Todd Holland & Karey Burke’s Company Inks ABC Studios Overall Deal

By | Thursday April 24, 2014 @ 3:00pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

burkeTodd-HollandTodd Holland and Karey Nixon Burke’s Dark Toy Entertainment is setting up shop at ABC Studios with a two-year overall deal. The duo launched their company four years ago and had been based at Universal TV with two back-to-back overall deals. The move to ABC Studios stems from Dark Toy’s collaboration with the studio on the NBC comedy pilot The Pro starring Rob Lowe and Rob Riggle and directed by Holland. The project was set up as a co-production between ABC Studios, where the project’s writers, Pete Huyck and Alex Gregory, are based, and Universal TV, where Lowe and Dark Toy were under deals. “We had a fantastic experience working with them on The Pro and are so excited to work with them developing both comedy and drama projects for the studio,” ABC Studios topper Patrick Moran said. At Uni TV, Dark Toy produced comedy series Go On and Free Agents. “We’re the dirty laundry company,” Holland said. “We both love when writers bring in their real stories with all the awkward juiciness of their real lives, real families, real friends — truth is always funnier than confection.” The duo is repped by WME and Jackoway Tyerman. ABC Studios recently signed an overall deal with comedy writer-producer Dave Hemingson and is in discussions for an overall pact with Mixology creators Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

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Two Colberts Pass In The Night

LisaColumn__131015210634-275x198Stephen Colbert: The Road To The CBS Late Show Host-ship 2015 kicked off this week, with Actual Stephen Colbert visiting the show to kiss David Letterman’s ring and introduce himself to late-night America as a pleasant, humble kind of guy. At the exact same time, over on Comedy Central, StephenColbertLetterman__140423232924-575x468 Colbert-Nation, the puffed-up talk-show host headlining The Colbert Report, rhetorically threw down with conservative columnist George Will.

It was a neat equation of what Colbert will add to CBS and subtract from the political landscape. CBS will become home to the guy who will do the very best interview ever with Lindsay Lohan when she attempts her next career comeback (maybe when NBC revisits its Hillary Clinton biopic after the presidential election cycle?). But we’ve got an abundant supply of late-night Lohan interviewers. Meanwhile, our gross national product of viral, make-you-think TV political humorists appears to be about to plunge 50%, from Colbert plus Jon Stewart to Stewart alone (though Comedy Central alum John Oliver’s upcoming HBO weekly show may tip the scales a bit).
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John Oliver Interviews Former NSA Director In Sunday’s HBO Debut

By | Thursday April 24, 2014 @ 11:21am PDT

John Oliver Keith Alexander NSA InterviewJohn Oliver will interview Gen. Keith Alexander (Ret.) — former director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command –  when he debuts his new HBO late-night topical comedy show Last Week Tonight. HBO says it’s Alexander’s first since retiring as NSA director. The news comes the week Oliver took the NBC package deal to promote the launch of his new HBO late-night show, stopping by The Tonight Show show to poke fun at Jimmy Fallon‘s interview style and talk about friends’ reaction to his final The Daily Show appearance, in which he wept. Read More »

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FCC Chairman Circulates Net Neutrality Proposal Barring “Commercially Unreasonable” Practices

By | Thursday April 24, 2014 @ 12:07pm EDT

The term is key: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says in a blog post that the ability to bar “commercially unreasonable” practices empowers the agency — in a plan he will begin to circulate — to crack down on Internet service providers that discriminate against some content providers. Tom Wheeler 2But open Internet advocates fear it’s too squishy, and could allow ISPs to create tiers of service that enable some content providers (Netflix or HBO GO, perhaps) to pay for speedy transmissions. Wheeler hopes to “conclude this proceeding and have enforceable rules by the end of the year.” The plan he will begin to circulate will look at net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, an adjustment needed to meet the objections that the D.C. Court of Appeals raised in January when it remanded the FCC’s previous net neutrality rules. FCC Net NeutralityBut he vigorously objects to the “great deal of misinformation” that characterized his proposal as an effort to gut the principle of open Internet by allowing companies to pay for speedier service. His plan “would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” he says. The court said that the FCC could stop practices it deems not ” commercially reasonable” — and he says that his plan will “establish a high bar for what is ‘commercially reasonable.’” Read More »

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Time Warner Cable Chief Says Subs Coming Over For Dodgers Channel

Rob Marcus pitched a what-me-worry response to an analyst who asked him this morning about Time Warner Cable‘s inability to persuade other pay TV providers (aside from close ally Bright House) to carry SportsNet LA —  which the Dodgers own and TWC distributes.Dodgers SportsNet “The good news is the product is great,” the CEO says. “We have a first place baseball team and the production quality is outstanding….There are a whole lot of customers at twclogoTime Warner Cable who are happy” while others are “moving to Time Warner Cable” to watch the Dodgers. TWC is said to want other distributors to pay $4 per month for each subscriber — including those who don’t watch sports.  That would make SportsNet LA one of the country’s most expensive regional sports channels. TWC needs the high price to help it cover its $8.35B, 25-year commitment for the distribution rights.

Related: Time Warner Cable Q1 Earnings Beat Estimates

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Apple CEO Says HBO Gave Amazon “Older” Content, And Talks Up Apple TV

By | Wednesday April 23, 2014 @ 6:15pm EDT

Tim CookTim Cook hinted in his call with analysts today that Apple wants to become a bigger player in TV. He says that the company has already sold 20M of its Apple TV streaming boxes, which accounted for $1B  in sales last year. That helps to explain why, in February, he stopped calling the product a “hobby.” As it has grown, and become more sophisticated, “it didn’t feel right to me” to treat it so dismissively. He doesn’t appear to feel threatened by Amazon’s deal today to land several popular shows from HBO and add HBO GO to the Amazon Fire TV platform. “We  have HBO GO already on Apple TV,” the Apple CEO says. As for the programming: “They got some older content from HBO. I haven’t had a chance to evaluate exactly what it is.” While Apple fans eagerly wait to see what new products the company might unveil this year, Cook says “I’m feeling very good about that [TV] business and where it can go.”

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Scott Speedman Joins Patricia Clarkson For ‘October Gale’

By | Wednesday April 23, 2014 @ 2:36pm PDT
Mike Fleming

speedmaEXCLUSIVE: Scott Speedman is set to star opposite Patricia Clarkson in October Gale, the drama written and directed by Ruba Nadda. She also wrote and directed Cairo Time, which starred Clarkson. Speedman plays a mysterious man who, during a violent October storm, washes up on the shore of Helen Matthews’ remote island cottage, unconscious and bleeding from a gunshot wound. Clarkson plays the recently widowed doctor who takes him in, only to find that the shooter is coming back to finish the job and that the storm has cut them off from the mainland. Daniel Iron will produce through Foundry Films, and Christine Vachon will be exec producer through Killer Films. The film shoots in Canada in five weeks. Read More »

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Wall Street Wonders: Will HBO’s Deal With Amazon Change The Online Video Game?

By | Wednesday April 23, 2014 @ 3:33pm EDT

Some analysts say it could as investors lifted the value of Time Warner shares by 1.8% and drove Netflix down 5% and Amazon down 1.5% in afternoon trading. sopranosThe agreement giving Amazon series from HBO including The Sopranos and Six Feet Under “is unparalleled for a subscription-only online streaming service from a quality perspective,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter says. He estimates that when the deal kicks in next month Amazon will be able to offer its customers 800 episodes of original content “compared to roughly 100 episodes of original content currently available on Netflix.” That could help Amazon to turn its Prime Instant Video offering into a stand-alone streaming service, separate from the current arrangement which — for $99 a year — also includes no-charge delivery for many retail items.

Related: HBO Signs Exclusive Licensing Deal With Amazon Prime

AmazonPrimeInstantVideoPachter estimates that Amazon is paying “well above” $200M for HBO’s shows. Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner and Todd Juenger figure the payment to HBO to be “somewhere between $200M and over $400M…at a very high margin” for what they call “a significant addition to the Prime video library.” Read More »

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David Schulner Inks New Deal With Uni TV, Sets Ancient Egypt HBO Drama With Ridley Scott

By | Wednesday April 23, 2014 @ 12:30pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

David SchulnerDavid Schulner is staying at Universal TV with a new two-year overall deal, his third consecutive overall pact there. Through Uni TV, Schulner has sold hourlong drama Pharaoh to HBO with Ridley Scott attached to direct and executive produce. The series explores an alternate explanation for the foundation and ascent of the ancient Egyptian empire—one in which greatness was bestowed upon us by beings from another world, calling into question what it means to be a ‘god.’ Another ancient Egypt drama, Hieroglyph, has a series order at Fox. Under his Uni TV deal, Schulner also is developing projects for sister networks USA and Syfy. He previously was the creator, executive producer and showrunner of NBC/Uni TV’s drama Do No Harm and served as consulting producer on NBC’s Dracula and Ironside. Schulner began his tenure at Universal TV (then UMS) with stints as co-executive producer on drama series Kings and Trauma, leading to his first overall deal with the studio in 2010. Schulner started off as a playwright before becoming a staff writer on ABC’s Once And Again. He rose to prominence with his high-concept 2007 spec The Oaks, which landed at Fox after a bidding frenzy with Shawn Ryan executive producing. Schulner’s series credits also include the WB’s Everwood, ABC’s Desperate Housewives and ITV’s Marchlands. Schulner, repped by UTA and Myman Abel, also is the author of the comic book Clone.

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HBO To Co-Produce BBC Miniseries Based On J.K. Rowling Book ‘The Casual Vacancy’

By | Wednesday April 23, 2014 @ 9:00am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

a_610x408HBO has come on board as co-producer of BBC’s miniseries adaptation of novel The Casual Vacancy, from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. The three-hour mini, written by Sarah Phelps (EastEnders), produced by Ruth Kenley-Letts (The Hour) and to be directed by Jonny Campbell (In the Flesh), will begin production this summer in South West England. Published in 2012, Casual Vacancy centers on Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind the pretty façade, however, is a town at war: Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils. The three-part mini is produced by Bronte Film and Television, the independent production company run by Rowling and Neil Blair, who is executive producing with Paul Trijbits (Saving Mr. Banks) and Rick Senat.

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John Oliver Visits Jimmy Fallon, Matt Lauer To Promote HBO ‘Last Week Tonight’ Debut: Video

John Oliver took the NBC package deal to promote the launch of his new HBO late night show, Last Week Tonight this coming Sunday. Oliver stopped by Tonight show last night, where he made fun of Jimmy Fallon‘s interview style and talked about friends’ reaction to his final The Daily Show appearance:

Earlier this week, Oliver so deftly explained to Today show’s Matt Lauer why his satirical show would not bother to cover a report that had just been featured on Today, that Lauer barely noticed he’d been dinged: Read More »

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HBO Signs Exclusive Licensing Deal With Amazon Prime

By | Wednesday April 23, 2014 @ 9:07am EDT

HBOTake that, Netflix. Beginning on May 21 the multi-year agreement will enable Amazon Prime subscribers to stream series including The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, and later — about three years after episodes initially air — GirlsThe Newsroom and Veep. In addition, by year end Amazon will offer HBO GO on its new Fire TV platform. (It’s already available to HBO subscribers on other devices including Google’s Chromecast.) The shows will still be available on HBO’s platforms, but the companies say that this is the first time the premium pay TV channel’s shows have been licensed to an online-only streaming service. “As owners of our original programming, we have always sought to capitalize on that investment,” HBO EVP Business and Legal Affairs Glenn Whitehead says.

Related: Will HBO’s Deal With Amazon Change The Online Video Game?

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2014 International CESAmazon shares are up 1.4% pre market, and Netflix is down 2.7%, following the announcement. That suggests investors didn’t fully accept Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ claim on Monday that the streaming video providers can peacefully coexist. “It’s a very much not a zero-sum game and we are building this ecosystem together that’s about Internet video and the more players there are in Internet video, the bigger that ecosystem gets,” he said. “The big theme is Internet video is taking share away from linear video. So we are all participating in that transformation.” He has more mixed feelings about HBO: In January he joked that HBO chief Richard Plepler’s Netflix password was probably: “Netflix bitch.”

AmazonPrimeInstantVideoStifel analyst Benjamin Mogil says HBO probably made its deal with Amazon, instead of Netflix, because there’s less overlap among their subscribers. Still, it’s “clearly a negative for Netflix, given the high profile nature of the HBO content” and could “somewhat limit” the streaming company’s just-announced plan to raise its prices for new customers. He notes, though, that HBO and Amazon released few details about the deal terms and that it doesn’t include all HBO shows.

Here’s today’s announcement from HBO and Amazon: Read More »

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Supreme Court Watchers Examine Justices’ Comments For Insights Into What They’ll Do With Aereo

By | Tuesday April 22, 2014 @ 5:45pm EDT

Aereo-badge__140414141457__140417214420This is a risky exercise. Jurists often like to play devil’s advocate when they question lawyers in open court. But the comments that Supreme Court justices made today in the hearing pitting Aereo against broadcasters likely will provide the only clues about what investors and others should expect ahead of a ruling expected in June. Guggenheim analyst Paul Gallant says he senses that “a majority of Justices would shut down Aereo if there were no potential implications on cloud storage.” But if that’s an open question, then “our guess is that the Court will find some way to thread the needle and say that Aereo is inconsistent with the 1976 Copyright Act, or send the case back to the lower courts with some negative (but not conclusive) commentary toward Aereo.”

Related: Aereo Case Reactions: Did CBS Shares Fall In Response To Supreme Court’s Questions?

The basic debate: Aereo says it’s merely a technology provider that enables subscribers to privately exercise their right to view signals from the free, public airwaves. Broadcasters counter that Aereo steals their content by packaging and reselling programming to the public without paying.

Related: The ABCs Of Aereo: What Is Aereo And Why Are Broadcasters Taking It To The Supreme Court?

NY Supreme CourtHere are a few of the more interesting comments from the jurists as they prodded lawyers about the key arguments:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Why aren’t they [Aereo] cable companies?… I’m looking at the – everybody’s been arguing this case as if for sure they’re not. But I look at the definition of a cable company, and it seems to fit. …

Justice Elena Kagan: If Aereo has the hardware in its warehouse as opposed to Aereo selling the hardware to the particular end user, that is going to make all the difference in the world as to whether we have a public performance or not a public performance.

Chief Justice John Roberts: You can park your car in your own garage or you can park it in a public garage. You can go to RadioShack and buy an antenna and a DVR or you can rent those facilities somewhere else from Aereo. They’ve – they’ve got an antenna. They’ll let you use it when you need it and they can, you know, record the stuff as well and let you pick it up when you need it.

Related: Chief Justice Slams Aereo At Supreme Court Hearing

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Disney Networks & NBA Dominate Weekly Nielsen Social Ratings

By | Monday April 21, 2014 @ 5:04pm PDT

Nielsen Twitter TV series anotated 20140421It was a very good seven days for Disney-owned networks and the NBA in Nielsen’s latest weekly ratings of TV’s biggest Twitter audiences. Disney outlets held down half the total 20 spots in the top 10s for both series/specials and sports events. And on the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs, programming tied to the league and its still-sort-of-sister the WNBA occupied 11 slots. The ratings are the most recent from Nielsen in its new measurement launched in October, an attempt to quantify how much Twitter activity is going on around TV shows.

Related: Top Actors in Social Media And What It Means For TV & Movie Marketing

TONY GOLDWYN, SCOTT FOLEY, KERRY WASHINGTONAt the top of the series and specials list this week was the ESPN NBA documentary Bad Boys, from the 30 For 30 series, followed by ABC’s Scandal. As I wrote last week ahead of the season finale for Scandal, show creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes puts a premium on social media, with many of the show’s stars and other principals tweeting or otherwise posting about the show with fans before, during and after each episode. It’s paid off with strong ratings and stronger fan engagement with the show. Read More »

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Netflix Says Maryland Dispute Over ‘House Of Cards’ Tax Breaks Is “Overcome-able”

houseofcards__130207005839-200x257__130413002815Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told Wall Street analysts today that Maryland officials are engaged in “ongoing negotiations” to keep House Of Cards production in the state — even though lawmakers didn’t approve the tax breaks producer Media Rights Capital wants. “I would anticipate that these are overcome-able issues,” he says. The Netflix exec says that the state benefits from “staggering” benefits including “hundreds of jobs, and not just for actors.” The controversy has become a political volleyball, he said, though he was careful to note that Maryland “has been great for the show” and that “investors and fans are not at risk in any way.” MRC, which had planned to start shooting the third season of the D.C.-set drama in early spring, received about $26M in Maryland tax credits for its first two season, according to reports. The production company has been seeking a tax credit for Season 3 in line with Season 2′s $15 million. But that would require the Legislature to raise the total credits for all shows — including HBO’s Veep —  to $18.5M from $15M. Those favoring the increase were unable to secure the votes they needed.

Related: John David Coles Joins ‘House Of Cards’ As Executive Producer

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John Turturro To Replace Robert De Niro As James Gandolfini’s Successor In HBO Mini ‘Criminal Justice’

By | Monday April 21, 2014 @ 2:45pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

johnturturroThere is a casting change on HBO‘s miniseries Criminal Justice, the passion project of the late James Gandolfini. John Turturro has stepped in to play the role of Jack Stone, originally played by Gandolfini in the pilot. Turturro replaces Robert De Niro who committed to succeeding the beloved Sopranos star last fall but has pulled out because of scheduling reasons. Gandolfini is getting a posthumous executive credit on the seven-hour miniseries, based on the BBC series created by Peter Moffat. Richard Price wrote the adaptation with Steven Zaillian directing.  On the mini, produced by HBO in association with BBC Worldwide Prods. and Film Rites and Tribeca Films, Turturro joins originally cast Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Maadi and Poorna Jagannathan.

The New York crime story centers on Jack Stone, an ambulance-chasing New York City attorney who gets in over-his-head when he takes on the case of a Pakistani (Ahmed) accused of murdering a girl on the Upper West Side. While the Jack Stone part is central to the overall story, in the pilot the character only appears in the final scene, which led to discussions between HBO and Zaillian about possibly recasting the role and carrying on with the project that had been so important to Gandolfini. Criminal Justice is executive produced by Gandolfini, Zaillian, Price, Moffat, BBC Worldwide’s Jane Tranter, with Film Rites’ Garrett Basch and Attaboy’s Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders serving as co-executive … Read More »

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Box Office Final: ‘Heaven’ Is Real Deal Behind ‘Captain America’ Which Shoots Past $200M; ‘Rio 2′ Perches At No. 3; ‘Transcendence’ Short Circuited

OPENING: Heaven Is For Real (SONY) stellar at $22.5M (3-day) and $29.5M (5-day) for No. 2; Transcendence (WB) despondent at No. 4 with $10.8M; A Haunted House 2 (OPRD) $8.8M; Bears (DIS) hibernating with $4.7M.

Box Office Weekend Results5TH UPDATE, 2:45 PM: The final numbers are in for the box office Top 20, and Sony/TriStar has a lot to celebrate this weekend as peeps flocked to Heaven Is For Real this Easter holiday with a final tally of $22.5M (three-day) and $29.5M (five-day). Disney/Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier has a very good chance of being No. 1 for four weekends in a row as there is nothing in the hamper next weekend to stop it. captain-america-wallpaper-batman-vs-superman-avengers-2-captain-america-2-spider-man-2-is-this-the-golden-age-of-superhero-moviesNot since Lionsgate unleashed The Hunger Games in 2012 has that happened, and before that, the last time was in 2008 when Warner Bros introduced The Dark Knight. Rio 2 is No. 3 in its second weekend out, dropping 44%, and racking up $75M in two weeks. Transcendence, the Johnny Depp-starring sci-fi film, short-circuited this weekend and should have been retitled Despondence as it came in under $11M for Warner Bros. and Alcon. Uh, no peeps cared for that one. transcendence-trailer-johnny-deppSurprising coming from Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister who made his directing debut and delivered such a bomb. The trailer was confusing and hard to follow. Seemed like it was just a bunch of shots of Depp in different states of duress instead of selling futuristic sizzle. The one sheet was a headshot of Depp with digits on his head. And the production stills made him look like American Hustle‘s Bradley Cooper in perm rods. It’s like Lawnmower 2 for the YK2 generation. Yes, in fact, there is actually a Y2K joke in there … so 2000.

Leaving no question about Divine Intervention: Heaven Is For Real - Connor CorumNoah jumped up two notches yesterday over opener Bears and God’s Not Dead to round out the Top 10 … and … Draft Day (which dropped 42% this weekend) scored better in its sophomore frame and juked Divergent this weekend to get the No. 6 spot. A Haunted House 2 from Open Road creaked its way to No. 5 and $8.8M in its debut while Oculus dropped 57% in its second weekend. Opening next weekend: the Cameron Diaz-Kate Upton-Leslie Mann comedy The Other Woman (Fox), Brick Mansions (REL) which stars the late Paul Walker, and the horror film The Quiet Ones (LGF). Expanding from five theaters to 25 runs in LA and NY will be the John Turturo’s comedy Fading Gigolo (Millennium). Here are the final weekend box office numbers: Read More »

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Bill Bellamy Signs With Resolution; Director Jonny Campbell Inks With Verve

By | Monday April 21, 2014 @ 2:30pm PDT

Bill BellamyBill Bellamy has signed with Resolution in all areas. He stars in and executive produces the syndicated comedy Mr. Box Office and toplined the Showtime specials Crazy Sexy Dirty and Bill Bellamy’s Ladies Night Out and exec produced and hosted last month’s Centric Comedy All Stars. Bellamy also is a recurring co-host on The Rachael Ray Show and appeared in the 2013 feature 10 Rules For Sleeping Around. He is managed by Barry Katz.

Jonny CampbellJonny Campbell has inked with Verve. The UK-based TV director also has signed to helm the BBC/HBO adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. The Warner Bros-produced project will premiere on the BBC before airing on HBO. Campbell directed last year’s BBC Three miniseries In The Flesh and has helmed multiple episodes of UK series including Doctor Who, Shameless, Ashes And Ashes and Phoenix Nights. He is repped in the UK by 42.

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HBO Renews ‘Veep’ And ‘Silicon Valley’

By | Monday April 21, 2014 @ 11:45am PDT

veep seaosn 4 debutThe two orders follow HBO‘s recent two-season pickup on Game Of Thrones. The news also follows the series’ second-week numbers coming in. Sunday’s Silicon Valley at 10 PM averaged 1.6 million viewers, after the previous Sunday’s premiere debuted with 2 million viewers. For the night, the Mike Judge series achieved a gross audience of 2.1 million viewers.  At 10:30 siliconvalley04PM, Veep delivered 775,000 viewers and a gross audience of 1.3 million viewers; last week Veep returned for a third season with 955,000 viewers, which was down 20% from the 1.2 million who tuned in to the show’s Season 2 debut on April 14 last year.  The two comedies’ second telecasts of the season followed Game Of Thrones‘ third episode, which averaged 6.6 million viewers at 9 PM last night, just shy of the season high. Another 1.6 million watched across two replays bringing the night’s tally to 8.2 million viewers.

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