UPDATED: Amazon Studios has assembled the cast of comedy pilot Browsers. Dustin Ingram, Constance Wu, Bridgette Davidovici, Marque Richardson and Chris Wood are set to star opposite Bebe Neuwirth in the project, a musical comedy set in contemporary Manhattan that follows five young people (Ingram, Wu, Davidovici, Richardson, Wood) as they start their first jobs at a news website. Neuwirth plays their boss. The pilot was written by David Javerbaum and will be directed by Don Scardino. Amazon Studios and 3 Arts are producing, with Javerbaum and David Miner executive producing. Wu, repped by Caliber Media Management and Talentworks, is coming out in the feature Electric Slide. Ingram, repped by Greene & Associates Talent Agency & Sager Management, starred in Paranormal Activity 3.
The digital music service just introduced apps for iOS and Android devices that will stream music stations tailored to fans of particular performers, songs, and genres or preferences registered by celebrities, social network friends, and users themselves. They won’t offer on-demand music — copyright laws restrict that for a radio-like free service. Users can only skip past unwanted songs six times per station per hour. They also can’t have stations that only play the music of one performer. Still, execs believe they’ll have a leg up on competitors by enabling users to share stations with friends on Rdio, Facebook, or Twitter. In addition, the company says that others can’t match its 2.3M station options. The business model remains a little murky. The new service will be ad-free for now. Execs hope that many users will be so enchanted that they’ll upgrade to the on-demand service which costs $10 a month. Today’s announcement isn’t directly tied to radio giant Cumulus’ recent agreement to buy a major stake in Rdio’s parent, Pulser Media. But Cumulus will sell ads for Rdio’s radio service for Web browsers.
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
It’s a huge question for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which opens Tuesday after the Big Three makers of game consoles – Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo – each do their annual pre-show media extravaganzas by turns beginning Monday morning. Disney will unveil games tonight based on its movies The Lone Ranger and Monsters University, though it’s possible they may also talk about games based on their Marvel and Star Wars movie franchises, especially after recently laying off many of LucasArts game designers. Other big game publishers will also unveil titles in pre-show events Monday afternoon.
All the hoopla comprises something of a return to the game industry’s heyday, say 10 years ago, when the expo was a noisy, massive, overwhelming beast that consumed the Los Angeles Convention Center for a week. It attracted tens of thousands of media and industry insiders, who faced something of a death march through game company “booths” costing millions of dollars, with dozens of often outlandishly attired staffers, followed by evening parties for 10,000 people featuring performers such as Beck and India.Arie.
2ND UPDATE, 11:45 AM: I hear Alpha House has gotten an official pickup, joining Betas. Alpha House follows four senators (John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy, Mark Consuelos) who live together in a rented house in Washington, DC. Zombieland and Browsers did not make the cut.
Related: Full Amazon Pilot Listings
UPDATE, 9 AM: Zombieland writer-producer Rhett Reese took to Twitter to blame the series’ pickup fail on Zombieland fans themselves: “I’ll never understand the vehement hate the pilot received from die-hard Zombieland fans. You guys successfully hated it out of existence.”
UPDATE, THURSDAY PM: There will be no Zombieland TV series, at least not on Amazon. The streaming service has passed on the pilot, as well as Browsers, as it continues to narrow down the field.
As broadcast networks are moving onto screening their pilots for next season, Amazon Studios too is kicking off its pilot screening process. But unlike the traditional TV networks’ pilot screenings, which are shrouded in secrecy, Amazon brass are doing theirs out in the open. The company this morning has unveiled its inaugural slate of 14 pilots — eight comedies and six kids shows. All have been made available for free on Amazon Instant Video, LoveFilm UK and LoveFilm Germany. Viewers are being invited to watch the pilots and review them on the site.
There will be “a lot of data points” in Amazon’s decision-making process as to which pilots will be picked up to series,” said Amazon Studios director Roy Price. Amazon will count how many people watched each pilot, how many watched each pilot from start to finish and how many shared it on social media. Additionally, the company will evaluate feedback from an online panel recruited on Amazon preview as well as traditional offline focus groups.
While the Amazon Studios pilot Zombieland, based on the hit 2009 Sony movie, has already been cast and filmed, this is the first time the company has acknowledged its existence. The pilot hails from Sony Pictures TV, marking the first Amazon original project from a major studio. Here is the release:
SEATTLE—March 25, 2013—Amazon Studios, the original movie and series production arm of Amazon.com, today announced it will add cult classic Zombieland to the line-up of pilots already in production for Prime Instant Video. Zombieland, which is the seventh comedy pilot added to Amazon’s pilot line-up, will be made available (along with the other six comedy pilots and six children’s pilots) for free on Amazon Instant Video and LOVEFiLM UK. Customers are invited to view the pilots and then review them on the site; customer feedback will help determine which of the 13 pilots Amazon Studios will make into full-season productions, to air on Prime Instant Video.
Broadcasters still want the courts to pull the plug on Aereo, the streaming service that they say violates their copyrights. But that isn’t stopping the Barry Diller-backed company, which vigorously rejects the broadcasters’ claims, from pushing ahead with its expansion plan. Aereo says today that it will sign up customers across the entire New York City TV market — adding parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to the area it already serves in NYC’s five boroughs. That gives the company a potential audience of 19M people ahead of its planned effort this year to launch in 22 other markets. Aereo today also announced the launch of its first advertising campaign, mostly on billboards, phone kiosks and at key city transit points. Subscribers pay $8 a month (although they also can sign up for $1 a day or $80 per year) to access streamed versions of local broadcast programming (30 channels in NYC) as well as Bloomberg Television, with the DVR-like capability to record shows and fast forward through commercials. It works on the leading Internet browsers, AppleTV and Roku devices. Aereo’s expansion likely will increase the anxiety at broadcast and cable companies; they fear that it will encourage many pay TV subscribers to cut the cord. “Aereo just needs to siphon 10 or …
PICKED UP TO SERIES
STUDIO: Amazon Studios
TEAM: Garry Trudeau (w)
LOGLINE: Four senators live together in a rented house in Washington DC.
CAST: John Goodman, Mark Consuelos, Matt Malloy, Yara Martinez, Kobi Libii, Clark Johnson
PICKED UP TO SERIES
STUDIO: Amazon Studios/Groundswell Prods
TEAM: Michael London (ep), Evan Endicott (w), Josh Stoddard (w), Michael Lehman (w, d), Alan R. Cohen (showrunner), Alan Freedland (showrunner)
LOGLINE: A quartet of under-socialized computer geeks in the world of Silicon Valley start-ups have designed a killer app that could transform the social lives of about 6 billion people for the better. Now all they have to do is get over their crippling personality flaws and sell their product.
CAST: Ed Begley Jr, Jon Daly, Joe Dinicol, Margo Harshman, Charlie Saxton, Karan Soni
STUDIO: Amazon Studios/3 Arts
TEAM: David Javerbaum (w, ep), David Miner (ep), Don Scardino (d)
LOGLINE: A musical comedy set in contemporary Manhattan that follows four young people as they start their first jobs at a news website.
CAST: Bebe Neuwirth, Dustin Ingram, Constance Wu, Bridgette Davidovici, Marque Richardson, Chris Wood
DARK MINIONS (animated)
STUDIO: Amazon Studios/Principato-Young
TEAM: Kevin Sussman (w), John Ross Bowie (w)
LOGLINE: Two slackers are just trying to make a paycheck working an intergalactic warship.
MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
STUDIO: Amazon Studios
TEAM: Roman Coppola (w), Jason Schwartzman (w), Alex Timbers (w)
LOGLINE: Based on the memoir by Blair Tindall, it’s about what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what happens onstage.
CAST: Gael Garcia Bernal
ONION NEWS EMPIRE
STUDIO: Amazon Studios
TEAM: Will Graham (w, ep), Dan Mirk (w, ep), …
EXCLUSIVE: John Goodman is set to star in Alpha House, one of Amazon Studios’ first six original comedy pilots. Written by Oscar nominee and Pulitzer-Prize winner Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Alpha House follows four senators who live together in a rented house in Washington DC. Goodman will play North Carolina Senator Gil John Biggs, a large man with large appetites. His cranky sense of entitlement comes from years of being revered as a successful basketball coach, but when the Duke basketball coach decides to run against him, he finds his Senate seat in jeopardy. Amazon has been going for a mix of big TV names and up-and-coming young talent for its comedy pilots. Frasier and Cheers alumna Bebe Neuwirth was recently cast in Browsers. Since a story about Democratic politicians Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, George Miller and Bill Delahunt sharing a rented house gained popularity several years ago, there have been several attempts to use the setup for a TV show. In 2010, ABC ordered a pilot for Greg Malins’ comedy Freshmen, executive produced by Arianna Huffington, which revolved around three newly-elected members of Congress who share a house together.
The newest kid on the original scripted series block, Amazon, is going after heralded comedy veterans for its first crop of pilots. I’ve learned that Emmy winner Bebe Neuwirth (Cheers, Frasier) is set to star in Amazon’s comedy pilot Browsers. Additionally, I hear former Roseanne star John Goodman and Frasier alum David Hyde Pierce had been approached for roles on another Amazon pilot. Amazon’s casting strategy somewhat resembles that of TV Land, which too has been casting its comedy series with alums from iconic 1980s and 1990s sitcoms, starting with breakout hit Hot In Cleveland. But while TV Land is going for casts of predominantly sitcom veterans doing multicamera comedies, Amazon is mixing things up and going after younger audiences, with single-camera shows like Browsers, which features a cast of five 21-year-olds, joined by TV/Broadway star Neuwirth.
Apple dominates digital music sales, with nearly 70% of the market, while Amazon is far behind at about 12%, NPD Group reported last year. So it’s easy to see why Amazon is so eager to pry consumers from Apple and its iTunes ecosystem. And the new Amazon MP3 store optimized for iPhones and iPod touch offers people who have those devices their first opportunity to buy and listen to tunes bought directly from Amazon, the e-retail giant says. They can avoid iTunes — where Apple takes a cut of transactions — and buy directly from Amazon by using a web app that works within the Safari browser. That could be a big deal to frequent buyers: Top selling singles typically go for 99 cents on Amazon, and $1.29 on iTunes. “Since the launch of the Amazon Cloud Player app for iPhone and iPod touch, a top request from customers has been the ability to buy music from Amazon right from their devices,” says Amazon Music VP Steve Boom. Songs bought from Amazon also can play on non-Apple devices including web browsers, Android-powered phones and tablets, and Roku and Sonus home entertainment systems.
After declining to comment when word on some of its pilot orders recently got out, Amazon Studios, the original film and series production arm of Amazon.com, today announced its first original slate of six comedy pilots from industry veterans and Hollywood newcomers. These are Amazon’s first green lights since the studio expanded into original programming development earlier this year. In addition to projects from professional writers, Amazon also went after ideas by aspiring creators solicited through Amazon Studios’ site. Once the six pilots are completed, they will be posted on Amazon Instant Video for Amazon customers to watch for free. Viewer feedback will help determine which of them will be picked up to series. “Since launching our original series development effort, we have received more than 2,000 series ideas from creators around the world with all different backgrounds, and we are extremely excited to begin production on our very first set of pilots,” said Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios.
Here is a list of the pilots, some of which have been announced on Deadline:
Amazon is ramping up its efforts to get an original series on its streaming service. I hear Amazon Studios, the content development division of the online retailer, has greenlighted animated comedy pilot Supa Natural. The move comes on the heels of the company also giving a pilot order to Browsers, a live-action single-camera comedy from writer David Javerbaum and 3 Arts Entertainment. Supa Natural, produced by Underground Films, centers on two outspoken divas who happened to be humanity’s only line of defense against the supernatural… just so long as they’re not busy shopping at the mall. Lily Sparks, Price Peterson and Ryan Sandoval wrote the script and executive produce with Underground’s Trevor Engelson and Josh McGuire as well as Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show) and Jason Micallef.
EXCLUSIVE: Writing team John Ross Bowie and Kevin Sussman, actors best known for their roles on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, have sold an animated workplace comedy project to Amazon. Titled Dark Minions, the comedy is set on an evil space station where two opinionated misfits are squeezed into working for “the man.” Peter Principato, Paul Young and Joel Zadak of Principato-Young, which manages Bowie, will executive produce, with Bowie and Sussman co-executive producing and Sussman’s manager Jill McGrath serving as a producer.
Amazon is moving closer to launching its first original series. Amazon Studios, the content development division of the online retailer, is finalizing a deal for a pilot order to Browsers, a single-camera comedy from writer David Javerbaum and 3 Arts Entertainment. The project revolves around four interns who work at a Huffington Post-type website. Javerbaum is executive producing with 3 Arts’ David Miner, with filming eyed for a January start.
Amazon Studios signaled an entry into original series in May when it announced its plans to develop comedy and children’s programming. The company’s comedy development efforts have been spearheaded by Joe Lewis who previously worked as a development/production executive at 20th Century Fox TV and Comedy Central. During Lewis’ stint at Comedy Central, Javerbaum worked on the network’s The Daily Show where he rose to executive producer.
The stock price is down about 9.8% to $28.80 in afternoon trading — well below the May 18 initial offering price of $38. One likely reason for latest decline is that beginning today investors who are interested in Facebook, but don’t want to take the risk of buying the shares, can buy options in the stock. There’s been heavy trading on these bets that enable customers to buy or sell Facebook shares at a pre-set price on a specific date. Also weighing on the stock is the rumor, which began to circulate over the weekend, that Facebook is angling to buy Norway’s Opera Software, which makes Web browsers for mobile devices. The social network company has been snake bit since it went public, and especially following disclosures that the underwriters of its IPO — Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs– told institutional investors, but not the public, that they had lowered revenue estimates for Facebook.
This has been one of the big sticking points for TV Everywhere: Advertisers and programmers say they still can’t tell who’s watching when a show is streamed to online audiences. That could result in lots of lost ad revenues. It’s the opposite of what you might expect. Internet users give up gobs of information about themselves every time they click a keyboard or mouse, while ad rates for conventional TV depend on imperfect surveys. But Internet server measurement “systematically overstates audience because it cannot distinguish one person using multiple browsers, account for cookie deletion, or distinguish content served to non-human audiences (i.e. crawlers, bots),” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says this morning in a report. He provides the clearest explanation I’ve seen so far of what advertisers do and don’t know about viewers from different platforms. Here (with his permission) is how he explains what an advertiser on Glee might learn about the show’s multiple audiences:
Adobe says it will “no longer adapt” the once-dominant program for handling multimedia and animation on computers and mobile devices — and that Steve Jobs once famously banned from Apple products. In an email to developers initially obtained by ZDNet, Adobe added that it will “continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.” Jobs led the opposition to the program, which he said in 2010 was unreliable, vulnerable to hacking, a battery hog, and gave Adobe too much power over the services that could be offered on mobile devices. Apple, Google, and Microsoft said that they preferred an open system, HTML5 — although Flash survived, finding homes on Google Android and BlackBerry smartphones. Even Jobs backed off somewhat last year, enabling third party developers to incorporate Flash into their programs for Apple devices. But the trend lines were moving in the wrong direction for Flash. For example, Microsoft stopped accommodating it in the Web browsers for its newest mobile phones.