSkyB acquisition last year, is the recent buyout of Disney’s 50% stake in ESPN Star Sports. Analysts say …