Again via Twitter, this year’s Oscars host has turned down an offer extended by returning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to take the gig again. Seth MacFarlane had already said immediately after the show in February that he wasn’t up to host the 2014 awards ceremony, but after Zadan and Meron re-upped last month in a surprisingly early decision by the Academy, the duo asked him anyway. MacFarlane had been silent publicly until he tweeted today: “Traumatized critics exhale: I’m unable to do the Oscars again. Tried to make it work schedule-wise, but I need sleep. However, I highly recommend the job, as Zadan and Meron are two of the most talented producers in the business. My suggestion for host is Joaquin Phoenix“. Whether he really wanted the job or not, he is plenty busy making his new cowboy comedy A Million Ways To Die In The West as well as working on a Ted sequel. The only question now is what comes next: MacFarlane’s third “please, stop asking me” tweet or somebody actually taking the job. Stay tuned.
Former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland and Mexican singer-actress Paulina Rubio are in negotiations to join Fox‘s The X Factor alongside Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato. They’d be filling the judges’ seats vacated by LA Reid and Britney Spears. Both have previous experience: Rowland served as a judge on the award-winning eighth season of the UK version in 2011, while Rubio was a coach on the second season of La Voz… México. In March, she also signed on as a coach on Telemundo’s children’s singing competition show La Voz Kids, airing this spring. X Factor US is set to film auditions in Charleston, SC, this Tuesday and Wednesday. That leaves little time for the ink to dry ahead of an official announcement from the network, which Cowell tweeted will be revealed Monday. X Factor‘s third season will debut this fall.
Hacking attempts on media organizations have ramped up in recent months with attacks on the AP, The Guardian, CBS News accounts, The Onion, and E! Online. On Friday, The Financial Times‘ Tech Blog and Twitter accounts were hacked into, the organization reported. “Various FT blogs and social media accounts have been compromised by hackers and we are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” FT later tweeted. Earlier in the week, The New York Times website experienced traffic slowdowns that limited access to some users because of online attacks not attributed to a specific group.
“Look out Facebook!” the News Corp CEO wrote today in a tweet. “Hours spent participating per member dropping seriously. First really bad sign as seen by crappy MySpace years ago.” Easy to see why he’s still smarting over the “crappy” asset that he bought in 2005 for $508M and sold two years ago for $35M. But his warning also reflects the passion Facebook inspires among supporters and critics alike on the anniversary of its ill-fated initial public offering at $38 a share. The stock closed today at $26.25 — down 31.3% — and has been pretty much flat for more than five months. Bears say that Facebook can’t sustain its torrid growth as it faces potent competitors — including Google, Twitter and Tumblr — and a shift among users from personal computers to advertising unfriendly small screened mobile phones and tablets. “Facebook is now scrambling to boost revenues through bigger ads that take over the entire screen,” BTIG’s Rich Greenfield notes today. He contrasts that to Google+, a social network that “is not out to harm the user experience through disruptive, annoying, spammy ads, they simply want the data to improve search and other products.”
2ND UPDATE, 11:45 AM: I hear Alpha House has gotten an official pickup, joining Betas. Alpha House follows four senators (John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy, Mark Consuelos) who live together in a rented house in Washington, DC. Zombieland and Browsers did not make the cut.
Related: Full Amazon Pilot Listings
UPDATE, 9 AM: Zombieland writer-producer Rhett Reese took to Twitter to blame the series’ pickup fail on Zombieland fans themselves: “I’ll never understand the vehement hate the pilot received from die-hard Zombieland fans. You guys successfully hated it out of existence.”
UPDATE, THURSDAY PM: There will be no Zombieland TV series, at least not on Amazon. The streaming service has passed on the pilot, as well as Browsers, as it continues to narrow down the field.
The No. 1 movie ad sales company owned by National CineMedia says today that its new arrangements with Twitter, Foursquare and Entertainment Weekly will help advertisers to “be a part of the social conversation surrounding movies.” NCM is developing a weekly series about movie topics trending on Twitter that will appear in movie theaters and on the social network. It will offer audiences “a chance to continue the conversation and influence upcoming episodes.” NCM is looking for a presenting sponsor. The company is teaming with Foursquare — which helps smartphone users to connect with nearby people and places — to develop what it calls “local content and offers that are relevant to their movie-going experience.” And the deal with EW will add celebrity interviews and content to NCM’s FirstLook pre-show. The company adds that content from the show will appear in a new five-minute digital version called FirstLook5. It also will launch this month a FirstLook Sync app, that uses audio recognition technology to interact with ads that appear on the movie screen. It will roll out this month in Regal Entertainment’s mobile app. Later it will be available as a stand-alone app, in other movie theaters’ apps, and as part of NCM’s Movie Night Out app.
UPDATE, 5:09 PM: Most of them are back for sure. “The Real Housewives of New York City will return on Bravo for season six,” a Bravo spokesperson confirmed today. “At this point, the returning cast members include Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, Carole Radziwill and Heather Thomson.” Note that LuAnn de Lesseps and Aviva Drescher are not on that list. A source says that doesn’t rule it out that they are returning with the others, as I reported on May 11, but right now Singer, Morgan, Radziwill and Thomson are the only Housewives Bravo is confirming publicly.
Twitter users soon will be able to see — rather than just read about — more hail Marys, big air, and golden goals. ESPN said today it is broadening its ties to the 140-character world, making ad-embedded clips of several major events available on Twitter and mobile devices, creating yet another potential revenue stream. The sports behemoth becomes the latest TV entity to get cozier with the site as video becomes a bigger part of the twitterverse. Last month, Twitter was said to be holding talks with Viacom and NBCUniversal about hosting clips from those companies’ shows, and BBC America tweeted a few weeks back that it had signed up for the first “in-Tweet branded video synced to entertainment TV series.” The Disney-run “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” as it brands itself, soon will make the clips available on Twitter and mobile devices shortly after they happen live on-air. Expect video from NCAA football, the X Games and action from the pitch during the run-up to next year’s soccer World Cup. The net will detail its plans during its upfront Tuesday in New York.
This summer Fox will begin testing technology that can update or swap ads that people see when they watch shows on demand, the network’s President of Sales Toby Byrne told buyers today. The goal is to have the service ready for next year. “A consumer can watch Fox on any device wherever they are, and your ad can be there too,” he said at the network’s upfront presentation at New York’s Beacon Theater. It was part of a joint presentation with Fox Broadcasting Chairman Kevin Reilly to underscore the company’s eagerness to work with new technology to help build ratings. “We will be No. 1 again next season,” Reilly vowed. The execs said that – unlike their broadcast and cable competitors — the network offers buyers “scale, youth, and influence.” Technology helps, they said: The network benefits from DVR time shifting, as well as streaming and VOD even though many of those viewers still aren’t fully included in Nielsen’s ratings. They added that Fox shows are especially popular with people on social networks including Facebook ad Twitter. “We dominate in the social space,“ Reilly said. “It indicates a certain level of engagement and that has value.” The …
Consider it a promise, or even a threat: Kevin Smith has finished his Clerks III script. “IT IS ACCOMPLISHED! First draft of CLERKS III is 137 pages,” he Tweeted today. “Plays like the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the Clerks trilogy.” Back in February he mulled turning the project into a book or online series. When Smith first announced he was writing the second sequel to the film that started his indie career he proclaimed, “Clerks III will be the best film I’ll ever make”.
NBC’s official 2013-14 schedule issued just two hours ago announced Celebrity Apprentice as being still on the bubble and not renewed for next season. Not according to star Donald Trump. “I AM PLEASED TO INFORM YOU THAT CELEBRITY APPRENTICE HAS BEEN RENEWED FOR ANOTHER SEASON BY NBC,” he just tweeted. “SEE YOU AT THE NBC UPFRONTS TOMORROW.“ No word back from NBC yet whether Trump has really been renewed or he will be crashing the party. Trump likes the stage at the NBC upfront — two years ago he used it to announce his decision not to run for President and return to Celebrity Apprentice.
Director Marc Webb’s Tweeting his way through production on Sony‘s Amazing Spider-Man 2. His latest reveal: A first look at Paul Giamatti as the Marvel villain known to comic book fans as Rhino. “Say hello to Aleksei Sytsevich”, Webb Tweeted today. Giamatti, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, and Shailene Woodley join Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the May 2, 2014 superhero sequel.
Baz Luhrmann‘s ambitious 3D Great Gatsby pic isn’t just raking in the dough in theaters. Its Jazz Age-meets-Jay-Z mash-up soundtrack has been climbing the charts fast after Tuesday’s release. According to SoundScan, early projections pegged first week sales at 90,000-95,000 copies but now the album’s headed toward 100K by Sunday and could notch a #2 debut on the Billboard Top 200 when official results come in next week. Luhrmann, exec producer Jay-Z, and executive music producer Anton Monsted gambled on slotting anachronistic new tracks and covers by contemporary hip-hop and pop artists into the 1920s-set F. Scott Fitzgerald tale.
Gordon Ramsay‘s worldwide restaurant empire is in shambles with splashy eateries closing left and right or sitting empty. But Fox continues to prop up his image by signing a new multiyear deal with the bad-tempered, foul-mouthed chef and ordering a new Masterchef spinoff for the 2013-2014 season as well as additional season orders for Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef. This now brings to five the number of stale Ramsay shows which Fox will air, demonstrating how unscripted TV czar Mike Darnell is utterly devoid of new ideas and new faces:
FOX has picked up JUNIOR MASTERCHEF, a new culinary competition series for talented kids between the ages of eight and 13 who love to cook, as part of a new multi-year deal with award-winning chef Gordon Ramsay, it was announced today by Mike Darnell, President of Alternative Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company.
As part of Ramsay’s new deal, FOX also has picked up one additional season of HELL’S KITCHEN and two more seasons of MASTERCHEF. The deal will extend HELL’S KITCHEN to a 13th season and bring MASTERCHEF to a fifth and sixth season. The addition of JUNIOR MASTERCHEF brings the total number of Ramsay-led shows airing on FOX to five, including MASTERCHEF, HELL’S KITCHEN, HOTEL HELL and KITCHEN NIGHTMARES.
After tapping into the social media zeitgeist last year with a campaign built around the popular “Keep Calm” Internet memes, Warner Bros TV is going low-tech, grassroots and green for its 2013 Emmy campaign. Starting next week, the studio will distribute 11 different show-specific reusable tote bags for some of its top series at farmers’ markets in Sherman Oaks (May 14), Beverly Glen (May 18), and Brentwood (May 19). The series featured are The Big Bang Theory, The Following, 2 Broke Girls, Arrow, The Mentalist, The Middle, Mike & Molly, Person Of Interest, Revolution, Suburgatory and Two And A Half Men. The farmers’ market campaign, which will have a strong fan element, will be anchored by a fully wrapped Airstream trailer where episodes of select WBTV series will be screening. Additionally, it will include artists applying glitter tattoo and nail art featuring staples from Warner Bros series, including Soft Kitty and the atom logo from The Big Bang Theory, a raven from The Following, the Revolution power button, and cupcakes from 2 Broke Girls. Visitors also can have their photo as their favorite WBTV character taken at the SocialPix station and upload images to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. using the hashtag #WBFYC.
UPDATE, 5:25 PM: Ryan Seacrest tonight opened American Idol with an acknowledgment of Randy Jackson’s announcement today that he was leaving the show after 12 seasons. The host told viewers on Thursday’s live results show that there will be news about who is going home tonight, meaning among the contestants. He then tapped Jackson on the shoulder, adding “maybe a heads up?” Just before Idol went to air, Jackson himself added to the news of his departure by tweeting about his time on the show. “I am very proud of how we forever changed television and the music industry. It’s been a life changing opportunity #idol,” he tweeted in similar language to remarks he’d made earlier in the day.
PREVIOUSLY, 3:17 PM: After over a decade at the judge’s table, Randy Jackson is leaving American Idol at the end of this season, sources have confirmed. ”Yo! Yo! Yo! To put all of the speculation to the rest, after 12 years of judging on American Idol I have decided it is time to leave after this season,” said Jackson in a statement today. E! News reported the departure first. The news from the long term judge was called “face-saving” by one source in reference to the ratings struggle the once dominant show has had this season. Though other judges, from Simon Cowell to Jennifer Lopez, and for three seconds Ellen Degeneres, have come …
The clock may start ticking again on Fox. I’ve learned that the network is looking to bring back its signature real-time drama 24 as a limited series. Kiefer Sutherland is in talks to reprise his Emmy-winning role as Agent Jack Bauer. No deals are in place, but Fox is eying 24 as part of its recent push in limited event series. Since 24 ended its eight-season run on Fox in 2010, there have been efforts to continue the story as a feature, which ultimately didn’t take off. I hear the idea to do another 24 chapter on TV came from longtime 24 showrunner Howard Gordon, now executive producer on Showtime’s Homeland. I hear he pitched the plan, which would start from scratch with a new story arc, to 24 producers 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV as well as Fox, which all jumped on board. Gordon will likely executive produce through his 20th TV-based company Teakwood Lane. In addition to Homeland, Gordon executive produces the newly picked up TNT series Legends and high-profile FX pilot Tyrant, which is being directed by Ang Lee. Sutherland most recently starred on the Fox/20th TV drama Touch, which is being cancelled after two seasons. The original 24 was created by Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran, who executive produced with Gordon, Brian Grazer, Sutherland, Evan Katz and Tony Krantz. At the 2006 Emmys, the show won …
One of the grand doyennes of daytime television for no less than four decades, The Young And The Restless star Jeanne Cooper died today. She was 84. It was announced on Twitter by her son, actor Corbin Bernsen, who said she passed this morning “in peace and without fear”. At a time when soap operas are an endangered species on network schedules, the television industry should recall Cooper as an outstanding daytime serial actor whose portrayal of Katherine Chancellor’s complex but oh-so-entertaining small screen life became an integral part of loyal viewers’ extended family. Through bouts of alcoholism and amnesia, umpteen romances and wrecked marriages, incessant meddling mixed with sage advice, Cooper gave her popular character dignity, grace and authenticity. Little wonder that she received 10 Daytime Emmy nominations over her celebrated career, winning once in 2008 after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. She was also nommed for two primetime Emmys and appeared on such programs as Perry Mason, Cheyenne, and The Adventures Of Kit Carlson as well as a regularly recurring role as Bernsen’s mom on LA Law.
Baidu, China’s answer to Google, has acquired the online video business of web-based broadcaster PPS for $370M. PPS’ online video business, which includes Asian and American programming, will be folded into Baidu’s TV and and movie portal iQiyi. The NASDAQ-traded Baidu said the combined entity will be China’s largest online video platform by number of mobile users and viewing time. The deal is part of ongoing consolidation in China’s vast online entertainment market where video sites compete with traditional broadcasters. Last year, rivals Youku and Tudou merged in a $1B deal that created the leader in online TV, and last month, Internet giant Alibaba spent $586M to acquire an 18% stake in Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. The PPS deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2013.