CBS, Disney, Fox, and Time Warner are the easy answers — and the ones that many financial types believe are eyeing the independent programming network companies following Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger takes the conversation a step further today with an intriguing report that suggests several less obvious potential buyers for AMC Networks, Scripps or Starz. Distributors including DirecTV, Dish Network, Charter, AT&T and Verizon might want to take a page from Comcast’s playbook when it bought NBCUniversal. DirecTV doesn’t offer broadband, so it has “additional motivation to take some action to future-proof the business,” possibly by offering exclusive access to certain networks, Juenger says. Charter and Dish are long shots: Charter probably could only afford AMC. And Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen seems intent on acquiring airwave spectrum, although “nobody really knows Mr. Ergen’s potential plans, and they could change.” AT&T and Verizon’s corporate cultures are “a step (or three) further removed from the content business.” Yet here, too, they might take a leap since “their historical core businesses are not exactly growing, and they could amass the financial resources.”
Related: What A Comcast-TWC Could Mean For Hollywood
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Starz has partnered with the BBC on the British broadcaster’s eight-episode limited drama series The Missing. Starz will co-produce the project, starring James Nesbitt (The Hobbit trilogy), which has begun filming in Brussels. Written by Harry and Jack Williams and directed by Tom Shankland, the thriller will air on BBC One in the UK and Starz in the U.S. in fall 2014. It is produced by New Pictures and Company Pictures in association with Two Brothers Pictures and Colin Callender’s Playground. All3media International has funded development of The Missing and retains all U.S. rights not obtained by Starz. Missing reunites the auspices behind The White Queen limited series, which was a success for Starz; it also hailed from BBC One, Company Pictures, Playground and all3media. Read More »
Like any change to a well-established model, the networks’ efforts to break away from the traditional development cycle is undergoing growing pains. There have been issues for studios who don’t have a pilot to show to international buyers at the May screenings because production has been shifted to off-season or because projects have received what Fox refers to “an off-cycle commitment for further investment towards series production,” meaning an order for backup scripts and a bible but no tape. Then there is the issue for writers hired on the projects that have no formal green light.
Related: Fox’s Abolishment Of Pilot Season: How Will It Work
This is not a new phenomenon — Starz, for example, assembles a writers room and gets scripts ready as part of its development process because it only orders projects straight to series. But more and more broadcast networks are now embracing the off-cycle and straight to series models and, hedging their bets, invest in small writers rooms (an average of 3 people) working for 4-10 weeks to produce multiple scripts and a bible that network brass evaluate before making an episodic commitment. Fox and NBC have been the most active in the field, with the others also exploring the idea. The model has raised concerns for writers as it allows the studio to hire scribes at scale (minimum pay) per WGA article 14 (“writers in additional capacity”) and not adhere to writers’ “quotes,” which is the per-episode fee to which they are entitled based on experience. It also allows studios to ask for lengthy holds of up to 6-8 months on the writers after they finish work while the network makes a decision on the series. Read More »
Janet McTeer is set to co-star opposite Kal Penn in Battle Creek, CBS’ high-profile CBS series from Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and House creator David Shore. The project, from Sony TV and CBS Studios, centers on a detective and an FBI agent with very different world views who are teamed up to clean up the semi-mean streets of Battle Creek, MI. McTeer, repped by The Schiff Co and Curtis Brown in the UK, will play Commander Guziewicz, Commander of the Battle Creek Police Department. This marks the first major role for Oscar-nominated British actress McTeer on a U.S. broadcast series. Her recent series credits include Starz’s The White Queen and FX’s Damages. She can next be seen in Hugo Blick’s Honourable Woman for the BBC.
EXCLUSIVE: What’s up, doc? A broken nose. Ouch! After he recovers from the injury suffered in last night’s game, NBA MVP LeBron James will be ready for his close-up — with Bugs Bunny.
Broadcasting veteran Dick Ebersol‘s sons have come on board to develop the sequel to 1996 animated/live-action hit Space Jam as a starring vehicle for James. The player is the Miami Heat star who broke his nose during last night’s game against the Oklahoma City when the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka got him in the face after a dunk.
Here’s The Real ‘Twins’ Sequel: Kevin Hart To Play LeBron James’ Brother In ‘Ballers’
Another Space Jam film? Why not? The first film, which broke ground for Warner Bros and starred then-Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan and a slew of other top NBA players, ended up grossing $230M worldwide for the studio.
Related: Starz Picks Up Basketball Comedy From LeBron James & Mike O’Malley To Series
Charlie Ebersol, who already has a good relationship with the NFL through his NFL Characters Unite series on USA Network, is about ready to do the same with the NBA. He has been brought on to the produce the picture through his production company, The Company, from a script by his brother Willie Ebersol. The latter won an Emmy for the London Olympics. This is his first screenplay.
Related: Warner Bros Sets ‘Lego Movie’ Sequel For May 2017
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Australian filmmaker David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) will direct the first episode of Starz‘s new drama series Flesh And Bone, created/executive produced by Breaking Bad‘s Moira Walley-Beckett and executive produced by Lawrence Bender, Kevin Brown and John Melfi. The series follows a young ballet dancer, Claire (Sarah Hay), who has a distinctly troubled past, as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. The dark and gritty series will unflinchingly explore the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world. Michôd made his feature debut as a writer and director of Sundance winner Animal Kingdom. His follow-up, The Rover, stars Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. “I’m entirely enamored of the visual, visceral, artful way David tells story,” said Walley-Beckett. “His style and sensibility is very much in alignment with my vision of my show.” This is Michôd’s second TV directing gig and his first pilot. He previously helmed an episode of Mike White’s HBO comedy Enlightened.
Related: Ballet Drama ‘Flesh And Bone’ Gets Series Order At Starz, Casts Lead
EXCLUSIVE: One of the leads in the Best Foreign Language Oscar nominated film The Broken Circle Breakdown has signed on with ICM Partners, I’ve learned. Veerle Baetens, who plays tattoo artist and grieving mother Elise Vandeveld in the film, will be repped by the agency in all areas. As well as being an Oscar nominee this year, Broken Circle Breakdown, directed by Felix van Groeningen has been a blockbuster in Belgium and spawned the best selling soundtrack in the nation’s history. Additionally, Baetens herself won the Best Actress award at both the 2013 European Film Awards and Tribeca Film Festival last year for her performance. The singer and actress, who also starred in the Starz/BBC drama The White Queen, will continued to be repped in Europe by Rosalie Cimino at UBBA.
Related: CAA Signs Felix Van Groeningen
Does the Time Warner CEO need a refresher in the difference between TV “viewers” and “ratings”? It couldn’t hurt after he mistakenly confused the two in a comment to analysts on Wednesday that Starz challenged. Jeff Bewkes wanted to demonstrate that Cinemax — usually overshadowed by HBO — is an “underappreciated asset.” To drive home the point he added: “In 2013, we actually had more viewing at Cinemax than at Starz and basically, the same viewing at Cinemax as at Showtime.” The problem? “He meant ‘ratings,’ not ‘viewership’,” a company spokesman tells me. The error is meaningful: Starz is in more households than Cinemax, and usually handily beats the Time Warner channel in the number of eyeballs it attracts. For example, Starz averaged 232,000 live-plus-same-day viewers last year vs. 158,000 for Cinemax, according to Nielsen data supplied by Starz. Bewkes’ initial “viewership” claim “is not substantiated when examined through the lens of all accepted audience measurement standards,” Starz says. Nielsen data show that “Starz bested Cinemax in households and in total viewers P2+ for total day, in prime time, in live-only viewing, and in every live+DVR measure, both for the flagship Starz network and the multiplex channels.” Easy to see why Time Warner prefers to look instead at ratings, the percentage of potential audience that tunes in. The Cinemax-brand channels collectively had a 1.0 total day rating in … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Hannah Ware has been set to star with Rupert Friend and Zachary Quinto in Agent 47, the reboot of Hitman which is fast taking shape at Fox. This was the pic that Paul Walker planned to star in before his tragic death, with Homeland star Friend taking the lead role. Aleksander Bach is directing a script by Kyle Ward, Skip Woods and Michael Finch, and Alex Young, Chuck Gordon and Adrian Askarieh are producing with Daniel Alter exec producing. The film starts production February 24 in Berlin before moving to Singapore.
Ware most recently starred in the ABC series Betrayal and before that the Starz series Boss. She also starred alongside Josh Brolin in the Spike Lee-directed Oldboy. She’s repped by WME, Independent Talent Group, and Liebman Entertainment.
The company didn’t make a direct connection to Netflix — but the comparisons, especially in profitability (see chart below), become irresistible now that Time Warner reports results for HBO, previously lumped with Turner networks. This morning’s numbers scratch the surface; other filings should tell us much more. The company intends to take advantage of HBO’s financial firepower: HBO will increase spending and hours for original series in 2014, CEO Jeff Bewkes told analysts. Much of the spending will boost Cinemax, which he calls “an under-appreciated asset” with more viewers than Starz and about about the same as Showtime. HBO, the channel, accounts for about two-third of the operation’s 45M domestic and 85M overseas subs. Execs also noted that subs are growing at a healthy pace, with domestic up by 2M in 2013. International revenues account for 25% of the unit’s total — a number that’s expected to grow. Bewkes says that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have had “no discernible effect” on HBO so far.
Here’s how HBO and Netflix compare on the top and bottom lines: Read More »
The prolific TV actor who played the hen-pecked shopkeeper on Little House On The Prairie has died. Richard Bull died Monday of pneumonia in Calabasas, CA. He was 89. He played general store owner Nels Oleson for all of the NBC drama’s nine seasons and in three telefilms during the 1980s. But his busy small-screen career dates back to the mid-1950s, appearing in episodes of more than 100 shows. Bull’s resume includes such classic series as Perry Mason, The Fugitive, The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, Hawaii Five-O, Mission: Impossible, The Streets Of San Francisco, Lou Grant, Knots Landing, Hill Street Blues and ER — all the way through to Starz’s Boss in 2011. The Zion, Ill., native also appeared on the big screen in pics including High Plains Drifter, The Parallax View, The Andromeda Strain, The Thomas Crown Affair and the 2008 Larry the Cable Guy comedy Witless Protection.
Related: In Memoriam: Notable Deaths Of 2013
Disappointing data about factory performance added to investor concerns about prospects for the economy as the Federal Reserve pulls back on its stimulus efforts. The Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell 2.7% today — ahead of a 2.3% drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 and 2.1% slide in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. All but a handful of the companies we track lost ground. CBS was hardest hit among Big Media, with shares off 4.1%. It was followed by Viacom (-4.0%), Disney (-3.6%), Sony (-3.2%), Comcast (-3.1%), Fox (-3.0%), News Corp (-2.8%), Discovery (-2.2%), and Time Warner (-2.1%). In the broader media universe, companies licking their wounds today include DreamWorks Animation (-7.4%), Lionsgate (-5.6%), IMAX (-5.4%), Starz (-5.3%), and AMC Networks (-4.7%). The few gainers include Cinedigm (+4.6%, touching a multiyear high during the day), AOL (+1.7%), Time Warner Cable (+0.6), and Apple (+0.2%).
UPDATED WITH FULL LIST OF WINNERS: Gravity director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki won the Feature Film honor tonight at the 28th Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Awards. “The movie could not be shot in space, so big parts were shot in the computer and were part of creating these images and that’s something I’ve never done before,” he told Deadline. “I think it’s something we’re going to see more of.” Lubezki previously won ASC Awards for The Tree Of Life (2012) and Children Of Men (2007), and was also nominated in 2000 for Sleepy Hollow. Lubezki was one of five ASC nominees who also received Oscar nods this year and the win certainly gives him a boost.
Related: OSCARS: Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention For ‘Gravity’ Cinematographer
But before next month’s Oscars, Lubezki will dive into his next project – in fact, he’s starting in a matter of hours. “I’m doing almost the opposite [of Gravity],” he told me minutes after his ASC win. “At 4 AM I have to drive to the desert because I start a movie with my friend Rodrigo Garcia with Ewan McGregor. It’s a tiny little beautiful, extraordinary script that Rodrigo wrote that we’re going to shoot for five weeks.” Lubezki told me he likes shooting both film and digital but will be using the Arri Alexa on the Garcia picture. “I wish I could do the movie in 65mm, but we cannot afford it!”
The touchy subject of the industry’s transition from film to digital emerged a few times during tonight’s awards dinner at the Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood. First, the night’s opening montage reel pointedly began with a clip from Boogie Nights in which Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) passionately declares his loyalty to celluloid (“I’m a filmmaker, which is why I will never make a movie on tape”). Later, presenter John Carpenter made a sly dig at the digital future. (More from Carpenter below.)
On the TV side, Jeremy Benning, CSC, took the TV Movie/Miniseries win for National Geographic Channel’s Killing Lincoln; the One-Hour Episodic Television Series nod went to Jonathan Freeman, ASC for HBO’s Game of Thrones (“Valar Dohaeris”) and Half-Hour Episodic Series went to Blake McClure for Comedy Central’s Drunk History (“Detroit”). This was McClure and Benning’s first ASC nomination and Freeman’s fourth ASC Award. Freeman’s other wins were for Boardwalk Empire (2012, 2011) and Homeland Security in (2005). He has also earned ASC noms for Taken (2003), Strange Justice (2000) and Prince Street (1998).
HBO, Starz Lead ASC TV Nominees
Lensers Announce ASC Film Read More »
Neil Marshall (The Descent) is set to direct NBC’s drama pilot Constantine, from Warner Bros TV. Based on the characters in DC Comics’ John Constantine stories, Constantine centers on John Constantine, an enigmatic and irreverent con man-turned-reluctant supernatural detective who is thrust into the role of defending us against dark forces from beyond. The project was written by Daniel Cerone from a story by him and David S. Goyer. In TV, Marshall recently helmed the opening as well as the third episode of Michael Bay’s Starz pirate drama Black Sails and an episode from the upcoming fourth season of HBO’s Game Of Thrones.
One of the most sought after pilot directors, Charles McDougall, has been tapped for ABC’s drama pilot Secrets & Lies, which has a series penalty. An adaptation of the Australian crime mystery series. the pilot, from writer/exec producer Barbie Kligman, ABC Studios, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment and Australian-based Hoodlum, centers on a family man who finds the body of a young boy and quickly becomes the prime murder suspect. He has no choice but to try to find the real killer as his marriage, his kids, his reputation, and his sanity are all at stake. McDougall, who won an Emmy for directing the pilot for ABC’s Desperate Housewives, is on a streak, with his four most recent pilots going to series: The Good Wife, The Chicago Code, The Mindy Project … Read More »
Toni Trucks (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2) has been tapped for a regular role on TNT’s legal dramedy Franklin & Bash. Trucks will play Anita Herrera, the new recruit Attorney for the Franklin & Bash offices, a tough, smart and attractive Georgetown lawyer with a great sense of humor who can hold her own with the big boys. Trucks appeared as a recurring on CBS’ Hostages and next will be seen in Disney’s Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. She is repped by Greene & Associates and Rugolo Entertainment. Read More »
Jeff Hephner has been cast as a regular on TNT’s action-drama pilot Agent X. Penned by The Bourne Identity scribe William Blake Herron, Agent X centers on America’s first female Vice President, Natalie Maccabee (Sharon Stone). Hephner will play the role of John Case a.k.a. Agent X, a 39-year-old secret agent who’s called into action by the newly arrived VP when the daughter of the FBI Director is kidnapped. Hephner currently plays the recurring role of Jeff Clark on NBC’s Chicago Fire. His previous credits include recurring roles on TNT’s King & Maxwell, Starz’s Boss, and CW’s Hellcats. Hephner is repped by WME and Untitled Entertainment.
Stephen Root has signed for a recurring role on AMC’s upcoming new drama Turn, based on the book Washington Spies by Alexander Rose. Set in the summer of 1778, Turn centers on farmer Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell) who bands together with a group of childhood friends to form The Culper Ring, an unlikely group of spies who turn the tide in America’s fight for independence. Root will play the eccentric and secretive Nathaniel Sackett, a civilian member of the Committee to Detect and Defeat Conspiracies, an 18th century proto-CIA. Root’s TV work includes Justified, Boardwalk Empire, King Of The Hill and Pushing Daisies. Film credits include Finding Nemo and No Country For Old Men. Root is repped by Gersh and Brillstein Entertainment.