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 »
Earlier, this afternoon, Bruce Broughton had his say about the rescinding of the Oscar nomination for the title song from Alone Yet Not Alone. Here’s another side of the story, in a letter Deadline obtained that was sent to the Academy by Martin M. Bandier, the influential chairman of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Like Broughton, he also is calling for changes in the Best Song category, but he specifically has a beef with the rule that doesn’t provide for another nominee to replace one that might be nixed, as happened this year. There certainly were other songs that warranted inclusion, and the one that I thought the category missed most was Lana Del Rey’s haunting “Young and Beautiful,” which added so much to the courtship seen between Gatsby and Daisy in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. There were others, too. Bandier sent the letter to AMPAS chief Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and it won’t be surprising if she spend some energy looking hard at this, but it seemed relevant enough right now to air it here. Read the letter below:
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EXCLUSIVE: TV Land’s freshman comedy Kirstie just finished its freshman run on Wednesday. If it gets a second season, it will be without creator/executive producer/showrunner Marco Pennette, who is leaving. The departure is not related to Kirstie or its star, Kirstie Alley, with whom Pennette is a long-time friend. I hear there is a personal issue that makes it difficult for Pennette to perform showrunner duties on a series, which are very physically demanding. He still loves working in comedy and has joined Chuck Lorre’s freshman CBS comedy Mom for a part-time gig as a consulting producer, that is better suited for him at the moment. TV Land is expected to search for a new showrunner as part of its decision-making process on Season 2. Kirstie has not been a breakout ratings or critical hit but it features a dream cast of sitcom stars Alley, Rhea Perlman and Michael Richards. The show revolves around Madison “Maddie” Banks (Alley), a Broadway star who finds her life turned upside down when Arlo (Eric Petersen), her long-lost son, turns up looking to connect after his adopted mother dies. Perlman plays Maddie’s assistant and best friend; Richards plays Maddie’s outlandish driver.
EXCLUSIVE: Minecraft, one of the hottest video game franchises in the market today, is going to be made into a major motion picture. Warner Bros. just acquired the rights to the wildly popular game from Swedish indie developer Mojang AB (mojang means “gadget” in Swedish). The property already is getting huge interest from writers and filmmakers as Warners is putting together a live-action version. Roy Lee is going to produce Minecraft via his Vertigo Entertainment production company along with Jill Messick (Mean Girls and Mean Moms) who will also produce in some capacity. Lee produced the megahit The Lego Movie with Dan Lin which launched a franchise for Warner Bros and a sequel is planned. Jon Berg is the executive in charge at the studio. CAA brokered the deal for the film rights.
Related: BOX OFFICE: ‘The Lego Movie’ Is Lord Of Business Again
Minecraft is one of the top five “open world”-type games, in which players can engage in a virtual world, creating any environment they can dream up with virtual blocks. It often is described as a “open sandbox” where the users can build anything they want. Minecraft has become an Internet sensation since its introduction in 2011. I know, gamers out there will point out that the beta version was introduced in 2009 and were invited to buy and play the game before it was finished — which was a smart move by Mojang because the players basically became the company’s test market and helped develop the game itself. (It didn’t hurt their bank account either). Read More »
Justin Hartley is set as a lead in Lauren Iungerich’s ABC comedy pilot Damaged Goods. It revolves around two damaged men (Hartley, Steve Talley) and two damaged women who explore the minutiae of love and relationships. Hartley’s smart and egoistic Tim is hit hard when his girlfriend and law firm colleague gets the promotion he expected to get. Childish and unable to applaud her accomplishments or be with a woman who outranks him, the relationship seems all but over — unless she resigns. He is repped by Innovative. Also cast as a regular in the pilot is Ben Lawson, who will play Michael, a smart, funny, good-natured, dermatologist.
Related: 2014 ABC Pilots
Christian Keyes (Beauty And The Beast) has booked a regular role in ABC drama pilot Agatha from ABC Studios and The Mark Gordon Co. It’s a character-driven procedural about Agatha, a former convict-turned-big-city criminologist who is brought in to help local police crack a case involving a perplexing disappearance. Keyes, repped by Resolution and manager Jerome Martin, plays tattooed bad boy Zane. Agatha knows he’s trouble — she did time to protect him — but just can’t seem to stay away. And the feeling is definitely mutual. He recurs on BET’s Let’s Stay Together and ABC’s Mistresses.
Eight months after Nancy Dubuc brought in BBC executive Jana Bennett to lead LMN and Bio and transform Bio into a lifestyle brand, the company has set July 7 as a launch date for Bio’s successor, FYI, and its inaugural slate of six series and two pilots. The series run the gamut of tried-and-true lifestyle areas: food, home/home renovation and personal makeover, with the network touting its programming as being younger skewing and upscale. Pilots include one featuring actress Jennifer Esposito and her gluten-free bakery. The project was first piloted by E!, which passed on it. Here is the slate: Read More »
UPDATE, 2:53 PM: DC-based public interest group Public Knowledge raised its concerns over the Netflix-Comcast deal in a statement Sunday. Said John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:
“No one on the outside knows what is happening in this market. However, it is clear that residential ISPs should be in the business of charging their users for access the Internet, not of charging the rest of the Internet for access to their users. This ensures that they are putting the needs of their users first.
From what information is public, it appears that the largest ISPs are demanding payment from networks that deliver content and services that residential broadband consumers demand. Because the large residential ISPs themselves are the ones keeping the terms of their deals secret, it is raises the question of whether they have something to hide.
One way to prevent competitive problems from arising, and to reduce the need for future regulation, is to prevent ISPs from holding other networks hostage. This raises concerns in light of the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.
“What has characterized these traffic disputes has been their opacity. We call on the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice, and interested members of Congress to ensure that the broadband market continues to meet the needs of its users, and allows companies like Netflix (and the next Netflix) to offer the services that users have demonstrated they want.”
PREVIOUS, 10:06 AM: There may be smoother streaming ahead … Read More »
Dish chairman Charlie Ergen had little new to report about his company’s negotiations for a broad, long-term deal to carry ABC, ESPN and other Disney-owned channels. “It’s taken longer than any of us would like,” he said in a call to discuss his company’s Q4 earnings — adding that he’s “cautiously optimistic” they’ll have a deal before his company’s next quarterly conference call. There’s been no material change in the discussions, “just changes in technology and what might happen. Slight changes in strategy. It’s just a complex deal trying to look out into the future.” But he’s encouraged because Disney CEO Bob Iger, as a member of Apple’s board, “has looked at it in ways that others have not.”
Related: Dish Says Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal Will Create “Seismic Shift”