Participant Media‘s network Pivot today announced the pickup of Sky Atlantic’s 12-episode drama series Fortitude starring Stanley Tucci and Michael Gambon. The series became available in the U.S. in December when Starz, which originally had committed to the project, pulled out. Pivot is designed as a younger skewing network than Starz, with its target demo being 18-34. As part of its upfront presentation, Pivot also announced an overhaul of its nightly topical series, TakePart Live. Beginning Monday, May 12, the hour-long late-night program will move to primetime (10 PM) with a new producer, Michael Davies’ Embassy Row, which is behind Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live and AMC’s Talking Dead/Bad. Also undergoing makeover is the hosting team of Jacob Soboroff and Cara Santa Maria, with only Soboroff coming back, joined by Sen. John McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain and comedian Eddie Huang.
Pivot also unveiled a development slate that includes eleven projects from production companies including IAC’s Electus, Universal Cable Prods., FremantleMedia North America/Pukeko Pictures, Funny or Die, and Eyeworks, and revealed premiere 2014-15 dates, including an August 8 debut for the sophomore season of coming-of-age comedy, Please Like Me, and the comedy Human Resources. “Our second slate demonstrates our significant investment in, and commitment to, groundbreaking content for the thought-leading segment of Generation Y we call ‘Upstanders,’” said Pivot president Evan Shapiro. Here is Pivot’s full slate: Read More »
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.
Read More »
Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur, who segues between Hollywood and home-based projects, is set to direct and produce serialized crime series Trapped in his native country. From Kormakur’s RVK Studios, it’s based on his original idea and written by Sigurjon Kjartansson and Clive Bradley. Trapped follows the investigation of the grisly murder of an unidentifiable man found in the water after an international ferry arrives in a small town at the bottom of a fjord. Soon after, a powerful blizzard hits the town with deadly force, making the only road in or out impassable. The 10-part series, the most ambitious Icelandic commission ever ordered, will air locally on public broadcaster RUV. RVK’s Magnus Vidar Sigurdsson is also producing and RVX, the effects arm of RVK, will design the VFX. Dynamic Television’s Daniel March and Klaus Zimmermann are executive producers and are handling worldwide distribution. Kormakur, whose The Deep was shortlisted for the Foreign Language Oscar in 2012, is currently directing Everest for Universal, Cross Creek Pictures and Working Title Films. Read More »
Just days after it was taken out on the global marketplace, the Israeli game show format Boom! has landed a sale in the U.S. Fox has given a series order to the explosive project, developed for the U.S. by Keshet DCP, the joint venture between Keshet International, the global distribution and production arm of Keshet Media Group (Homeland), and DC Media, the parent company of dick clark prods. (Golden Globes) Read More »
Television executives are always on the hunt for the proverbial Next Big Thing, and for the past year or so, the Mipcom and Mip-TV markets have emerged as important hubs where some of the hottest new formats are unveiled. Following a strong showing at last fall’s Mipcom, Keshet‘s Rising Star sold around the world, including to ABC in the U.S. What will be the breakout format at Mip-TV which kicks off tomorrow? With the U.S. reality market yet to yield a new tentpole franchise since NBC premiered The Voice three years ago, and most established series more than a decade old, the necessity of finding reinforcements is ever more urgent and means execs need to be constantly vigilant as to where the new possibilities may be hidden. Likening the search to digging for truffles, Jennifer O’Connell, head of Core Media’s U.S. Television Division, says, “We’re really going to be sniffing around everywhere.” It’s important to keep a “very open mind to where a great idea can come from.” Regardless of the provenance, U.S. broadcasters are more apt to take a second look “if someone else did it first… It can be almost like an insurance policy,” she says.
Most agree that the biggest proving grounds for new programming remain the UK, the U.S. and the Netherlands. Israel has also been coming on … Read More »
As the Mip-TV market gets underway in Cannes, Keshet International has announced its first offshore rights deal for ticking time bomb show, Boom!. France’s TF1 has acquired the format that just debuted in Israel to powerhouse ratings and is expected to be a big seller here this week. The game show sets a squad of four players the challenge of defusing eight replica bombs by answering trivia questions correctly within a strict time limit. The multiple choice responses are represented by different color wires. If the player gets an answer right, the prize money remains intact and the squad advances. If they cut the wrong wire, or run out of time, the bomb explodes spewing material across the studio and shaking the set. The team loses one player per exploded bomb, and 25% of the potential prize money. Keshet DCP is developing the show for the U.S. Read More »
UK omnibus 50 Kisses is entering the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest roster of co-writers on a feature film. The 51 scribes will gather today at BAFTA headquarters in London for a special screening of the film that beat the previous record holder, 1943’s Forever And A Day. That film had 21 writers including an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock. The British 50 Kisses was produced by the London Screenwriters’ Festival. Two years ago, it invited writers to submit two-page scripts featuring at least one kiss and set on Valentine’s Day. The 50 best scripts were released online with an open invitation for filmmakers to produce them. Ultimately, 127 shorts were made and those were edited down to produce 50 Kisses. The finished product was released on February 13 this year, earning a per-screen average of nearly £9,500. The end credits run for 17 minutes. Read More »
Veteran scripted development executive Quan Phung has joined Slingshot Global Media, the Los Angeles-based independent television studio former FremantleMedia International CEO David Ellender launched in February with the backing of private investment firm TPG. For the past over five years, Phung was president of Bluegrass Television, the TV arm of Scott Stuber’s Bluegrass Film & Television, through the first-look deal the company had at Universal Television. Bluegrass is staying in the TV business as an independent company. Phung will serve as president of scripted television for Slingshot, overseeing development and production of comedy, drama series and limited-run event series for the U.S. market as well as “globally-appealing” straight-to-series projects through co-financing, co-production, and pre-sale deals. “By being nimble and quick to adapt to the evolving distribution environment, we can connect talented storytellers to a global TV audience seeking compelling original content,” Phung said. Read More »
Steve Buscemi is teaming with AOL for unscripted original Park Bench. Set in New York City, the web series is part of the AOL Originals platform which will carry the first season online in the U.S. Production starts this month in NY where Buscemi will interact with everyday denizens of the Big Apple along with his celebrity pals, discussing everything from pop culture to current events. The show is produced by Olive Productions and RadicalMedia, and is intended to convey Buscemi’s relationship with the city of New York and its array of one-of-a-kind characters. “Having lived and worked in New York my whole life, I’m ready to take advantage of all it has to offer,” said Buscemi. “I just need to lay down for five minutes.” FremantleMedia International will shop Park Bench at next week’s Mip-TV. Wren Arthur and Buscemi are executive producing for Olive; Justin Wilkes, Joe Killian and Jon Doran are exec producing for RadicalMedia. Buscemi and Olive are represented by WME, The Gotham Group and attorney George Sheanshang.
Allan Leighton, Linda Robinson Named To eOne Board
Canadian giant Entertainment One has appointed Allan Leighton to its board as Non-Executive Director and Chairman. He replaces James Corsellis as Chairman, though Corsellis will remain a Non-Exec Director. Leighton is a former board director of BSkyB in the U.K. and previously was Chairman of The Royal Mail, CEO of Asda Stores Limited and Walmart Europe, Deputy Chairman of Selfridges & Co and Chairman of LastMinute.com. Also joining the eOne board a little more than a year after its acquisition of Alliance Films is media attorney Linda Robinson as Non-Exec Director. Patrice Theroux, who leads eOne’s global film business, is stepping down from the board to focus on his exec responsibilities. Read More »
The move to Telepictures comes about eight months after Donna Redier Linsk exited FremantleMedia North America as COO and reunites her with Mike Darnell, President, Warner Bros. Unscripted and Alternative Television, to whom she will directly report. The two previously worked together at Fox when Darnell oversaw reality. In the newly created position of EVP Business Operations & Programming, Radier Linsk will serve as Telepictures’ top business executive, responsible for all finance, business and legal affairs, production, operations, administration and current programming matters related to the company’s original television series and digital content. She will also manage Telepictures’ business and operational staff. “I feel incredibly lucky that Donna has decided to join the Telepictures team. She has been a trusted advisor to me for many years, and I could not be more excited to have her here,” Darnell said in a statement. Read More »
The consolidation of independent unscripted production companies continues, with FremantleMedia buying a 75% stake in SallyAnn Salsano‘s 495 Prods. with the option to acquire the remaining 25%g in the future. Founded in 2006 by Salsano, 495 Prods. is behind such unscripted series as MTV’s Jersey Shore and spinoffs Snooki And JWOWW, The Show With Vinny and The Pauly D Project; Spike TV’s Tattoo Nightmares, which FremantleMedia distributes internationally, and Repo Games; MTV’s dating show Friendzone and the daytime syndicated talk show The Real. The company also produces Jerks With Cameras for MTV, Tattoos After Dark for Oxygen and CMT breakout hit Party Down South. “Our ambition is to continue to grow 495 Productions in the U.S. and to broaden its global footprint even further through our extensive distribution and production network,” FremantleMedia CEO Cécile Frot-Coutaz said. Read More »
Jesus Perezagua Exiting Fox International Channels
Fox International Channels President of Europe and Africa Jesus Perezagua has announced his departure. The exec has been at the company since 2003. He joined as managing director of FIC Spain and Portugal and in 2005 took over the company’s expansion plan in Eastern and Central Europe, Turkey and Greece. Perezagua became President of FIC Europe and Africa in 2011. He will step down from the role on April 30 but will continue to consult FIC. The search is on for a successor. Prior to FIC, Perezagua held posts at Iberian Channels and Online for Fox Kids Entertainment Espana and was Managing Director of Bandai Espana, a Japanese toy company specializing in TV marketing concepts. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In a further foray into scripted programming, FremantleMedia is teaming with the UK’s Corona Pictures for a drama/adventure series project based on best-selling author Wilbur Smith’s Birds Of Prey. Layer Cake scribe JJ Connolly has been set to pen the adaptation of the first three novels in Smith’s Courtney Family Adventures series that begins with Birds Of Prey and includes Monsoon and Blue Horizon. All told, Smith’s 34 books have sold over 120 million copies worldwide. The swashbuckling Courtney novels are set against a backdrop of the uncharted Africa of the 17th century, which offers the promise of the adventure of a lifetime and tantalizing riches. The stories chronicle the lives of the eponymous family as they battle to secure the clan’s fortunes in a place where sea-faring empires, privateers, wild animals and settled African tribes and nations fight it out for control of the land and its treasures. The planned TV series will kick off in 1667 as the family lands in Africa, led by 17-year-old protagonist Hal.
Corona Pictures co-founders Rupert Jermyn and Richard Johns (Shadow Of The Vampire, The Liability) are producing the series which is being co-developed by FremantleMedia. The partners are eyeing an initial 13-episode season and have begun discussions with UK, U.S. and European broadcasters. They will present the project further at Mip-TV next month. Jermyn … Read More »
Kevin Spacey To Play Title Role In Old Vic’s ‘Clarence Darrow’
Kevin Spacey is taking a break from playing Frank Underwood and is returning to the role of Clarence Darrow. The actor will portray the pioneering lawyer for the second time on stage in the upcoming Old Vic production of Darrow. Spacey previously played the legendary attorney in the Old Vic’s staging of Inherit The Wind and on TV in the PBS film Darrow, which was helmed by his House Of Cards collaborator John David Coles. From May 28-June 15, Thea Sharrock is directing him in Clarence Darrow, David W. Rintel’s one-man show that relives some of the civil rights hero’s pivotal experiences including the Scopes “Monkey” Trial and the “Thrill Killers” trial. Sharrock’s credits include Equus with Daniel Radcliffe, Henry V with Tom Hiddleston for Sam Mendes/Neal Street and the BBC and the latest Call The Midwife Christmas special. Spacey is celebrating his 10th anniversary this year as the artistic director of the Old Vic. Also as part of the upcoming summer/fall season in the round, Ian Rickson is directing Kristin Scott Thomas in a new take on Sophocles’ Electra written by Dancing At Lughnasa scribe Brian Friel. That runs September 20-December 20.
Related: Kevin Spacey Self-Releasing ‘Now: In The Wings On A World Stage’: Q&A
Read More »
FremantleMedia International and Oscar-nominated director Roland Joffé are putting a new spin on Victor Hugo’s classic The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. Under a co-development partnership, Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission) will write a retelling of the story to be titled Ugly. The planned TV series will trace the titular character’s journey and aims to show what it means to be human regardless of outward appearances. The period project will be set against the political, economic and social explosion of early 17th Century France. A further move by Fremantle into scripted drama, Ugly will be discussed with broadcasters at the upcoming Mip-TV market in Cannes. Earlier this year, FremantleMedia North America acquired rights to the Neil Gaiman urban fantasy novel American Gods for a potential series, and last year the parent company acquired a majority stake in Danish scripted producer Miso Film. Joffé is also lined up to direct A+E Studios and ITV Studios America’s eight-hour mini Texas Rising (working title) which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Joffé is repped by Resolution.
A rash of acquisitions of European and U.S. independent production companies has been steadily spreading over the past year and a bit. One exec says, “We joke that there’s a transaction a day.” Leading the charge is the UK’s ITV, which has been on a shopping spree since it first bought a controlling stake in Duck Dynasty maker Gurney Productions in late 2012. Also acquisitive has been the Pro Sieben-owned Red Arrow, which recently bought Say Yes To The Dress maker Half Yard Prods. But it’s a two-way street: NBCUniversal already owns Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films in the UK as well as Monkey Kingdom and Chocolate Media, among others. Warner Bros last month entered an agreement to take over the global interests, outside the U.S., of Dutch company Eyeworks, and has a majority stake in UK production group Shed Media. Core Media is also known to have its eyes open to UK purchases. What’s more, many of these outfits also own companies in the hot Nordic region. And now there’s word that giant FremantleMedia may be moving in on vast group All3Media. A TV industry exec says, “We had the super-indies and now there’s a new breed of mega-indies.” If FremantleMedia acquires All3Media, it would create what an observer describes as “a very big beast.” Fremantle is a large group with significant turnover and some of their properties are getting older, an exec suggests. “It’s very difficult to replace that scale just through new productions.” However, I’m cautioned that should a deal be done, it won’t be in the imminent future.
So what’s been driving all this consolidation and cross-pollination? For one, with TV channels proliferating in the U.S., whether it be via basic cable or digital platforms, foreign outfits see a prime opportunity to establish a foothold and build scale. In the reverse, U.S. companies moving into the booming UK production sector know that broadcasters are doling out a lot of cash for original content. Read More »
Warner Bros International Television Production has acquired format rights to distribute BBC One’s new quiz show, The Link. BBC One has commissioned 25 episodes for a daytime slot. The show is produced by STV Productions in association with LTV. Not to be confused with the BBC’s The Weakest Link, the game show pits teams against each other as they race to find the link between questions. Guess the connections, break the links, win money. “We know that great game shows are back at the top of broadcasters’ wish lists. The Link is that rare thing — an original new quiz show with a strong identity in terms of both its game play and visual elements, commissioned in a key market. Our excitement is shared by Mike Darnell and his team at the Warner Bros Television Group, who will be bringing it to market in the U.S.,” says WBITP’s Andrew Zein. The UK version of the show will be hosted by actor Mark Williams, best known as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. Gary Chippington is executive producer for STV Productions, Jo Street is executive producer for the BBC and Paul Johnson is executive producer for LTV and Tuvalu Entertainment Ltd. Read More »
Eccho Rights has sold popular Turkish drama The End into further markets. It’s already being remade in the U.S. by Sander/Moses Prods at Fox, and now Germany’s UFA will develop a local version for broadcaster SAT1 while Shine France has also taken an option on the series. Further, Netflix has signed a non-exclusive agreement for the original in Sweden and the UK. The story is about a woman navigating a web of lies and intrigue as she searches for her husband whom she presumed dead following a plane crash. But it turns out he never boarded the plane. Produced by Ay Yapim in Turkey, the show is also getting a Russian version. Read More »