EXCLUSIVE: Rob Juster, Esquire Network‘s head of digital, has left the NBCUniversal cable net, a co-venture with Hearst. Juster was a 10-year G4 veteran before segueing to Esquire after NBCUniversal made the decision last summer to rebrand Style as male-oriented Esquire and stop programming game-themed G4. Juster was named head of digital, reporting to Esquire head of marketing Deena Stern, who also oversees other areas, including digital.
Related: Esquire Network Names Three New VPs
It has been a slow build for Esquire, which lost more than 60% of the Style audience after the September 2013 switch. As it has been adding originals, the channel has made inroads in young demos, posting three consecutive quarters of growth among adults 18-49 and adults 18-34 and logging its best month yet in June in demos and total viewers. It has turned around the network’s gender skew, from 20% male at Style a year ago to 64%. But it has yet to reach the overall viewership levels of predecessor Style. In the second quarter, Esquire averaged 85,000 viewers in primetime compared with 126,000 for Style and 120,000 for G4 for the same period last year. Esquire may be able to close the gap in July, having just posted a week that was up from Style’s averages in both 18-49 and total viewers. The network’s top series in the adult demos is G4 import American Ninja Warrior.
EXCLUSIVE: Feature-film financing, production and sales company IM Global is expanding into television production and distribution with the launch of IM Global Television. Mark Stern, former President of Original Content at Syfy, has been tapped as president and a partner of the new venture. Founded by Stuart Ford in 2007 and part of Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA since 2010, IM Global has been in a growth mode, presenting its biggest slate ever at Cannes this year, and has offices in LA, London, Mumbai, Mexico City, and Beijing. Stern will be based in the company’s Los Angeles office on Beverly Boulevard. “We’ve spent a considerable amount of time exploring the right entry point for IM Global to enter the television business, and Mark brings to our new operation an outstanding track record, skill set and profile,” Ford said. “In just seven years we’ve established ourselves as one of the most prolific feature film players outside of the major studios in Hollywood, and in partnership with Mark, I look forward to us now becoming a recognized force in the fast-evolving global television arena.” Read More »
With the power of fans growing and the influence of TV reviews declining in the age of social media, the once marque summer TCA press tour has been taking a back seat to Comic-Con. Once again, the Los Angeles critics convention served as a warm-up for the San Diego geekfest, with the networks trying to save their noisy announcements for the Con. But what would’ve been another uneventful summer TCA was livened up by two big consolidation stories that broke in the first and second week — 21st Century Fox’s decision to put both the broadcast network and 20th Century Fox TV under the studio’s chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman, and the company’s (for now unsuccessful) bid to acquire Time Warner.
The first news, which had been widely expected, was met largely with approval as an inevitable move in an industry where owning content is becoming more and more important. CBS has helped grow CSI into a billion-dollar franchise for the parent company, which owns the show. Compare that with The Big Bang Theory, which CBS developed and nurtured to a blockbuster hit that would make as much as $3 billion — for another company, Warner Bros. TV. Watching how much money it has made for WBTV, with the Chuck Lorre series, and for 20th Century Fox TV, with How I Met Your Mother, the network focused on growing its own syndicatable comedies, recently renewing CBS Studios-produced The Millers for a second season. During CBS’ TCA executive session, chairman Tassler was asked whether ownership played a role in the decision to renew The Millers over two 20th TV freshmen, The Crazy Ones, which drew bigger DVR ratings increases, and Friends with Better Lives, which showed better retention. “We will never ever, ever discriminate based solely on ownership,” Tassler said. “We feel that The Millers has a lot of great story material still imbedded in the DNA of the show.” Read More »
Comic-Con doesn’t officially open until tomorrow, but the soon-to-be packed San Diego confab will be buzzing with this news. The Walking Dead EP Gale Anne Hurd, one of the queens of the geekfest, is partnering with Warren Ellis, one of the biggest names in comics, for the latter’s first leap into the world of TV. In a deal signed with Universal Cable Productions, the as-yet-untitled Ellis project will be produced with Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment. “I’ve been strongly drawn to television over the last few years, and working with brilliant and determined collaborators like Gale and the UCP team, I’m delighted at the opportunity to add my voice to the new, novelistic TV form that’s evolved so dramatically,” said the Iron Man: Extremis, Gun Machine and Red author today. Added Hurd: “There are very few writers who have been able to so completely influence a medium as Warren has with comic books.”
Although Ellis won’t be at Comic-Con this year, Hurd will appear again in the cavernous Hall H for the always-packed Walking Dead panel featuring AMC’s zombie apocalypse blockbuster. This year’s panel is set for Friday at 12:20 PM and will feature co-creator Robert Kirkman, cast members Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus and others. Read More »
Frozen, already the all-time animation box-office champ and an Oscar winner, has added another jewel to its icy crown: Rentrak says the Walt Disney Animation feature topped the charts for the first half of 2014 in digital movie purchases and rentals on VOD and electronic sellthrough. Nearly all the other films in the top 10 were Oscar nominees too, even the Jackass-produced comedy Bad Grandpa, which snagged a nomination for best makeup and hairstyling. It appears everyone spent that very chilly winter of 2014 catching up on the Oscar contenders they didn’t watch in theaters.
There is one important caveat to this list, however: It does not include any films from NBCUniversal, nor from indie studios (whatever size studio we count Lionsgate as these days, its Hunger Games sequel made the list at a not-that-surprising No. 2). Rentrak said that though it couldn’t include individual Universal films for the list, the studio’s products as a whole were No. 1 for both overall transactions and retail revenue during the period, which ran from the week of January 5 to June 29.
NBC and cable networks led by USA “were trading at a 20% discount to our competition” in the cost-per-viewer of ad sales before the recent upfront market, NBCU chief Steve Burke told analysts this morning. “We’re now at about a 10% discount.” Comcast‘s entertainment arm says it bucked a trend in the upfront — seen as generally down 5% vs last year — as it benefits from the growing popularity of its shows, and a decision to sell broadcast and cable ad inventory together. “If the industry was down 5% and we were up 10%, that’s a 15% difference vs what we would have done” if NBCU had sold broadcast and cable separately. “It’s a swing of $750M” that will go “a long way toward closing monetization gap.”
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Comcast has become so big and complex that its earnings are almost always mixed — and Q2 was no exception, although the combination of soft revenue growth with strong profits sent shares up 2.1% in pre-market trading. The cable giant reported net income of $2.03B, +16.1% vs the period last year, on revenues of $16.84B, +3.5%. Analysts expected the top line to come in a little higher, at $16.95B. But earnings at 76 cents a share handily beat the consensus forecast of 72 cents.
NBCUniversal also seemed to have a split personality with operating cash flow +20.4% to $1.43B while revenues were +0.3% to $6.02B. The main Cable Networks operation saw sales grow 2.6% to $2.48B with affiliate fees +4.2% while ad sales fell 2.2%. Still, by controlling costs, the unit’s operating cash flow rose 6.3% to $914M. The Broadcast Television unit told a similar story: With rising retransmission consent fees, its revenues increased 4.9% to $1.8B. But ad sales fell 1.7%, which the network partly attributes to having fewer hours of The Voice than it had last year. Still, broadcast operating cash flow increased 16.2% to $240M reflecting, the company says, “a slight increase in operating costs and expenses.” Theme Parks proved to be NBCU’s most consistent performer despite the increased costs for Orlando’s The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley attraction which opened this month. Attendance and spending were both up, resulting in a 12.8% increase in revenues to $615M with … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: NBCUniversal-owned Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films is teaming with True Detective maker Anonymous Content on what they predict will be a provocative new series, Nostradamus. Joseph Fiennes will produce and play the titular clairvoyant in the hour-long drama. Charlotte Markham And The House Of Darkling author Michael Boccacino wrote the project that was developed in partnership with executive producer Andrew Cosby. The story follows the legendary seer as he seeks deadly vengeance for the murder of his family. A complex, brooding character with immense appetites, Nostradamus is a charismatic and self-destructive man who is plagued with dangerous and disturbing visions.
The period series is set against the backdrop of the volatile, high-stakes world of the French Royal Court where the Provençal apothecary’s pleasure-seeking impulses and passionate thirst for revenge run headlong into the treacherous epicenter of social and political life of Renaissance era Europe. The project is in early development and episode totals and broadcasters have yet to be set. But it looks likely this will be one of those that seeks out the high-end UK TV tax credit.
Carnival and Anonymous Content are both riding high these days, each receiving 12 Emmy nominations for Downton Abbey and True Detective, respectively. Fiennes, who is repped by Anonymous Content, The Artists Partnership and WME, last appeared on television in the 2nd season of American Horror Story. … Read More »
In the wake of another strong finish for a Blumhouse genre film, The Purge: Anarchy, Universal Pictures and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions have made a new 10-year first-look production agreement. This will include Blumhouse partnerships with NBCUniversal businesses, including Universal Television and Universal Cable Productions. Blumhouse will bring its Sinister franchise to Focus Features, making Universal home to three of the company’s most profitable micro-budget franchises, including The Purge and Insidious, which is already based at Focus. The announcement was made by Universal chiefs Jeff Shell and Donna Langley and Blum.
“This studio has had an incredible experience working with Blumhouse and it only makes sense to broaden that partnership to NBCUniversal’s broadcast and cable networks,” said Shell. “Jason and his team bring an energy and focus that can be felt across the company and we are thrilled to honor his passion for entertainment with a long term commitment and extension of that relationship.”
Langley brought Blum over to the studio in 2011. “Jason founded a company in Blumhouse that is unique and cutting edge, and we’re honored that they call Universal home. Jason is extremely driven and highly creative. His style coupled with his industry relationships and strategic business model have been a recipe for much success between our companies. We … Read More »
Schedule changes and lack of certain Primetime Emmy noms doesn’t keep Brooklyn Nine-Nine down. Co-creators Mike Schur and Dan Goor, EP David Miner, and the cast gathered on the CBS Radford lot today to give the TCA corps a look at their urban work environment and provide some insight into Season 2.
With Brooklyn now scheduled for 8:30 PM, and sandwiched between The Simpsons at 8 PM and The Family Guy-Simpsons crossover event at 9 PM, team Brooklyn isn’t daunted by the prospect that they’re one of two Fox live-action shows on Sunday, a night historically known for its animation lineup (the other series being Mulaney airing after Family Guy). Miner exclaimed, “This is a tremendous audience and we are with great comedies. We were thrilled when we got the call.” Read More »
Salaam Coleman Smith has been named EVP strategy and programming at ABC Family, the network’s president Tom Ascheim announced this morning at Summer TV Press Tour 2014. “You may know her best from her work at Style or E!,” he said, calling her hire a “key part of building our future. She’s a great exec and an even greater person.” Smith’s hire seems to confirm sources’ reports ABC Family is looking to make a bigger push into the unscripted genre. Meanwhile, Ascheim said, “I am actively looking for Kate Juergens’ replacement.”
Kate Juergens, the executive behind ABC Family‘s defining original programming including Pretty Little Liars, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, Switched At Birth and The Fosters, last week exited her post as Chief Creative Officer and EVP Original Content. The move was announced last week via a staff memo from Ascheim. He said her departure will result in a restructuring at the Disney cable network that includes the exit of SVP Acquisitions and Scheduling Lynn Stepanian, the odd person out in a new plan to combine Business Strategy, Planning & Development and Scheduling & Acquisitions under one roof and one leader. Both Juergens and Stepanian departed last week.
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Veteran TV exec Amy Thurlow has been hired as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer at dick clark productions. DCP president Mike Mahan said she will play a vital management role as the company expands its global television footprint; she will report to Mahan and work out of dcp’s Santa Monica headquarters. Thurlow most recently served as Chief Financial Officer and EVP Sales Strategy at TV Guide Network after holding several positions within the company, including SVP Sales Strategy and Planning. Before that she was at NBCUniversal working her way up to Finance Director of Film and TV Distribution.
Meredith Vieira, who came to TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014 to plug her new NBCUniversal daytime talk show debuting on September 8, got asked if, were she not launching her own daytime show, would she be interested in returning to ABC’s daytime talker The View. Vieira served as that show’s original moderator from its debut on August 11, 1997, until June 9, 2006.
“No,” Vieira responded firmly. “I knew after nine years it was time to leave The View; I have a pretty good sense of timing and I always like to get out before something bad happens.” Having since appeared on The View several times during which she said she was treated “lovingly,” she came to realize “you can’t go back.” Going back, she said, would have seemed “crazy aunt going back.”
That’ll be news to Rosie O’Donnell, who in fact is going back to the show she famously left after one short, acrimonious season. ABC confirmed Rosie’s hire in a tweet, ending a mad media chase of this The View Is Out Of New Ideas story. Read More »
The TV Academy probably should take another look at the categories for its Primetime Emmy Awards, academy chairman/CEO Bruce Rosenblum told TV critics this morning at the TCAs summer press tour after TV critics began to flog him and the academy for not doing a better job “policing” which categories series and actors are competing.
TV critics nicked him for a number of this year’s nominees — one TV critic, for instance, noted, “it’s nice Treme got nominated, but it’s in the miniseries category and it’s been on the air about five years.” Another expressed disbelief the academy would let Shameless submit itself for consideration as a comedy series for a season that included a storyline “in which a baby overdoses on cocaine.” And harsh words were said about “certain” actors who’d submitted themselves as guest stars “even though they have regular series contracts.” Plenty more where that came from.
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It’s become a billion-dollar fundraising fixture on British TV, but now NBC says it will collaborate with Comic Relief U.K. and Funny Or Die to bring Richard Curtis‘ Red Nose Day charity special to the United States. Curtis will serve as an executive producer for the NBC telecast, which will feature sketch comedy, standup, music and more from a variety of celebrities. Online humor site Funny or Die will create original content for the three-hour live show, which is set for next May and will be performed in front of a live audience.
“I am incredibly proud that NBCUniversal is broadcasting Red Nose Day,” Paul Telegdy, NBC’s President, Alternative and Late Night Programing, said in a release. “Once in a while in our jobs, we get to do things that can change lives and entertain at the same time.”
Other executive producers will be Hamish Hamilton and Ian Stewart of Done + Dusted Productions, which will produce. Hamilton will also direct. Red Nose Day in the U.K. has been going for a quarter century now, and has become one of the highest-rated Friday night shows on the BBC while raising more than $1 billion in donations. The NBC event will raise money for what the network called “established” charities working in both the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. Those charities and the show’s performers will be announced later.
The Dish Network chairman made his plea on Monday in meetings with all five FCC commissioners and several staffers, according to a Dish filing today. Comcast’s $45B deal for Time Warner Cable “presents serious competitive concerns for the broadband and video marketplaces and therefore should be denied,” Dish told regulators, according to its account of the talks. “There do not appear to be any conditions that would remedy the harms that would result from the merger.” Charlie Ergen said that Comcast could hobble Internet video services at three choke points: The cable company would control last-mile connection to the home and the point where content providers access Comcast’s network. In addition, it could squeeze potential rivals by devoting lots of its web capacity to special high-speed lanes for favored services. “Each choke point provides the ability for the combined company to foreclose the online video offerings of its competitors,” the filing says. Read More »
FCC Taps Economist Who Opposed Comcast's Acquisition Of NBCUniversal To Oversee Proposed Mega-Mergers
Deadline's David Lieberman looks at the FCC's choice to oversee the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers.
FCC Picks Critic Of Comcast’s NBCU Acquisition To Review Its Time Warner Cable Deal
Comcast needs no introduction to the economist who the FCC tapped today to help regulators sort through the cable giant’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable, and AT&T’s for DirecTV: Former FCC Chief Economist William Rogerson, now a professor at Northwestern University, was an important opponent of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He wrote at least three reports in 2010 that challenged Comcast’s economic analysis and concluded that the deal would hurt consumers. One, which he wrote on behalf of the American Cable Association, estimated that the reduction in competition from a combined Comcast-NBCU likely would lead pay TV customers to pay an additional $316.8M a year. That meant “the harm of this transaction is more than ten times as large as the benefit,” he said at the time.
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The exec who spent two decades at Disney, overseeing its theatrical ops in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for the past four years, has landed at Universal. Jo Yan has been tapped as Managing Director and EVP China at Universal Pictures International. He will be charged with building the company’s China office and running the film group’s theatrical and digital distribution and its local Chinese-language production efforts. He also will work on strategies for Universal Pictures, NBCUniversal and Comcast in the region along with developing Uni brands and licenses there. Yan will serve as creative adviser for Illumination Entertainment, helping to source local intellectual property and identifying companies who could provide animation services.
“China is one of our most significant international territories and it is imperative that Universal has a strong, well-respected leader as we expand our presence in this region,” said Duncan Clark, UPI’s President of Distribution. “Jo is the perfect choice to build and lead our Chinese office.” Read More »