In April 2004, ABC was wrapping its third consecutive season in last place among adults 18-49. Then-rising star Disney cable executive Anne Sweeney was brought in, greatly expanding her portfolio to include the struggling broadcast network and its sister studio along with her oversight of Disney’s cable properties. She’s had successes — most notably the gutsy 2010 move to install Ben Sherwood, then considered a polarizing figure, as head of ABC News, as he went on to revitalize Good Morning America and take the morning ratings lead away from incumbent Today. (Sherwood’s morning success has him already tipped for a Jeff Zucker-type career trajectory to a big network job at ABC.)
Related: Disney/ABC TV Group President Anne Sweeney To Exit In January 2015 To Become TV Director
But there has been little change in primetime. There was an initial momentum brought in by three shows developed by the dismissed ABC executives when Sweeney and her lieutenant Steve McPherson stepped in – Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives, which launched during the 2004-05 season, followed by Dancing With The Stars in June 2005. Since then, there has been a breakout success in Modern Family, several slow builders in hits Scandal, Shark Tank and Castle and a few other solid players. But in the end, Sweeney will leave ABC where she found it, wrapping its third consecutive season in last place among the broadcast networks. Read More »
Pay TV is “a pretty imperfect market. It isn’t like anything sold at Walmart, I can tell you that,” DirecTV CEO Michael White said as he outlined his initiatives to an investor group. By mid-year he plans to “simplify our offer structure” and also provide his satellite customers with “a two-page bill that you can actually understand.” The change is partly an outgrowth of his view that the pay TV industry is “not very good….There’s a lot of ways to do things better.” That’s important because, now that the industry’s mature, “it’s harder and harder for things not to devolve into price competition….We’ve all made our business more complicated than the average consumer understands and that creates challenges for the bill down the road.” White reiterated his view that consumers are getting squeezed as programming prices rise. “In an economy where consumer incomes for the bottom 60% are flat and content costs are growing double digits….consumers wouldn’t sign up for that if they had a choice. But they don’t have a choice.” White pointedly noted that mergers of distributors — including DirecTV and Dish Network — “would create a new balance of power.” Still, he isn’t confident that federal regulators would allow the satellite companies to combine, which would reduce the number of pay TV choices from three to two for about 40% of the population.
While Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time … Read More »
The 21st Century Fox COO acknowledges that with disappointments including the failure of The X Factor the “results are not what we want.” Still, Chase Carey told the Deutsche Bank Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference this morning that he likes the momentum in program development pointing to shows including 24, Hieroglyph, and Gracepoint “We have to execute in finding the shows. But I feel pretty good.” While Fox steadies itself, revenues from retransmission consent deals with pay TV distributors “will be an underpinning for profitability for the broadcast business, and that’s a stream that’s growing.” The company also expects increases in the rates cable and satellite companies pay for its pay TV channels. “We’re still not getting fair value, but you can’t get there in one fell swoop.” He adds that Fox execs “like this ecosystem….We know there’s a lot of upside left.” And with additional opportunities to sell programming to online services “the wind is at content’s back…it’s in the sweet spot today and digitization will keep it in the sweet spot.”
On other matters in the news: Carey says Fox is still figuring out how to deal with companies including Dish Network, Sony and Verizon that are angling to offer pay TV channels via the Web. “It’s early stages. I don’t know if it’s 2014, but it’s short term” before a service launches. Fox plans to “… Read More »
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been spoken for. One of the most hotly pursued actresses this pilot season has been tapped as the lead of ABC‘s drama pilot Exposed, from writer Charles Randolph, Peter Traugott’s TBD Entertainment, Sweden-based Yellow Bird Entertainment and Universal TV. Based on the best-selling Swedish novels by Liza Marklund, Exposed centers on Anna (Winstead), an investigative journalist who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, including making questionable alliances. Winstead turned down some half-dozen pilot offers this season before settling on Exposed. The actress, repped by WME and Anonymous Content, has been straddling the indie and mainstream feature worlds with roles in indies like the 2012 Smashed, which landed her an Indie Spirit nomination, and in such big-budget movies as A Good Day To Die Hard and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
David Zaslav isn’t ready to commit just yet to the plan that Dish Network and Disney sketched last week to create a personal pay TV streaming service with most — but not all — of the leading channels. “The question is: what’s the legacy impact?” the Discovery CEO said today at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom Conference. “Does it have a negative impact?” Still, Zaslav sounds intrigued, saying that there’s a potentially big business if Dish or others can sell pay TV services to 2M or more broadband customers — including many young adults who are reluctant to pay $80 a month or more for a full expanded basic pay TV bundle. Dish’s deal with Disney “provided a lot of value to Disney” in the short run. But Zaslav says that he takes a long term view of the business and “we just have to see” the details and implications of a personal streaming service. The CEO also isn’t ready yet to pass judgment on Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The deal would give Comcast about 30M video subscribers. That’s “significant market share,” he says. “We’ll have to see what it means and how it plays out.” Zaslav has good reason to stay on the sidelines: Liberty Media’s John Malone is the biggest shareholder in Discovery, as well as Charter Communications — which wanted TWC until Comcast came in with a … Read More »
In its first such ageement, Sky Deutschland has pacted with Red Arrow International to join 100 Code as co-producer. The 21st Century Fox-owned outfit will take all exclusive pay and free TV rights in German-speaking territories fo all platforms. Lost alum Dominic Monaghan and Swedish-born Michael Nyqvist (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) star in the 12-episode drama created by Bobby Moresco (Crash). Shooting starts in May on the series that’s based on Irish author Ken Bruens’ novel Merrick. Set between Stockholm and New York, 100 Code sees New York detective Tommy Conley (Monaghan) sent to Sweden to advise the local police amid a rash of ruthless muders. He’s paired with veteran homicide detective Mikael Eklund (Nyqvist), a by-the-book Swedish nationalist with an aversion to America’s grab-and-go culture. The duo can’t stand each other but must learn to work together to stop the killings. The drama was developed by Red Arrow’s LA-based scripted arm, Fabrik Entertainment (The Killing) and is produced by 100 Code AB and Zen Productions. Joakim Hansson, Klaus Zimmermann and Fabrik’s Henrik Bastin are exec producers with Moresco. The series is yet to be shopped to U.S. networks, but Red Arrow will surely be talking it up at next month’s Mip-TV.
Pilot Locations 2014: New York Production Rises, Los Angeles Plummets, Texas Hot
By Nellie Andreeva – While California Gov. Jerry Brown is still “not committed” to expanding the state’s film and TV tax credit, Los Angeles is seeing another drop in broadcast pilot production to what appears to be an all-time low. New York, which also lured The Tonight Show franchise away from Los Angeles, returns this year as the most popular drama location and reinforcing its strong position in comedy.
Dish And Disney Finalize Output Deal That Ends Their Ad-Hopper Dispute
By David Lieberman – The companies have officially announced a “wide-ranging” deal, which “will result in dismissal of all pending litigation between the two companies, including disputes over PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop.” The agreement calls for Dish to disable AutoHop functionality for ABC content within the C3 ratings window. The pact also for the first time allows Dish customers to access Disney’s authenticated live and VOD products.
White House Backs Broadcasters In Aereo Case
By David Lieberman and Dominic Patten – The Solicitor General’s office put the Obama administration solidly in the anti-Aereo camp with a 40-page amicus brief filed with SCOTUS.
‘The Wire’s David Simon Takes On Oprah-Produced HBO Mini On Martin Luther King
By Mike Fleming Jr. – I’m hearing that David Simon, the architect of the HBO series The Wire, Homicide and most recently Treme, will spearhead the HBO six-hour MLK miniseries adaptation of America: In The King Years, based on the celebrated book trilogy by Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch. Read More »
CBS, Disney, Fox, and Time Warner are the easy answers — and the ones that many financial types believe are eyeing the independent programming network companies following Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger takes the conversation a step further today with an intriguing report that suggests several less obvious potential buyers for AMC Networks, Scripps or Starz. Distributors including DirecTV, Dish Network, Charter, AT&T and Verizon might want to take a page from Comcast’s playbook when it bought NBCUniversal. DirecTV doesn’t offer broadband, so it has “additional motivation to take some action to future-proof the business,” possibly by offering exclusive access to certain networks, Juenger says. Charter and Dish are long shots: Charter probably could only afford AMC. And Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen seems intent on acquiring airwave spectrum, although “nobody really knows Mr. Ergen’s potential plans, and they could change.” AT&T and Verizon’s corporate cultures are “a step (or three) further removed from the content business.” Yet here, too, they might take a leap since “their historical core businesses are not exactly growing, and they could amass the financial resources.”
Related: What A Comcast-TWC Could Mean For Hollywood
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In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at the big Dish-Disney deal and what it might mean for other media companies and even a possible sports-free online pay-TV service. They also discuss Disney’s continuing headaches with its Interactive unit, whether FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s new rules for local broadcast alliances go far enough and look at the speculation about Carmike, the big exhibitor whose strong quarter fueled speculation that it will be a fat takeover target.
Deadline Big Media podcast 75 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 75 (.M4A version)
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The Tribeca Film Festival continues to roll out its lineup for this year’s 13th edition, which kicks off April 16. Here is the program slates for the Spotlight, Midnight, Special Screenings and Storyscapes sections. The fest’s shorts program will be unveiled Tuesday. Here are today’s films, which include Spotlight spots for Roman Polanksi’s Venus In Fur, the Robin Williams-starrer Boulevard from Dito Montiel, world premieres of films directed by actors Chris Messina and Courteney Cox, and of course the horror comedy Zombeavers:
Related: Tribeca Film Festival Unveils Competition Slate
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The No. 2 cable company is seeing the “best subscriber performance in the residential side that we’ve had in a 5 year period,” with total relationships up by 75,000 in the first two months of this year, CFO Artie Minson told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today. But all of the increases are in broadband, phone and business services: Residential video subscriptions are down by about 50,000 so far. The company lost 217,000 in the last three months of 2013 to end the year with 11.4M. Still, the exec says there’s a silver lining with net additions over the last four weeks. “As we head into March we’re excited about the positive momentum.” Minson warned that the current quarter may be “the low point of the year” for revenue growth in comparison with the same periods in 2013. While the company works to promote its $45.2B sale to Comcast, Time Warner Cable is going “full steam ahead on all of [its product enhancement] initiatives.” TWC hopes to win back market share by hitting customers with “more modest rate increases” after a period when “we were getting too much of the revenue growth from the rate side.” Minson says he’s not concerned about the growing talk about an online pay TV service, possibly including one from Dish Network with programming rights it just secured from Disney. “I’m not sure it is a business unless … Read More »
Fox‘s Deputy COO particularly likes the fact that Dish Network agreed to disable the ad-zapping function in its Hopper DVRs for the first three days after it records an ABC show. “Protecting certain windows is important” — especially the three-day period that’s most important for TV ad sales — James Murdoch told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today. As part of the deal Disney dropped out of the suit that Fox and other broadcasters filed against Dish, which charged that its DVR’s capability to automatically skip past ads in recordings of their shows infringed on copyrights and violated contracts. Murdoch shied from discussing Disney’s changes in depth, but said that “overall it looks like it’s a positive step forward. But it’s a step.” He also left a lot of wiggle room in his response to a question about Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. “You can clearly see the rationale…But this one we have to watch very closely.” He suspects “there’ll be more to come” as regulators and others investigate how much clout Comcast would have over broadband access and pricing. Read More »
The CBS chief describes Dish Network and Disney’s new programming agreement as “a win-win for both companies.” But it’s still “not quite enough for us,” Les Moonves told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today. He likes the fact that Dish chairman Charlie Ergen curtailed the ability of his Hopper DVR to automatically zap ads on ABC shows; the new deal will delay that until three days after a show airs. (CBS and other broadcasters sued Dish saying that the Hopper infringed on their copyrights and violated programming contracts. Dish says the Hopper simply automates the ad skipping that DVR viewers already do with their remote controls.) Moonves also doesn’t mind the terms in the deal with Disney that would enable Dish to carry its channels on an Internet pay TV service, also known as over-the-top. “Everybody’s talking about over the top,” he says. “We’re talking about it with many of the [pay TV distributors] we’re in business with….The current ecosystem works very well, but a new way to get paid for your linear content is a good thing if it’s done appropriately.” He adds that consumers will probably see a online pay TV service “in concert with our partners.” That could include Dish: Moonves says that “our deal with Charlie is up at the end of this year. It’ll be an interesting conversation, as they always are with Charlie.”
Related: Les Moonves Vows To Drop Dish If It Keeps Pushing Ad-Zapping DVR
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The 2014 Tribeca Film Festival unveiled 47 of its 89 feature-length films in its lineup today in the World Narrative and Documentary Competition selections as well as the out-of-competition Viewpoints pics. Thursday will see the remainder in the Spotlight, Midnight, and Special sections. The fest kicks off April 16 with the already announced opening-night film, the Nas documentary Time Is Illmatic. Dior And I will screen opening night for the World Documentary competition, the Rory Culkin-starrer Gabriel from U.S. writer-director Lou Howe will open the World Narrative competition, and Summer Of Blood will open Viewpoints — all world premieres and all to screen April 17. The fest runs through April 27. Here’s the lineups in the three sections: Read More »
It’s definitely a set-back for those who fantasized about such a service based on what we know from the wide-ranging program carriage agreement the companies announced last night. Many industry watchers thought that someone might be able to compete with cable and satellite by charging a lower price for a package of Internet-delivered pay TV channels that didn’t include sports — the leading contributor to rising programming costs. The Dish-Disney deal is the first to publicly address the terms of a potential online, or over-the-top (OTT), service that Dish has been mulling (similar to what Sony and Verizon appear to be planning). And while Disney wouldn’t require the satellite company to offer all of its channels, it would insist on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ABC Family, and Disney Channel. That represents “the worst of all worlds,” MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson says. A service that includes ESPN, but not regional sports channels, “has too many missing networks to appeal to families who care about sports and is too expensive to be differentiated for families who don’t. Time to shovel the dirt on this idea.” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger also says that the agreement only allows subscribers to a hypothetical OTT service to access one stream which means it’s “not suitable for a traditional household with multiple TVs/viewers.”
If anything, the deal strengthens the power of sports programmers to thrive with subsidies from non-sports fans. Among the channels that Dish agreed … Read More »
Gustaf Skarsgård has signed with Paradigm. The actor who plays Floki on History’s Vikings, has appeared in the recent films Kon-Tiki, Autumn Blood and The Way Back and starred in the Swedish gangster miniseries Ettor och Nollor. Other credits include Kidz In Da Hood, Patrik 1.5 and Trust Me. Skarsgård is additionally repped by Agentfirman Planthaber/Kildén/Mandic.
Chris Hill has signed with Gersh. The British writer’s first feature — horror pic The Rules Of The Game, which he penned with Sam Michell — is in postproduction with director Edward McGown. Hill worked on the UK series Skins, which airs stateside on BBC America. He continues to be repped by Nick Marston of Curtis Brown Group in London,
UPDATE, 5:20 PM: The companies have officially announced a “wide-ranging” deal, which “will result in dismissal of all pending litigation between the two companies, including disputes over PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop.” The agreement calls for Dish to disable AutoHop functionality for ABC content within the C3 ratings window. The pact also for the first time allows Dish customers to access Disney’s authenticated live and VOD products. The full release is below the original story.
PREVIOUS, 3:59 PM: They both made big concessions as part of a new — and long-awaited — program carriage deal that Dish Network cut with Disney, The Wall Street Journal reports. It says that Dish Network has agreed to disable the Hopper DVR’s “Auto Hop” feature for ABC shows for the first three days after they air. Disney, in return, will drop out of broadcasters’ suit against Dish. They’ve said that the DVR’s feature that automatically jumps past ads on some recorded shows infringes on their copyrights and violates carriage contracts. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has steadfastly cast himself as a champion for his customers’ interests, saying that Hopper simply automates what DVR owners already can do with their remote controls. Now that Dish and Disney have agreed to allow ad zapping after three days, we’ll have to see whether other broadcasters can accept similar terms. CBS chief Les Moonves said in November that he’s “very flexible. We’re willing to negotiate.” Last month Ergen said that he was “cautiously optimisic” about striking a deal with Disney, in part because CEO Bob Iger — who’s also a member of Apple’s board – “has looked at [terms] in ways that others have not.” Read More »
Before tonight’s Academy Awards, catch up on the top stories you missed this week on Deadline:
Oscars Finally Here – Record Voting Turnout According To Academy But What Does It All Mean?
By Pete Hammond – The robocalls and emails apparently did the trick as Academy CEO Dawn Hudson reports the 86th Oscar contest is responsible another significant high mark in the Academy’s efforts to turn out the vote.
OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever
By Pete Hammond – With no real clarity from the usually reliable guild contests and critics awards, the best picture race is one of the most unpredictable in years. Considering the preferential Oscar voting system, it is not probable there will be a winner on the first ballot because it’s unlikely any film in this great year for films will be able to muster more than 50% of the first-place votes required. The second choice on those best picture ballots could end up being the most important. Read More »