Frank Grillo (Captain America) is set to star in DirecTV’s original series Navy St., from Byron Balasco and Endemol Studios. Written on spec by Balasco, Navy St. is a gritty family drama set against the backdrop of Navy Street, a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym based in Venice, CA. Grillo, repped by CAA and Management 360, will play the gym’s owner, Alvey Henderson, a former fighter who never made it big due to a drug addiction but is now sober. Grillo has the perfect background for the role – in addition to his long acting career, he is a lifelong wrestler-turned-boxer-turned-MMA-er who trained with Greg Jackson, one of the top MMA trainers in the world, for his role as the trainer in the 2011 MMA feature Warrior. Grillo and Warrior star Joel Edgerton bunked together at Jackson’s MMA gym in Albuquerque for four months while he was training.
Rosemarie DeWitt is set to co-star opposite Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in HBO’s miniseries Olive Kitteridge, directed by Lisa Cholodenko and produced by Playtone. Also cast in the project, based on the novel by Elizabeth Strout, are Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) and Zoe Kazan. Written by Jane Anderson, Olive Kitteridge tells the story of a seemingly placid New England … Read More »
The No. 1 satellite company warns broadcasters that their rush to raise retransmission consent fees could backfire. DirecTV‘s outlays to broadcast stations are up 50% this year, and that’s “not sustainable,” CEO Mike White told analysts today after reporting third-quarter earnings. If prices “continue to explode, then customers are going to demand other alternatives.” And DirecTV has done some R&D work to see whether it could offer broadcast TV the way Aereo does — using antennas to tap free over-the-air transmissions, without paying stations. “We’ve had antennas before so we’re pretty experienced on the whole subject,” White says. He adds that “we continue to explore it” although Aereo’s technology is “unique” and he has nothing “immanent or specific” planned. White is one of pay TV’s most outspoken critics of rising programming prices. DirecTV says that its price hikes this year resulted in slightly higher voluntary churn in the U.S. in Q3 if you factor out the impact of a dispute last year that resulted in Viacom’s channels going dark on the service for 10 days. Still, he declined to make a big effort to snag Time Warner Cable subscribers this summer during its 32-day fight with CBS. “What goes around comes around in these programming disputes.” White also feels a surprising solidarity with cable companies including Charter that want to consolidate, which presumably would make … Read More »
Not so long ago, analysts looked to DirecTV‘s Latin American operations for encouraging signs about the company’s future while the U.S. business started to stall. But most of the upbeat surprises in Q3 were in the U.S. as DirecTV benefited from Time Warner Cable’s battle with CBS — and comparisons with last year when the No. 1 satellite company suffered from its own fight with Viacom. DirecTV’s net income of $699M is +23.7% vs the period last year on revenues of $7.88B, +6.3%. Analysts thought the top line would be a little lower, at $7.85B. Earnings at $1.28 a share were well ahead of forecasts for $1.02. The U.S. operation seemed to be on track with subscriptions up nearly 1% vs last year to 20.16M, ahead of expectations. Domestic revenues grew 7% to $6.17B due to price increases and higher pay-per-view sales — offset somewhat by promotional discounts. The average monthly revenue per sub increased 6.2% to $102.37. The operating profit margin also grew to 16% from 15.2% as cost controls helped to take the sting out of price increases for programming. The good news in Latin America includes the settlement of a dispute with Brazilian officials over performance rights fees that cost less than DirecTV anticipated. But for the most part the region fell short of investor expectations. Subscriptions were up 17.3% to 11.34M — some analysts were looking for about 11.45M. Revenues in the region were +5.4% to $1.66B with an operating margin of 15.8%, up from 14.0%.
Related: DirecTV CEO Weighs Aereo-Like Service To Fight Rising Retransmission Prices Read More »
Seems they’re considering just that — with Time Warner Cable weighing the possibility of buying the Barry Diller-backed streaming video company — Bloomberg reports today, citing unnamed sources. Aereo uses thousands of tiny antennas to pick up local TV signals that it streams to its subscribers without paying broadcasters a dime. If the cable and satellite companies followed through, it could create a nightmare for broadcasters. TV station owners likely will collect $3B this year from cable and satellite company retransmission consent payments, and the amount is expected to double during the next five years. By 2015 the payments could account for 24% of CBS’ cash flow, 11% of Fox’s, and 3% of Disney’s, Guggenheim Partners’ Michael Morris predicted this week. Much of that revenue could evaporate if cable and satellite companies replicated Aereo’s model. No wonder the major TV station owners have asked several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to rule that the service infringes on their copyrights. (Aereo says it merely leases consumers the kind of equipment they could use to watch and stream TV at home for free.)
Related: Nexstar Slaps Aereo With 2nd Utah @uit, Seeks Injunction
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Family run News-Press & Gazette has a relatively small chain of 13 stations mostly in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, and Texas. But the contract impasse with the No. 1 satellite company may affect ABC: News-Press’ network affiliates include ABC outlets in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, CA; Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, CO.; Idaho Falls, ID; Columbia, MO; and El Paso, TX. The stations went dark today on DirecTV, as negotiations that continued after the previous deal expired on September 30 finally fell apart. “The core dispute between DIRECTV and the Stations involves (1) the price DIRECTV is willing to pay the each Station for the right to re-sell the each Station’s signal and (2) DIRECTV’s demand for the right to place the Stations’ signals on the Internet without paying the Station a fair price,” Gulf California Broadcasting General Manager Mike Stutz said in a post on KESQ’s website. DirecTV says that the broadcasters want “more than triple the price we currently pay to retransmit their ‘free’ TV signals. We simply won’t accept a price increase of this magnitude that would have to be passed on to our customers.”
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Enemy is the first picture the satellite company will offer on VOD exclusively for 30 days as part of the new deal with A24, the Wall Street Journal says. DirecTV has committed $40M to co-finance and market indie movies with A24. It will have the right to show them first on VOD to its 20M subscribers. The goal is to help DirecTV distinguish itself from rivals including cable companies and Dish Network. But the films that debut on VOD likely will only be able to move on to theaters that specialize in indie films. Big chains including Regal and AMC typically don’t touch films that are shown first on other platforms. A DirecTV exec told the Journal that it plans to introduce a new movie every month with a “huge marketing push.” It will charge as much as $12.99 for a seven-day rental, with Enemy making its debut early in 2014. My colleague Mike Fleming reported this month from the Toronto International Film Festival that A24 was in exclusive negotiations for the U.S. rights to Enemy, a Denis Villeneuve-directed drama that also stars Isabella Rossellini. He said it was headed toward “a low 7-figure deal with an aggressive rollout to take place sometime in the spring.”
Judging by the tone of Michael White‘s comments to investors today, he’s souring on the thought of trying to merge the No. 1 satellite company with its chief rival Dish Network. At the beginning of August the DirecTV chief said that while it might take a lot of work to do a deal he’d “never say never.” But he just told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference that “there’s no question it’s very challenging for any deal to get done” following the Justice Department’s decision last month to fight American Airlines’ plan to merge with US Airways. Some analysts thought that the companies might overcome government antitrust concerns by offering to use the airwave spectrum rights that Dish has amassed to build a national wireless broadband service. White says that conceptually “that would be a powerful argument,” but adds that “powerful doesn’t necessarily make the other [antitrust] issues go away.”
Related: Don’t Bet On A DirecTV Combo With Dish Network: Analyst Read More »
The conclusion in a report late today from Craig Moffett is a big change for the MoffettNathanson Research founder – and could weigh on both satellite distributors tomorrow. Moffett has been Wall Street’s leading evangelist for a DirecTV-Dish Network merger: In June he upgraded both companies, urging investors to buy their shares, in the belief that Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen would pursue a “spectacularly lucrative” deal with DirecTV after he failed to gain control of Sprint or an influential stake in wireless broadband company Clearwire. The idea swept through Wall Street, especially after the company chiefs said they wouldn’t rule it out.
But Moffett just conceded defeat. He downgraded both companies to “neutral” and lowered his price targets (by 7.4% to $63 for DirecTV and 8.5% to $43 for Dish). The reason: Ergen’s passion to create a wireless service “shows no sign of cooling.” He continues to amass rights to wireless airwave spectrum, and the more he buys “the less feasible it becomes for Dish to sell its trove.” Federal officials Read More »
Tony Vinciquerra had been CEO of Fox Networks Group for six years when he added the Chairman role and became Fox’s go-to TV dealmaker. He left the company two years later, having hammered out tough carriage deals worth millions with Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Dish. Now Vinciquerra, who spent a decade at Fox, has joined DirecTV‘s board of directors. Mike White, the satcaster’s Chairman, President and CEO, said of the appointment, “His expertise in television production, broadcasting, sports and international programming perfectly complement the broad experience of our current directors and ensures DirecTV will continue to have a talented and well-rounded board.” Vinciquerra, now a senior tech and media adviser to Texas Pacific Group, earlier held senior executive posts at Hearst Argyle and CBS Television Stations Group.
EXCLUSIVE: DirecTV is partnering with playwright-screenwriter Neil LaBute (The Shape Of Things) to produce a series of ten short films which will air on the satcaster’s Audience Network. LaBute will write, direct and produce the stand-alone tales, each of them exploring human relationships. The deal comes a month before the premiere of DirecTV’s limited series Full Circle, which was based on LaBute scripts. LaBute plans to be far more involved in the short films than he was in Full Circle, making the new project his first serialized TV effort. “I’m very excited to move forward on this new project, and there is not a better home than DirecTV for an ambitious series like this,” he said. “Although I am incredibly proud of my scripts for Full Circle, I was disappointed I was not available to be a part of the production. That fact drove home for me how important it is, from an artistic standpoint, to roll up my sleeves and immerse myself in all aspects of the creative process on television.” Chris Long, DirecTV’s SVP Original Content and Production, stressed that LaBute will be given full creative control in making the short films. “We are proud that Neil has chosen DirecTV as the first place to write, produce and direct his own material,” he said. “The films will be produced with a true auteur model; we’re striving for the least possible distance between the artist’s … Read More »
The story of the legendary NYC rock club that spawned bands like Blondie, the Ramones, and the Talking Heads will debut September 5 on the satcaster’s VOD platform. CBGB, starring Alan Rickman, Donal Logue, Ashley Greene, Johnny Galecki and Bradley Whitford and many others, will air through October 2 on DirecTV Cinema. It opens October 11 in theaters. Here’s the release:
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Aug. 29, 2013 – DIRECTV CINEMA® is giving customers exclusive access to experience the birth of American punk rock music with the film CBGB, directed by Randall Miller and starring Alan Rickman (Harry Potter franchise), Malin Akerman (Watchmen), Ashley Greene (Twilight franchise) and Rupert Grint (Harry Potterfranchise). The film will premiere on DIRECTV CINEMA Thursday, Sept. 5 and air through Oct. 2, prior to its theatrical release on October 11, 2013.
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EXCLUSIVE: Cole Hauser is set to star opposite Thandie Newton on the upcoming second season of DirecTV‘s original drama Rogue, which will air in 2014 on Audience. Hauser succeeds Marton Csokas, whose character’s arc came to an end at the end of Season 1. After finally avenging her son’s death, in Season 2 Grace Travis (Newton) moves on with her life and is assigned, as a handler, to an FBI task force investigating a local prostitution ring. However, when circumstances conspire against her, Grace is faced with the difficult decision to go back undercover inside a security firm founded by Ethan (Hauser). A former soldier who left law school to enlist in the military after 9/11, Ethan runs his security firm with three former military buddies who are all united by a terrible secret, a dark event that has quietly haunted them for years. Production of the second season of Rogue, from eOne and Greenroom Entertainment, is slated to begin in September in Vancouver. Hauser, repped by IAM Management, APA and Morris Yorn, recently appeared in A Good Day To Die Hard and Olympus Has Fallen and will be making his directorial debut on The Westies. His series credits include K-Ville and Chase.
UPDATE, 9:30 AM: I’m hearing that while DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable will carry Fox Sports 1 programming this weekend, they don’t have new deals in place for the network. The distributors permitted Fox to upgrade Speed to FS1 as long as they don’t have to pay extra for the channel for now. Negotiations are still underway to reach more traditional carriage agreements. Fox says it doesn’t comment on the terms of its programming deals.
PREVIOUS, 6:44 AM: 21st Century Fox’s sports service has pulled off some late-game heroics. Fox Sports 1 will launch on Saturday with a full lineup of carriage partners the company says this morning — indicating that it has inked last-minute deals with Time Warner Cable and satcasters DirecTV and Dish Network. “We are thrilled that virtually all pay-television customers across America will have access to FOX Sports 1,” says Fox Networks’ distribution President Mike Hopkins. “This network launch is a major milestone for Fox and will alter the sports television landscape. We are grateful to our distribution partners for making this all possible.” DirecTV, Dish and Time Warner Cable combine for about 46M subscribers or about 54% of the industry total, but were unsigned until now. Fox says that with “every major distributor on board” Fox Sports 1 will be “the biggest sports cable network launch in history, and one of the largest network launches ever.” Fox reportedly asked distributors … Read More »
21st Century Fox’s sports service could launch this Saturday without three of the four largest pay TV distributors — which collectively have about 46M subscribers or about 54% of the industry total. Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, and Dish Network are still in discussions to carry Fox Sports 1, according to Sports Business Daily. If there’s no agreement by the end of this week, the distributors would offer a stripped-down version of Fox’s motorsports channel Speed, which is being converted to Fox Sports 1. The publication says that Fox wants distributors to pay a monthly fee of 80 cents per subscriber for Fox Sports 1, rising to $1.50 in a few years. Speed costs just 23 cents. Fox Sports Media co-President Randy Freer sounded confident about reaching carriage deals when he spoke last week to analysts about his plans. Fox Sports 1 “will be available in up to 90M homes at launch,” he told them. Execs also said that they expect the channel to become profitable in 2016.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that DirecTV is close to picking up its third original series. I hear the satcaster is finalizing the deals for a 10-episode straight-to-series order to Navy St., an hourlong drama from Byron Balasco (Detroit 1-8-7) and Endemol Studios, the Los Angeles-based scripted TV producing operation of Endemol USA. Written on spec by Balasco, Navy St. is described as a gritty family drama set against the backdrop of a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym based in Venice, California. It deals with survival, ambition, self-destruction and love in all of its messy iterations. Balasco is attached to serve as showrunner on the series, which I heard has begun preliminary casting, with production start eyed for early next year. Navy St. is said to be in the vein of acclaimed family/football drama Friday Night Lights, which ended its run on DirecTV. This would mark the third original series to launch on DirecTV, following Rogue, which was recently renewed for a second season, and the upcoming Full Circle. At Endemol Studios, Navy St. would join two other gritty drama series, AMC’s Hell On Wheels, which returned for a third season on Saturday, and Low Winter Sun, which premiered last night. Balasco’s first stab at creating a series, drama Westside which also was set in Venice, CA, attracted McG as director and executive producer last season when … Read More »
Investors are becoming so obsessed with the idea of a DirecTV-Dish Network merger that it seems to be just a matter of time before the companies succumb. Questions about the possibility kept popping up in Dish Network’s quarterly earnings call yesterday. Company watchers “seem to be fixated” on the subject, Brean Capital’s Todd Mitchell says. And execs don’t seem to mind. Last week DirecTV CEO Michael White said he’d “never say never.” And Evercore Partners’ Bryan Kraft says he has “never heard [Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen] speak as openly and positively regarding the possibility of a combination with DirecTV” as he did yesterday. The FCC blocked a satellite TV merger in 2002 on the grounds that it would leave many rural subscribers, who don’t have cable, with just one pay TV provider. But Ergen says that the business is “materially different” than it was then. Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse serve many markets. “And then of course, you have almost an unlimited number of people now on digital Internet getting into the business, whether it be from Netflix to Hulu to Amazon to everything else that you can do on the Internet,” Ergen says. “And that’s only going to grow.” Later he added that “there’s not any question that putting Dish and DirecTV together makes a lot of sense…. If you just wanted to create short-term value, that would be probably your No. 1 option.” Read More »
This was a lousy day for DirecTV after it reported lower-than-expected earnings, with especially weak results in Latin America. But CEO Michael White gave investors at least one reason to stick with the company: He signaled in a call with analysts that he’d be receptive to the idea of a merger with Dish Network. “I don’t think it’s productive for me to speculate what regulators may or may not do, but the competitive landscape is very different than it was 10 years ago” when the FCC rejected a Dish-DirecTV merger plan, he said. For one thing, ”the balance [of power] between content distributors and providers is out of whack.” He has long charged that programmers are demanding dangerously high new fees for their content –a position he reiterated today. “I’ve seen more customer complaints about the price increases,” he says. “My own view is that it’s not going to change in the short term. But it’s clear that this isn’t sustainable beyond the next couple of years. Something is going to have to give.” He adds that Liberty Media’s John Malone, who wants cable and satellite companies to consolidate to help them fight programmers, “is 100% correct. Scale matters.” So does technology, especially as DirecTV considers strategies to avoid paying high retransmission consent fees to broadcasters. It has considered offering customers antennas to receive local signals for free. In addition, “we looked at what Aereo is … Read More »