Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society, and Peter Rice, Chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, today completed the sweeping changes at the top of the National Geographic Channels that started yesterday with the announcement that the channels’ president Howard Owens will be leaving in June. “Today, the worst kept secret is over — I am taking my leave as CEO of National Geographic Channels,” David Lyle, who had served as National Geographic Channels CEO since 2011, wrote in an internal memo (read it in full below the post.). “I am exhilarated but somewhat saddened also.” Lyle will be replaced by a marketing executive, Courteney Monroe, who has served as Chief Marketing Officer for National Geographic Channels’ domestic networks since 2012 and is now being upped to CEO. She will report to the Board of Directors of the National Geographic Channels. Additionally, David Hill, Senior EVP of 21st Century Fox and a member of the National Geographic Channels Board of Directors, will now add the title of Chairman of National Geographic Channels U.S. His role is described as “providing counsel to the executive and programming leadership team.” Coming from marketing, Monroe has no production experience. Hill, who had an oversight of NGC prior to Lyle’s 2011 hire, will remain a member of the NGC Board and also continue to oversee production of American Idol.
The moves continue to expand the domain of Hill, who is one of Rupert Murdoch’s trusted lieutenants. In 2012, the long-time chairman and CEO of Fox Sports was elevated to senior EVP for News Corp. Then last summer, following the departure of Fox alternative chief Mike Darnell, he was put in charge of the network’s The X Factor and American Idol. Since then, X Factor has been cancelled while American Idol is finishing up its lowest-rated season. Meanwhile, the National Geographic Channels have done very well under Lyle and Owens. “I’m exhilarated that NGC and NG WILD are in rude health with EBITDAs (profits) at all-time highs, and with programming featuring the most watched specials, series and year in the channels’ history,” Lyle wrote in his memo. That makes the executive housecleaning puzzling. It follows speculation about a discord between Hill and NGC’s leadership team of Lyle and Owens who turned the network around in the past three years. When Hill gave up direct oversight of NGC in 2011, the move was explained with a clash of cultures between him and the team at National Geographic.
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Lucy Hood, President and COO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, has died following a battle with cancer. Hood was named to the Academy post after an extensive search last June, just 10 days after longtime COO Alan Perris announced his retirement. She joined the Academy from the University of Southern California, where she had served as Executive Director of the Institute for Communication Technology Management. At the TV Academy, she reported to Chairman Bruce Rosenblum and Foundation chairman Jerry Petry and was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Academy and its Foundation, overseeing department heads and staff and acting as liaison to the executive committees and the boards of both organizations. Her oversight also included digital strategy, corporate sponsorships, marketing, financial planning and many other facets of the organization.
Related: TV Academy Names Lucy Hood President & COO
Hood’s illness was kept very quiet, and some Academy members are shocked by the news. Rosenblum released the following statement today on her passing: “It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the passing of our dynamic and passionate President and Chief Operating Officer, Lucy Hood, after a courageous battle with cancer. Our hearts and prayers go out to her husband, Rob, and her two children, Rachel and Benjamin. Lucy was an innovator and thought leader, always focused on how to best serve an industry she loved. In the all-too short time Lucy led the Television Academy, her extraordinary impact and contributions were deeply felt throughout the organization. Lucy will be greatly missed.”
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Avon Pension Fund and others who owned News Corp stock from mid-February to mid-July 2011 charged in the class action suit that Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, former News Of The World editor Rebekah Brooks, and other execs at News Corp (before it split into two companies) committed fraud when the UK hacking scandal was unfolding. They told the public — including in testimony at Parliament — that it was just an isolated problem, and it wasn’t. When the widespread extent of the hacking became known in mid-2011, News Corp shares fell 17%, and it derailed the company’s plan to buy British Sky Broadcasting. But a U.S. District Court in New York dismissed the case today, Reuters reports. The problem? Judge Paul Gardephe said that the News Corp execs couldn’t be held liable for statements made before the period when the plaintiffs said that they lost money.”To hold otherwise would require adopting an ‘endless breach argument,’ which would permit plaintiffs to circumvent the well-settled rule that defendants are liable only for those statements made during the class period,” Gardephe says.
UPDATE: Below the original post is a copy of Rupert Murdoch’s memo to staff at 21st Century Fox regarding today’s appointments. In it, he notes that the evolution of the company’s leadership, “underscores the considerable planning that both the Company and the Board have undertaken to ensure a vibrant future for 21st Century Fox and its shareholders.”
PREVIOUS: In what looks like a clear sign that Rupert Murdoch is putting his succession plans in order, News Corp and 21st Century Fox made big announcements early Wednesday morning outlining changes to their boards and executive structure — and each involving Murdoch’s sons. Lachlan Murdoch has been named Non-Executive Co-Chairman of News Corp and has been given the same title at 21st Century Fox, the media and entertainment company. Also at 21st Century Fox, James Murdoch has been elevated to Co-Chief Operating Officer. Further, Fox Networks Group Chairman and CEO Peter Rice, who has close ties to the Murdoch family, has extended his contract for an unspecified term. “Under Peter Rice’s leadership Fox Networks Group has continued to push creative boundaries across the company, and has grown tremendously with successful channel launches including Fox Sports 1 and FXX, an increased international footprint and enhanced sports offerings across the world,” James Murdoch said.
The … Read More »
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. Read More »
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.
Related: AllThingsD Founders Announce New Site: Re/Code
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A day after 6-year-old pilot Babylon Fields came back to life with a pilot order at NBC, another old drama project is making a comeback. During the 2011-12 development season, Travis Beacham‘s fantastical action-adventure spec Hieroglyph narrowly missed the cut for a pilot order at Fox. Two years later, it did one better — landing a straight-to-series 13-episode order.
Produced by 20th Century Fox TV and Chernin Entertainment, Hieroglyph, which is eyed for next season, is set in ancient Egypt, where fantasy and reality intertwined. It follows a notorious thief who is plucked from prison to serve the Pharoah, navigating palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and even a few divine sorcerers. Executive producing the project are Beacham, Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope and Miguel Sapochnik (Fringe), who will direct the premiere episode. Filming is scheduled to begin in early 2014. “We wanted to do a show about deceit, sex, intrigue in the court and fantastical goings-on — no better place to set that than ancient Egypt,” said Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly. “Travis Beacham has an inventive mind, and he has wrapped this all together in this intoxicating new drama.” Read More »
This is a shift for Institutional Shareholder Services, and a recommendation that it has to know is doomed to fail. The investor advisory firm endorsed all of the board candidates last year when Rupert Murdoch‘s entertainment and publishing properties were combined at News Corp. But ISS is upset that the mogul adopted an anti-takeover plan called a poison pill in June when he split his assets between two companies: 21st Century Fox for entertainment, and News Corp for publishing. ISS now wants Fox shareholders to oppose Murdoch, his sons James and Lachlan, COO Chase Carey, and five Murdoch allies when they’re up for election to the board at Fox’s first annual meeting on October 18. In addition, the firm wants shareholders to support a resolution calling for an independent board chairman — Rupert is CEO and chairman — and to end the two-tier stock system that enables the Murdoch family to control 39.4% of the votes even though it owns just 14% of the all shares. Read More »
This is a complicated annual exercise for 21st Century Fox — and its predecessor, News Corp — as it tries to comply with U.S. laws that bar a company from owning TV station licenses if non-citizens control more than 25% of its total voting shares. To stay under that threshold, Fox applies a discount to the votes of non-U.S. shareholders. And with 31% of its Class B voting shares held by foreigners, the company determined that it could reduce the discount to 35% from 40%. If you’ve followed along this far, you might wonder whether a process that discounts some investors’ holdings would inflate the clout of CEO Rupert Murdoch and his family who control 39.4% of the B shares. Not to worry: The company says they’ll stay at that percentage of the total by agreeing not to vote or provide voting instructions for “a portion” of their shares. When all’s said and done, about 711.9M Class B shares will be entitled to vote at the annual meeting that’ll be held October 18 in Los Angeles. As a technical matter, Fox (which includes the Fox studio and TV networks) is the same company that we knew as News Corp until June. At that point the Murdoch-controlled publishing assets and Australian media properties were spun off into a new entity that’s now called News Corp.
You can take Koch Industries off the list of potential buyers for the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune publications. A spokeswoman for the Wichita, Kansas-based company told Bloomberg that Koch is no longer interested in bidding for the newspapers. The Daily Caller website initially reported that Koch decided it would not be buying any of Tribune’s daily newspapers after conducting a review. ”Koch continues to have an interest in the media business and we’re exploring a broad range of opportunities where we think we can add value,” Koch spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia said in an e-mail to Bloomberg. The Kochs had been named among several potential Tribune buyers, people familiar with the negotiations said back in March. That group included News Corp., Berkshire Hathaway, Wrapports LLC and Freedom Communications.
Ex-Daily Mirror, Sun Staffers Among 9 Charged In Bribery Scandal
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said today that nine people would be charged in relation to allegations of illegal payments to public officials. Among them are former Daily Mirror journalist Greig Box-Turnbull, and ex-Sun staffers Graham Dudman, John Troup and Vince Soodin. Box-Turnbull is being called up on two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office with regard to alleged payments to prison officers for information. The prison officers also are being charged as co-conspirators. Dudman is alleged to have requested the authorization of payments to one or more police officers and to have authorized payments to public officials in his capacity as Sun managing editor. Troup is charged as a co-conspirator. Soodin will be charged with conspiring with a police officer to commit misconduct in public office. The remaining defendants are a police officer and a hospital employee. All will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on September 5. The new charges come a few days after the revelation that Scotland Yard is actively investigating Sun owner News International (now News UK) for possible criminal violations related to the phone-hacking scandal and allegations of illegal payments. News UK is the British press arm of News Corp.
Dawn Airey Tapped As Yahoo’s SVP Europe, Middle East And Africa
Yahoo has appointed UK television veteran Dawn Airey as SVP Europe, Middle East and Africa. Beginning November 1, Christophe Parcot, who has served as Yahoo’s interim lead of EMEA, will take on a new role focused on expanding the web giant’s business in the region. Airey joins Yahoo from RTL Group. She has also held high-level executive positions at Five, ITV, BSkyB and Channel4. Read More »
Fox TV Studios, division of News Corp.’s 21 Century Fox and a sister company of Fox News, is in discussions with NBC about coming on board to produce the network’s recently announced 4-hour miniseries Hillary, about Hillary Clinton, that has Diane Lane attached to star as the former First Lady and Secretary of State. I hear the talks, first reported by the New York Times, are preliminary, with the two sides far apart. The economics of TV movies and miniseries are challenging, which is why very few production companies take on such programs these days. That includes NBC’s own studio, Universal TV, which would not produce NBC’s longform projects, including Hillary. The Clinton mini, to be written by Courtney Hunt, already has become a lightning rod of controversy, with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus threatening to yank primary debates from NBC and NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd calling the mini “a total nightmare” for the news division.
The CEO of 21st Century Fox opened today’s briefings in Los Angeles for Wall Street analysts who are trying to figure out where the entertainment company is headed now that it’s separate from the publishing properties at News Corp. “I believe this will be a day to remember,” Rupert Murdoch said. He acknowledges that Fox critics say its collection of traditional media movie and TV properties have peaked. He says, though, that in business — like in the movies — “many of you know that sequels can be far more lucrative than the original.” He points to opportunities overseas in markets with a growing middle class, and with new digital technologies including smartphones. “Our challenge at 21st Century Fox is to get there ahead of everyone else,” Murdoch says noting that “the value of hit content is only going to increase exponentially….A good story knows no border.” Fox execs will be “thoughtful risk takers” since “our greatest successes come from the businesses that we have built, not acquired.”
The shopping spree by the production company of the UK’s leading private broadcaster continues with the acquisition of Big Talk, the producer of such award-winning comedy series as Rev for the BBC, Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner and ITV’s recent sitcom The Job Lot, as well as films including Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, which Focus Features bows in the U.S. on August 23. ITV is buying 100% of the company, in which actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are shareholders. The initial payment is expected to be in the neighborhood of £12.5 million, depending on Big Talk’s 2012/13 financial performance, while additional payments will be made on the delivery of target profit growth over the next five years. In addition to ITV, News Corp. Shine also had been in discussions about acquiring Big Talk.
This is the latest buy for ITV, which has been beefing up its production portfolio over the past few months. In December 2012 it acquired a controlling interest in Gurney Productions (Duck Dynasty) followed by majority shares in Thinkfactory Media (Hatfields & McCoys) and High Noon Entertainment (Cake Boss). ITV also has controlling stakes in The Garden and So Television in the UK, Mediacircus in Norway and Tarinatalo in Finland. The company also has been mulling a £90M ($134M) takeover of Scandinavian Nice Entertainment. Read More »
Don Mischer Productions Takes Stage-Show Experience To China
Don Mischer Productions is set to produce the stage show for the Huading Celebrity Image Awards on October 7 and the Huading Sports Awards on October 9 both in Macau, China, honoring China’s leading celebrities as determined by fan voting. Oscar and Emmy veteran Don Mischer and his team also will introduce an all-new global version of the Huading Awards featuring international talent to be filmed in LA in April and broadcast throughout China. The Huading Celebrity Image Awards recognize outstanding work in film, television, dance, theater and music.
French Cultural Channel Teams With Comcast For SVOD Service In US
Attention Francophiles: French cultural channel TV5 Monde has partnered with Comcast to launch its first SVOD service in the U.S. TV5 Monde Cinema On Demand went live on Thursday and is available via cable in San Francisco, Denver, Miami, Boston, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Jersey. The service includes recent French films, films from the past decade and classics. A new thematic strand will pop up each month with the first based around Jean Dujardin. Read More »
British Labour Party MP Tom Watson, a vocal and enduring Rupert Murdoch critic, has called on the News Corp boss to be questioned by police following yesterday’s revelations about a secret recording of comments he made to Sun staffers last March. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Watson said he wants to know “what are they sitting on that they’ve not given the police” and “I hope that they’re going to be interviewing Rupert Murdoch about what he did know about criminality in his organization.” Enders’ senior analyst Douglas McCabe tells me Murdoch being questioned by police or ordered before Parliament again is “just about plausible” but adds, “I don’t feel that this in isolation would be comprehensive as a trigger to make that happen.” McCabe sees Murdoch’s comments to Sun staff as being blown out of proportion. “Fundamentally, should we be surprised that privately the chair of a large media organization is trying to rally the troops and be sympatheic with different situations he acknowledges in public?” He allows, “I think one can say he shouldn’t be saying whatever he is about the UK police operation,” but “I can’t read any impact on News Corp.” News Corp yesterday said, “The unprecedented co-operation granted by News Corp was agreed unanimously by senior management and the board, and the [Management and Standards Committee] continues … Read More »
Forget the speculation that Peter Chernin has lost interest in teaming with AT&T to bid for Hulu ahead of the Friday deadline for final offers. He and the telco will be there, along with a group that’s expected to include DirecTV, Guggenheim Digital, investment firm KKR, Silver Lake Partners with WME, and Time Warner Cable — with Yahoo a question mark. Some people began to wonder about Chernin’s intentions Monday after Fox unveiled a deal to license shows to Netfllix. The arrangement meant that Hulu lost its access to full seasons of the Chernin Entertainment-produced sitcom New Girl. (It will only be able to offer a few episodes at a time.) Yet we’re told that he’s still eager to help AT&T. Company watchers say that the telco’s intrigued by the possibility of turning Hulu into the centerpiece of a new wireless video business that would ask studios to help pay for the costs to transmit video to mobile devices. It was a coup for the company to align with Chernin who’s popular in Hollywood and helped to develop Hulu back when he was No. 2 at News Corp. Read More »