In yet another U.S. acquisition, Britain’s ITV is taking a controlling stake in reality, entertainment and drama producer Thinkfactory Media. Among the company’s credits are the award-winning miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. ITV will pay $30M for a 65% share of the company with a put and call option to buy the remaining 35%. The option could be exercised from between 3 years after the initial deal and at the end of year 5 with the total amount paid linked to the performance of the company over that period. Late last year, ITV acquired a controlling interest in Duck Dynasty producer Gurney Productions and in May it took a slice of Cake Boss maker High Noon Entertainment. Other recent acquisitions include UK production company The Garden. The takeovers are part of ITV’s five-year Transformation Plan.
LA-based Thinkfactory was founded in 1992 by Leslie Greif. Its portfolio includes R&B Divas, Preachers’ Daughters, Marriage Bootcamp and The Hook-Up as well as new drama series Texas Rangers for the History Channel. Read More »
Another veteran ABC executive is heading to NBC. I’ve learned that Quinn Taylor, SVP Movies, Miniseries and Acquisitions at ABC Entertainment Group, will be leaving the network after almost 20 years to join rival NBC, which is looking to restart a longform division. I hear his title will be EVP Movies, Miniseries and International Co-Productions.
NBC has The Sound Of Music staging coming up, which would be right up Taylor’s alley as he has overseen a number of TV musicals at ABC, including Meredith Willson’s The Music Man starring Matthew Broderick. ABC is the only broadcast network that kept its longform division, headed by a high-level executive, while TV movies and miniseries dwindled on broadcast TV during the past several years.
Given the longform drought, Taylor had been focused on lower-budget and acquired series recently, overseeing such ABC shows as this summer’s newcomers Motive and Mistresses and returning Rookie Blue. NBC has been also very aggressive in acquired/lower-license fee series, including this summer’s Camp and Crossing Lines as well as recently renewed Hannibal and next season’s Crossbones and Dracula.
In light of the blockbuster success of History’s Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible, miniseries and limited/event series are making a big comeback, something NBC clearly wants to be part of. Fox and FX launched a longform unit last fall and recently greenlighted their first three event/limited series: Fargo on FX and 24: Live Another Day and Wayward … Read More »
The Monte-Carlo Television Festival wrapped in Monaco tonight with the Golden Nymph Awards handed out at the Grimaldi Forum. Hungarian coming-of-age TV movie Aglaja, directed by Krisztina Deák, was the big winner with four prizes. Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Borgen and Fresh Meat were also singled out. The festival has been attracting an increasing number of high-profile talent to the principality with cast members and execs in attendance this year from such shows as The Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, Crossing Lines, Dallas, Grimm, Hatfields & McCoys, Once Upon A Time, Revenge, Revolution and Scandal. Donald Sutherland received a Crystal Nymph Award earlier this week. Below is the full list of tonight’s winners for excellence in international television:
Best Television Film
M-RTL ZRT, Hungary
Krisztina Deák, Aglaja
M-RTL ZRT, Hungary
Arsher Ali, Complicit
Many Rivers Films, UK Read More »
There is probably no group of Emmy categories that has been more battered and bruised over the years than those of movies and miniseries. In addition to being combined into a single category in 2011, movies and miniseries almost lost their separate supporting categories earlier this year, but the TV Academy jettisoned the rule change before it ever went into effect. And some anti-movie/mini TV Academy execs have even proposed eliminating movie/minis from the Primetime Emmy telecast, creating a separate show that could be sold to HBO or another cable channel with a vested interest in the format. Nevertheless, the movie/mini category has seen both ratings and production increase in the last two years, which is fortunate for one simple reason: Movies and minis give the Emmy show true star power. Past winners include prestigious performers like Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Jessica Lange and, last year, Kevin Costner and Julianne Moore. Plus, the contenders change every year, as opposed to regular programming categories like comedy and drama, which often honor the same shows and performers year after year. So now that movies and minis are back in full force, who are the likely frontrunners to triumph this year?
Related: EMMYS Q&A: Michael Douglas
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Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Tonight’s event honoring AMC’s Mad Men at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences headquarters in North Hollywood – organized by AMC and designed to generate some Emmy season heat for a drama perceived to be past its awards prime – was perhaps most noteworthy for who wasn’t in attendance rather than who was. First, the list of those castmates who couldn’t make it: Jon Hamm (shooting a movie in India), Alison Brie (shooting a film in Toronto), Vincent Kartheiser (rehearsing a play in Minnesota), Christina Hendricks (shooting a movie in Detroit), John Slattery (prepping a film in New York), Aaron Staton (shooting a film “out of town”) and Rich Sommer (featured in a play in New York). While they still have air travel in every area where the seven no-shows were stationed, it’s perhaps understandable that they wouldn’t rush back to stump for more Emmy attention. Read More »
Officially, Nancy Dubuc has been president and CEO of A+E Networks for two days, but she’s already putting her stamp on the company, setting top executives for each of the brands and launching an in-house studio. Under the plan, Bob DeBitetto, General Manager of A&E Networks and BIO, will transition to a new role of head of A+E Studios with a title of President, Brand Strategy, Business Development. He will be succeeded at the helm of A&E by his top lieutenant, David McKillop, EVP Programming, who is adding a general manger title. Dirk Hoogstra, who was promoted to EVP Development and Programming for History and H2 just three months ago, will now add the title of General Manager for the two channels. And as Dubuc moves away from day-to-day oversight of the networks to focus on her role as CEO, Lifetime’s EVP programming Robert Sharenow also is adding general manager responsibilities. Additionally, A+E Networks has officially tapped veteran BBC executive Jana Bennett to run LMN and Bio as president.
Related: BBC’s Jana Bennett To Run Bio And LMN Under Dubuc’s Plan
“These are the people who have led their teams to some of the biggest successes on television over the last two years, including Hatfields & McCoys, The Bible, Vikings, Duck Dynasty, Bates Motel, Storage Wars, Dance Moms, Client List and Steel Magnolias,” >Dubuc said. “I have had the honor to work with Bob, David, Rob and Dirk for a many years, and am thrilled that we are continuing this journey together. And I couldn’t be more excited that Jana is joining A+E Networks. She is an experienced industry veteran who knows how to build and grow brands and create long-running franchises.”
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EXCLUSIVE: Writer John Glenn (Eagle Eye) has signed a two-year overall deal with Universal Television to develop new shows for the studio. The pact comes on the heels of Glenn writing two high-profile projects for NBC this past development season: the modern-day Hatfields & McCoys, through ABC Studios, which went to pilot, and modern-day Moby Dick drama Lost Horizon, a collaboration with M. Night Shyamalan through Sony, which had a put pilot commitment and I hear is now being discussed as a potential event series. Glenn also created Fix It Men, which is being put together as an international co-production/direct-to-series project with Sonar Entertainment, ABC Studios, and producer Mark Gordon. “John Glenn is a great writer with the ability to tap into different worlds and create layered and distinct characters,” Universal TV EVP Bela Bajaria said. On the film side, Glenn, repped by WME and manager Brian Lutz, recently delivered his script Abducted to Paramount and producer Mary Parent and is working with Norwegian director Andre Ovredal on a franchise spec.
ABC Family has picked up to series Spell-Mageddon, an hour-long game show where contestants take on hilarious distractions while spelling increasingly challenging words. The series, created and executive produced by Adam Reed, Adam Freeman and Leslie Greif of Thinkfactory Media (Hatfields & McCoys), will premiere on July 24, joining ABC Family’s Wednesday night comedy line-up at 9 PM, following Melissa And Joey and Baby Daddy.
6TH UPDATE, FRIDAY PM: Add the John Mulaney comedy to the dead pile too. Still alive are I Am Victor, which will be retooled, and Assistance.
5TH UPDATE: Also now dead is the Robert Padnick comedy pilot.
4TH UPDATE: The Night Shift obituary was premature. In the flurry of passes, the pilot was erroneously bundled with those that are definitely dead, but it appears that no calls have been made on it yet. So if you worked on that pilot or have clients on it, you can breathe easier, at least for now. Read More »
Deadline revealed last week that Kevin Costner was going to reteam with Upside Of Anger helmer Mike Binder on Black And White. IM Global has confirmed the scoop, adding that The Help‘s Octavia Spencer will also be in the cast. Here’s the official release:
IM Global founder and CEO Stuart Ford announced today that IM Global will launch the international sales in Cannes of BLACK AND WHITE, the project that re-teams two-time Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner (Man of Steel, The Upside of Anger, For Love of the Game, Open Range, Dances with Wolves) with acclaimed writer, director and actor Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger, Reign Over Me). The film, which also stars Academy Award® winner Octavia Spencer, is based on Binder’s own script, and is a co-production of Costner’s Treehouse Productions and Binder’s Sunlight Productions, along with Todd Lewis. Cassian Elwes is onboard as an executive producer. Principal photography begins this summer in New Orleans.
Binder’s engrossing drama focuses on attorney Elliot Anderson (Costner) who is widowed after the car crash death of his wife. Elliot has raised his bi-racial granddaughter Eloise since his daughter died in childbirth. As he struggles with his grief, Elliot’s world is turned upside-down when the child’s African American grandmother Rowena (Spencer) demands that Eloise be brought under the care of her father Reggie, a drug addict who Elliot blames for the negligence that led to the death of his own daughter. Elliot
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Days after last year’s upfront in New York, History‘s Hatfields & McCoys burst onto the scene, shattering ratings records and reviving the limited-event series form. Over the last 12 months, event series have continued to gain momentum, with History launching another blockbuster in The Bible, and Fox, FX and Spike announcing big pushes in the arena. The genre also has been factoring into the network’s ongoing pilot discussions and may have presence at the upfronts next week. “It seems to be the du jour concept these days,” one industry insider said. “If you call a drama a limited event series, you maintain series options on the actors while at the same time maintain the project’s international value. And if you market them well, they bring in audience.”
One of the highest-profile drama prospects for next season, ABC’s Once Upon A Time spinoff, has been developed as a limited series to air 13-episode arcs every season in the vein of FX’s American Horror Story. Such a potential scenario also has been mentioned for a number of other serialized/high-concept drama pilots should they get a series order: ABC’s Gothica and Big Thunder, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow and CBS’ Hostages. CBS already is branching into the genre this coming summer with Under The Dome, originally developed as a regular series. The CW, whose president Mark Pedowitz last season was among the first to embrace the concept, did midseason entry Cult as a limited-type series and is looking to do more next season, with The Selection among those considered for a limited run. Fox’s The Following and ABC’s Red Widow too had been conceived with cable-style shorter seasons in mind. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Prods has signed a two-year, first-look deal with AMC to develop and produce scripted cable projects for the network. The pact, Scott Free’s first such first-look agreement with a cable network, stems from the production company’s collaboration with AMC on The Terror, a drama series project based on the 2007 best-selling novel by Dan Simmons, which was taken in for development by AMC in February. The Terror is joined by two other Scott Free drama projects developed under the first-look deal. One is an untitled futuristic, dystopian, sci-fi saga from executive producer and writer Jason Cahill (Fringe) and producer and Emmy-winning prosthetic makeup artist and The Walking Dead co-executive producer Greg Nicotero, who also has a deal at AMC. The other, Raiders, from executive producer and writer Evan Wright (Generation Kill), was among the finalists at this year’s AMC pilot script showcase held this month. It is a WWII drama about a rogue U.S. Navy commander who leads an unconventional warfare unit into the heart of Africa on a mission that will bend the arc of history. This marks AMC’s second first-look deal with a production company. The first one, announced in February, also is with producers who have strong feature pedigrees, Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg and their Double Feature Films. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Costner has been set to re-team with Upside Of Anger helmer Mike Binder in Black And White, an indie that Costner will star in and produce through his Treehouse Productions banner. The film will be done in co-production with Binder’s Sunlight Productions, and Todd Lewis. Shooting begins in New Orleans this summer. In the Binder-scripted drama, Costner plays a grandfather, widowed after the car crash death of his wife, who has raised his own bi-racial granddaughter since his daughter died in childbirth. The child’s paternal grandmother surfaces to wage a custody battle over the little girl, and the thrust becomes about race and where she should grow up. Read More »
It’s pilot screening time. CBS just started viewing its pilots, with the other networks slated to follow over the next few days. Feedback from the screenings and extensive focus group testing inform the networks’ series pickup decisions and are capable of catapulting a pilot from an also-run to frontrunner status overnight, as it happened with CBS’ Blue Bloods three years ago. Here is what I hear as of this weekend, with information still missing on a few late pilots.
Related: Complete Primetime Panic Pilot Listings
Drama Lucky 7 may live up to its name. The blue-collar ensemble about gas station employees who win the lottery seemed a little off brand for ABC and its glitzy dramas. But I hear the project based on a British format, which hadn’t drawn much attention, came in above expectations, making it a contender in what’s shaping to be a very tight race. It’s tight because two slots have already been penciled in for Marvel‘s S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Once Upon A Time spinoff, whose early footage I hear ABC brass liked. Also boosted by corporate synergy is major contender Big Thunder, based on the Disney ride. Word is ABC may choose one of its two soapy pilots, Westside and Betrayal, with Westside having the edge at the moment. (However, Betrayal‘s David Zabel has two irons in the fire as he is also behind Lucky 7.) The gothic soap Gothica has cooled off a bit while high-concept The Returned, about deceased coming back to life as their old selves, is heating up after another great pilot directing performance by Charles McDougall who, in his typical fashion went over on filming days (by 4 I hear) but delivered a strong pilot. Among the character procedurals, Murder In Manhattan, Doubt, Killer Women and Influence all seem in the mix. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: A+E Networks is venturing into half-hour comedy with Whitey, a pilot from Leslie Greif, the producer behind the blockbuster History miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. The Office alum David Koechner is attached to star in the sitcom project, which is being produced under the A+E Networks umbrella as part of the company’s longstanding relationship Greif and his company Thinkfactory Media. I hear Whitey is being earmarked for History though a decision about which A+E Network the project will go to will be made if the pilot is picked up to series. Greif is in the process of locking in a writer/showrunner for the pilot, which eyes a mid-June start date. Whitey centers on Guy “Whitey” White (Koechner), a bright, conservative and frustrated guy in his 40s who is struggling to understand the changing values of a country in a world that has forever gone with the wind. Whitey graduated high school, married his high school sweetheart and spent his career working at the local engine factory until he got laid off. Now what?
A&E and History both have original drama series on the air (The Glades, Longmire, Bates Motel, Vikings) though neither of them has taken a stab at half-hour scripted comedy. (Sibling Lifetime has in the past with Rita Rocks among other sitcoms, but Whitey is clearly … Read More »
Almost two decades after the debut of Singled Out, which launched the TV careers of Chris Hardwick and Jenny McCarthy, MTV is betting on another dating show for the 18-34 set. I’ve learned that the network is picking up The Hook-Up, a dating show hosted by Andrew Schulz, star of MTV2′s hit reality series Guy Code. I hear The Hook-Up, from Thinkfactory Media (Hatfields & McCoys) is getting a 20-episode order. Schulz, repped by ROAR, Innovative and attorney Lev Ginsburg, also is attached to MTV’s upcoming Girl Code, an offshoot from Guy Code, and appeared on MTV2′s Hip Hop Squares and in the FX pilot Bronx Warrants.
In other MTV news, MTV2 just announced a second-season pickup of Mac Miller And The Most Dope Family for a 2014 premiere.
Following several years of declines in the number of drama pilots shot in Los Angeles, the City of Angels staged a comeback this season with 14, reclaiming the top spot as the most popular drama pilot destination after falling for the first time to No. 3 last year behind New York and Vancouver. Los Angeles benefited from the increased overall pilot volume this season, housing 13 of this year’s 48 hourlong pilots, up from 8 (out of 41) last year and 11 (out of 42) the year before, and just short of the 2010 haul of 14 pilots (out of 43).
New York, fresh off luring back The Tonight Show, has become a comedy pilot magnet. The Big Apple already has solid comedy credentials on the cable side with FX’s Louie and HBO’s Girls, but I can’t think of any major half-hour broadcast pilot shot in New York since NBC’s 30 Rock, which just ended its seven-season run. This year, there were a whopping five (all single-camera): NBC’s Michael J. Fox project, which has straight-to-series order, and Assistance; CBS’ Jim Gaffigan and untitled Rottenberg & Zuritzsky project; and Fox’s Us And Them. In some cases, the choice of location was dictated by talent (like Fox). In others, the producers felt it was hard to fake New York or the East Coast in Los Angeles, where virtually all comedy broadcast series have been filming. The 2010 New York filming tax program, which already led to the explosion of NY drama pilot production from zero pilots in 2010 to 11 last year, is helping rein in production costs, which are still higher than a Los Angeles-based half-hour pilot but not by as much as before. With the comedy boon, New York managed to post a new record of 13 pilots, though the number of dramas slipped from 11 to eight. Read More »
E! today at its upfront presentation unveiled a slate of new unscripted series, specials and projects in development. Newly greenlighted shows include Total Divas, about the women behind the WWE Divas; Love And Other Contact Sports: Eric And Jessie, chronicling the pending nuptials of singer Jessie James and Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker; and Hello Ross, an interactive talk show hosted by Chelsea Lately‘s Ross Mathews and produced by Chelsea Handler’s production company. Hello Ross stems from a development deal E! signed with Mathews two years ago. Additionally, E! officially announced a June 2 premiere date for The Wanted Life, its new half-hour unscripted series about the personal and professional lives of pop group The Wanted, which is executive produced by Ryan Seacrest under his production deal with E!. The Wanted Life debut will follow the eighth-season premiere of E!’s top-rated series, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, also exec produced by Seacrest. To further hype his new show, Seacrest also will do a special with The Wanted to air a few days before the premiere.
E!’s unscripted development slate include The Soup Investigates, a spinoff series of E!’s The Soup, a pop culture-themed spoof of the investigative TV genre featuring The Soup host Joel McHale and a team of reporters. E! also has put in development a sketch comedy show starring comedian James Davis and produced by Funny Or Die, a comedic show exploring pop culture stereotypes produced by Jack Osbourne, and Vin Di Bona and a parlor game-style game show from Shine America. E!’s new slate comes a month after E! president Suzanne Kolb tapped Jeff Olde as head of programming. Here are details about all E! unscripted new series and specials as well as projects in development: Read More »
The timing of last year’s decision by the TV Academy to consolidate the four longform acting categories into two was baffling as it came a couple of days after the record-breaking debut of History’s miniseries Hatfields & McCoys and the network premiere of HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn, which had opened at the Cannes Film Festival. The TV Academy moved to cut the categories in half amidst a renaissance of the longform genre with such programs as British imports Downton Abbey, which started off in the miniseries field, Sherlock and Luther; History’s Hatfields & McCoys and FX’s American Horror Story, which was submitted as a miniseries. At the time, TV Academy’s SVP Awards John Leverence explained the decision by saying that the decrease in longform categories “corresponds to their primetime presence.”
But this week, just as the consolidation was about to take effect, the TV Academy reversed its decision, keeping the lead and supporting acting fields intact. “What a difference 13 months make,” Leverence said yesterday. He said the May 2012 vote “was based on how the longform (programming) was trending — the patient was on the table getting last rites.” But now “there has been a major revival of the longform. The consolidation was based on last year’s reality, not based on this year’s reality; what we thought was happening reversed itself.”
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