In the first deal involving a Chinese company taking a financial stake in a Hollywood talent agency, Jeff Berg’s Resolution said today that Beijing-based Bison Capital Holdings has made an investment in the company. The deal means Resolution will advise and consult for Bison, whose founder Peixin Xu serves as an independent director of China’s Bona Film Group, which is 17%-owned by 21st Century Fox. Also, News Corp China Investments CEO Jack Gao will join Resolution’s board of directors. “This partnership will allow us to fund strategic expansion in the global marketplace,” Berg said in announcing the deal today. Bison’s China-based media investments include AirMedia Group, a provider of advertising platforms outside of the home in China. David Unger, the first agent from Berg’s former home ICM to join Resolution after its founding in January 2013, was key in the Bison deal; in addition to film and TV clients he guides Resolution’s media finance group and is the main player on the international side. Berg said Unger will “be coordinating our new China activities as we build our presence in Beijing with Bison.”
The Stateside phone hacking-scandal suit that a former body double for Angelina Jolie filed against News Corp last summer looks likely to end up in the U.K. if a federal judge doesn’t change his mind. Before a hearing Monday on the company’s motion to dismiss, Judge Michael Fitzgerald said in a tentative ruling that Eunice Huthart‘s case belonged in “the courts of England and Wales” not the U.S.
Alleging that her phone was tampered with in 2004 while living with Jolie in L.A., Huthart’s initial complaint on June 13 was the first hacking scandal suit filed against News Corp and its UK Press arm in the U.S. Back in September of last year, News Corp and News International filed their motion to toss the case or have it move to Britain. After issuing his tentative and hearing arguments from lawyers representing the English-born stuntwoman and the media corporation, Judge Fitzgerald said he would take the matter under submission (read it here). Though it happens, it is very unusual for a judge to reverse himself after issuing such a clear tentative.
Disappointing data about factory performance added to investor concerns about prospects for the economy as the Federal Reserve pulls back on its stimulus efforts. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 2.7% today — ahead of a 2.3% drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 and 2.1% slide in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. All but a handful of the companies we track lost ground. CBS was hardest hit among Big Media, with shares off 4.1%. It was followed by Viacom (-4.0%), Disney (-3.6%), Sony (-3.2%), Comcast (-3.1%), Fox (-3.0%), News Corp (-2.8%), Discovery (-2.2%), and Time Warner (-2.1%). In the broader media universe, companies licking their wounds today include DreamWorks Animation (-7.4%), Lionsgate (-5.6%), IMAX (-5.4%), Starz (-5.3%), and AMC Networks (-4.7%). The few gainers include Cinedigm (+4.6%, touching a multiyear high during the day), AOL (+1.7%), Time Warner Cable (+0.6), and Apple (+0.2%).
20th Century Fox TV has promoted Howard Kurtzman to President, Business Operations, and Mark Pearson to EVP Brand Management and Digital Media. Both report to chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who made the announcement today. Kurtzman will expand his responsibilities to include additional involvement with the studio’s expanding cable production units Fox 21 and Fox Television Studios, while continuing to oversee the company’s business and legal affairs operations. Pearson continues to lead the exploitation of the studio’s brands across all distribution channels, with specific emphasis on digital and new media, overseeing the company’s Brand Management, Strategy, Marketing, Research and Music operations. He helps guide Twentieth TV’s home entertainment, DVD and SVOD strategies, and works alongside the syndication division on new broadcast and cable sales and the digital entertainment group on developing mobile apps and games.
Hollywood is honoring the life and legacy of former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak, who died today at 68. Here is a sampling of the reactions:
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President:
“In the more than 30 years I’ve known Tom, his passionate support of and excitement about the motion picture business, the Academy, his family and friends never wavered. He was truly larger than life, and he will be missed.”
Dawn Hudson, Academy CEO:
“He was my mentor and my friend. I learned from him, I laughed with him, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the time we shared together. He had a huge influence on the direction of our Academy and on me personally. I will miss laughing with him most of all.”
Related: Tom Sherak: “It’s About Love”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti:
“I am devastated to learn of the passing of my close friend and advisor Tom Sherak. Tom was a true Hollywood original, moving up the ladder to promote blockbusters, running the Oscars and having a bulging rolodex filled with not just A-list contacts, but so many close friends who were smitten by his humor, drive, and spirit. In just a few short months, Tom laid a policy foundation that my Administration will stand on for the next four years. Tom’s work will continue through my office and the many charities to which he devoted …
The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell nearly 2% today as Wall Street dealt with the biggest single-day stock selloff it has seen since June. The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 2.1% as investors bailed out of stocks and currencies from emerging markets including China, South Africa, and Turkey. All Big Media companies lost ground today with Disney (-2.8%) followed by Viacom (-2.5%), CBS (-2.2%), News Corp (-2.2%), Time Warner (-2.0%), Fox (-1.5%), Discovery (-1.4%), Comcast (-1.3%), and Sony (-0.4%). In the broader group of companies that we track, big losers included New York Times (-5.5%), DreamWorks Animation (-4.3%), Best Buy (-4.0%), Facebook (-3.9%), Yahoo (-3.8%), Google (-3.2%), and Pandora (-3.2%). Only a handful of companies advanced including SFX Entertainment (+2.7%), RealD (+0.8%), and Regal Entertainment (+0.5%). Two stocks that have been rising of late touched new 52-week highs during the day: AMC Entertainment (which closed +0.5%) and World Wrestling Entertainment (+0.4%).
The Fox Writers Intensive is designed to nurture the careers of experienced writers with diverse voices, backgrounds and life experiences and create a pipeline of talent for potential staffing as writers, story editors or producers on Fox productions as well as potential pitches for publisher HarperCollins. Last year, writer-director Yule Caise was selected as the FWI Fellow from the class of 10 finalists. He inked a development deal with FX Networks. Here’s this year’s 10 finalists, culled from more than 400 nominations to make up the third-annual list:
This year’s 10 FWI finalists were selected from more than 400 nominations and submissions by talent representation and arts organizations across the country, including National Association of Latino Independent Producers, Sundance Institute, New York Foundation for the Arts, Outfest, Film Independent, NAACP, Women in Film Los Angeles, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment and Visual Communications. They will spend the next 14 weeks honing their crafts and establishing deeper connections with a wide range of Fox staff writers, showrunners, screenwriters, directors and creative executives.
This year’s FWI writers/teams and their respective representatives are:
• Nazrin Choudhury (ICM / Silver Lake Entertainment)
• Tze Chun (WME)
• Nate Clark (Independent)
• Sonay Hoffman (Kaplan Stahler / Scripted World)
• Johanna Lee (Scripted World)
• Bernadette Rivero (Circle of Confusion)
• Kevin Seccia (The Gersh Agency / Gotham Group)
• Gabby Revilla (Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein & Kohner, P.C.)
• Debby Wolfe (ICM)
• Ed Gonzalez & Jeremy Haft (Summit Talent and Literary Agency / Luber Roklin Management)
Lex Fenwick had joined News Corp’s Dow Jones & Co in February 2012 coming from a long run at Bloomberg Llp. He will be replaced on an interim basis by News Corp COO William Lewis while the company reviews its institutional strategy, according to a News Corp release announcing the shift. Fenwick had overseen Dow Jones’ DJX information service, which has been in beta since its launch last year. “We’re reviewing the institutional strategy of Dow Jones with an eye towards changes that will deliver even more value to its customers. As part of that, we’re planning improvements to DJX,” said News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, who also signaled greater flexibility in Dow Jones’ product offerings is likely in the works soon. Lewis, meanwhile, joined News Corp in 2010 as Group General Manager at News International (now News UK), and was appointed COO at News Corp last year. The one-time Sunday Times and Financial Times journalist will help with the review while the search for permanent replacement is completed.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz may be the main beneficiary of the move — which just involves Fox, not News Corp, the entity that includes most of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing and Australian holdings since the operations separated last summer. Fox, the movie and TV company, currently has four types of stock with Class A and super-voting Class B shares (controlled by the Murdoch family) in Australia and the U.S. But the Saudi prince is also a major owner of the Class B shares. Fox curtailed the voting rights of the non-U.S. stock holders to comply with FCC rules that prohibit a company from owning TV stations here if more than 25% of its shares are controlled by foreigners. The change in stock listings will “likely” reduce foreign ownership of the Class B shares, Fox says. Once below the 25% threshold, it “would enable the Company to …restore full voting rights to the Company’s non-U.S. stockholders.” Murdoch says that the change is part of “our ongoing agenda to simplify the operating and capital structure of our Company.” Fox “has only limited operations in Australia, and we believe that consolidating the trading of our stock in the world’s largest equity market would provide improved liquidity to the Company’s stockholders and greater efficiencies for the Company.” Fox needs Class B shareholders to approve the change. That should come at a special meeting in March or April, with the delisting in Australia to …
The names of the new investors are at least as important as the dollar amount, which Aereo says it will use to finance its expansion. Gordon Crawford has a gold-plated reputation among media investors: In his 41 years at Capital Research and Management, prior to his retirement in 2012, he helped to propel the growth of the pay TV industry with investments in companies including Time Warner, Liberty Media, News Corp, Comcast and DirecTV. He also played a major role in the development of Disney and Lionsgate — and, to his regret, the combination of AOL and Time Warner, which he helped to unwind when the merger soured. In the Series C funding, Crawford will be joined by China’s Himalaya Capital Management founded by Li Lu, a leader in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. (Michael Apted made a documentary of Lu’s memoir Moving The Mountain: My Life In China.) “Aereo experienced tremendous growth in 2013, and we expect 2014 to be another blockbuster year,” says Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia, who will discuss his company’s progress tomorrow at the International CES confab. The new investors join existing backers led by Barry Diller’s IAC, Highland Capital Partners, and FirstMark Capital. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide this month whether to rule on a claim by major broadcasters that Aereo infringes on their copyrights by streaming their over-the-air signals without compensation. The company says that it simply …
Global Showbiz Briefs: China Lifts Video Game Console Ban; Fox Turkey Appointment; News Corp Commits To London; Sports Rights; ‘Downton’
China’s State Council has temporarily repealed a ban on selling foreign video game consoles, Reuters reports this morning. The move had been expected and will open up a path for the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to sell their wares after a 14-year block. Now, “foreign-invested enterprises” will be allowed to make game consoles within Shanghai’s free trade zone and sell them in China after inspection by cultural departments. Consoles were initially banned in 2000 over concern that gaming would harm young people. Reuters says the growing market is worth a potential $14B.
Fox Turkey has appointed Shebnem Askin as EVP of programming. She was previously SVP of international acquisitions and sales at Fox International Productions and will take up her new role immediately. Her mandate will cover building on Fox Turkey’s entertainment offering and commissioning, acquiring and scheduling film, drama, factual, kids and event entertainment programming in addition to working with Fox Turkey’s channel partners in the increasingly hot TV territory. At FIP, Askin was a key player on co-productions and acquisitions including Mexico’s Academy Award entry Miss.BALA; Gaumont’s upcoming Mea Culpa directed by Fred Cavaye; and Sundance prize winner Metro Manila.
While the phone-hacking trials involving a number of its former staff continue in Britain, News Corp Monday signaled its “long term …
Year-End: Hollywood Film Biz Still Cautious, But Slow Boat To China Speeding Up After Busy & Edifying 2013
While Hollywood continues figuring out how to do business in China, and execs remain cautious, there is a sense that 2013 was a tipping point in the complex relationship between the world’s two box office leaders. As Hollywood’s focus turns to maximizing global grosses, the town is increasingly looking for ways to cozy up to the territory that adds 10 theaters a day to service its 1.3B+ population. And China is also strongly courting Hollywood. In September, Wanda’s Wang Jianlin unveiled ambitious plans to bring the industry closer to the Mainland and emphasized China’s place at the center of the global biz, urging players to cooperate for a piece of the pie. Then, at November’s U.S./China Film Summit in L.A., China Film Co-Production Company’s Zhang Xun offered, “We have a huge market and we want to share it with you.” Here’s a look at some of the key happenings in China in 2013 and a taste of what to look out for in the coming year:
The rumored tie-in between NBCUniversal and former AllThingsD co-executive editors Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg is now a reality. NBCUniversal News Group tonight announced a strategic investment and content partnership with Revere Digital, the new technology-focused media company launched by Swisher and Mossberg as their contract with News Corp. and its Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal businesses ended December 31. The announced was made at the very moment Revere’s new website, Re/code, went live at midnight ET on January 2. “Kara and Walt are two of the most knowledgeable, well-connected and respected technology journalists working today. They built an incredible brand and business with ‘AllThingsD,’ and we are very excited about partnering with them in this new venture and deepening our engagement in this rapidly changing technology market,” said Patricia Fili-Krushel, Chairman, NBCUniversal News Group. Under the partnership, Revere’s breaking news and analysis stories will run simultaneously across NBCUniversal News Group’s multiple media platforms, and Swisher, Mossberg and other Revere journalists will appear on-air across all of the News Group properties including CNBC, MSNBC, Today , and Nightly News With Brian Williams. Additionally, CNBC will become Revere’s media partner for its global conferences.
Shares in the streaming video company appreciated 297.6% during the latest 12 months, well ahead of everyone in the companies we track — including media industry giants, where CBS (+67.5%) led the pack. But you shouldn’t hear many complaints. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index rose 12.3% in Q4, and 47% for the entire year, as investors became increasingly comfortable about the prospects for information and entertainment companies in a period of strengthening ad sales, low interest rates, and prodigious stock repurchases and dividend payments. The sector was well ahead of the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500, which was up 9.9% in Q4 and 29.6% for the year. Big Media companies will look back at the year fondly. After CBS, the top performers were Viacom (+65.6%), Sony (+54.4%), Disney (53.4%), Time Warner (+45.8%), Discovery (+42.4%), Comcast (+39.1%), and Fox (+37.9%). But lots of other companies did much better. Industry winners after Netflix include Best Buy (+236.5%), Pandora (+189.8%), Sinclair Broadcasting (+183.1%), DreamWorks Animation (+114.2%), and Live Nation (+112.2%). The year’s underperformers include RealD (-23.8%), Barnes & Noble (-0.9%), Apple (+5.4%), and TiVo (+6.6%).
In a bid to ramp up its digital and video strategy, News Corp is adding social news agency, Storyful, to its stable. Storyful is a Dublin, Ireland-based news gathering platform developed and powered by journalists. The media giant paid 18M euros ($24.6M) for the company that was founded in 2008 by Mark Little. It discovers, verifies, acquires and distributes video and user-generated content to its partners and provides social media dashboards, feeds and analytics, so that customers can integrate video into their news or advertising efforts, and monitor social conversations. So far in 2013, user-generated videos managed by Storyful brought in 750M million views for its partners. The company will operate as a stand-alone business unit within News Corp which will expand Storyful’s video products and services. News Corp will also utilize Storyful’s tools to help drive engagement and revenue across the conglom’s businesses. The company has previously worked with News Corp properties like The Wall Street Journal. News Corp CEO Robert Thompson said, “Video is a vocation for the new News, which will combine with Storyful to reach a growing global audience, enhancing our own editorial products and creating new content communities.”
He launched TriStar Productions with Sony Pictures in August, and today Tom Rothman has another new gig. President Obama nominated the former Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman and CEO to join the National Council on the Arts. “These dedicated and accomplished individuals will be valued additions to my administration as we tackle the important challenges facing America,” the President said today in nominating Rothman and several others to administration posts. “I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.” The National Council on the Arts’ main role is to advise the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts on agency policies and programs. It also reviews and makes recommendations to the Chairman on applications for grants, funding guidelines, and other similar initiatives. A contributor and bundler for Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Rothman is the latest in a line of Hollywood supporters to get appointments from the President since his reelection.
After almost 20 years at the News Corp company, Rothman was ousted from Fox in a studio shakeup in September 2012 and formally exited a month later. As well as being Chairman of the TriStar TV and Film venture with Sony, Rothman is also a member of the Board of Directors of …
This would confirm the rumor that AllThingsD co-executive editors Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher will have a landing spot at the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal when their current contract with News Corp and its Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal businesses ends at the end of 2013. According to Bloomberg today, the news and conference biz will be majority controlled by Mossberg and Swisher, with NBCU and another unnamed investor taking about a one-third stake to start a newly named site (the name AllThingsD the name stays with News Corp as part of the separation). If the deal makes, expect to see Mossberg and Swisher pop up with technology biz scoops on NBCU news networks like CNBC and MSNBC. At the time of the editors’ split in September, Bloomberg, Conde Nast, Cox and The Washington Post were reportedly interested in the venture, which according to the Bloomberg folks has been valued at $25 million-$35 million.
Jim Kennedy had joined Sony Pictures in 2005 after working as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Press Secretary to President Bill Clinton and as head of communications for the White House Counsel’s office, Vice President Al Gore, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, and the Clinton Foundation. He has been overseeing media relations for SCA at Sony’s New York headquarters since October 2011. Here’s today’s release about him running communications at the “new” News Corp:
Global Showbiz Briefs: BT Nets NBA Games; Comedy Central Has New Overseas Projects; Salman Khan; BAFTA; More
BT Sport Scores NBA Games In Multi-Year Deal
Britain’s aggressive BT Sport has closed a multi-year, multi-platform deal with the NBA for up to 200 games a season including regular and playoff action. Although BT has been facing off with rival Sky, which previously had the NBA games under a short-term deal, I understand the News Corp-controlled company did not bid on rights for the coming basketball seasons. BT will broadcast up to seven live games per week in the UK and Ireland starting with the Pacers at the Clippers on December 1st. Sunday games will air in UK primetime. Also included in the partnership will be several magazine shows like NBA Action, NBA Inside Stuff, NBA Tonight and NBA Countdown, while some games will stream live online.