In this week’s audio podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at the possibility that frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch will combine and snap up the UK’s Channel 5, even as a booming ITV opts out; and Amazon’s new combination platter of Prime services that are challenging Netflix more aggressively in Britain, including through a partnership with the BBC to revive the cancelled period drama Ripper Street. They also preview those other big awards this weekend, France’s Cesars, and take their weekly look at the international box office, as both Frozen and The Hobbit 2: The Desolation Of Smaug continue to rack up huge cumulative grosses.
Discovery Redistributes Networks Among Group Presidents Eileen O’Neill, Marjorie Kaplan, Henry Schleiff
In a re-alignment of its U.S. network portfolio, Discovery Communications has named Eileen O’Neill to be Group President of the Discovery Channel and has been given oversight of Science Channel and Velocity — two networks seen to have tremendous growth opportunity. TLC, which O’Neill is credited with turning around, has been given to the care of Marjorie Kaplan, who becomes Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, while Henry Schleiff adds O’Neill’s Discovery Fit & Health network to his watch, as Group President of that network and Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel.
“Nearly 70% of our global output is developed, commissioned and acquired in the U.S.,” company CEO David Zaslav said this morning in a memo to staff. “Most of our big characters, new franchises and tent pole specials have been developed by U.S. Network creative teams. We continue to invest in new international and local content, but it turns out that Gold Rush, River Monsters and I (Almost) Got Away With It attract an audience in almost every market in the world. The optionality of sharing our programming across so many brands and countries, and lining up that domestic content engine to support our global distribution growth overall, is key to our success.” He noted the cpmpany’s marketshare in the U.S. is up significantly over the past six years, growing from 5% in 2007 to nearly 12% today, “and that creative output has helped drive marketshare growth of nearly 25% internationally during the same time.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: Irish Film & TV Academy Nominations; Sky Renews ‘Stella’; Sylvie Pialat Honored In France; More
The Irish Film and Television Academy has unveiled its nominees for the 11th annual Irish Film and Television Awards, which takes place on April 5 in Dublin. In the Best Film category are Neil Jordan’s Byzantium; John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary; Steph Green’s Run & Jump; Stephen Brown’s The Sea; and John Butler’s The Stag. Ruiri Robinson is nominated for director for his debut sci-fi feature film The Last Days On Mars alongside Butler, Jordan and McDonagh. The Best Actor category includes Brendan Gleeson for Calvary; Domhnall Gleeson for About Time; Ciarán Hinds in The Sea; and The Stag’s Andrew Scott. Antonia Campbell-Hughes is nominated for Best Actress in 3096 Days, alongside Saoirse Ronan in Byzantium; Jane McGrath in Black Ice; and Kelly Thornton in Life’s A Breeze. The male supporting race includes Colin Farrell for Saving Mr Banks; Michael Fassbender for 12 Years A Slave; Edward MacLiam for Run & Jump and Peter McDonald for The Stag. Female supporting actors recognized are Sinead Cusack for The Sea; Fionnula Flannigan for Life’s A Breeze; Amy Huberman for The Stag and Orla O’Rourke for Calvary. Up for Best International Film are 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Philomena and The Wolf Of Wall Street. Among TV nominees is Gillian Anderson thriller The Fall; HBO’s Game Of Thrones; historical action drama Vikings; period crime series Quirke; and urban drama Love/Hate. Downton Abbey, Moone Boy and Dracula also scored acting nods. The full list of IFTA nominees is here.
Are longtime frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch about to partner on a UK venture? That’s the word on the street according to The Financial Times which reports that the Malone-backed Discovery Communications and BSkyB, majority owned by Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, are in talks on a joint bid for Britain’s Channel 5. The free-to-air broadcaster, which media entrepreneur Richard Desmond acquired for £103.5M in 2010, is thought to be seeking a buyer with about £700M to spend. The FTA channel has raised the antennae of several media companies with parties rumored to have shown interest including ITV, Turner Broadcasting, BT, NBCUniversal and Saban Capital. The latter is eyeing the possibility of merging Channel 5 with the UK’s Channel 4, creating the market’s third-largest broadcaster by audience. However, such a deal would require regulatory approval and the privitization of Channel 4. The discussions between Discovery and BSkyB have focused on the latter taking over Channel 5’s advertising sales operation, sources told the FT. Channel 5 is notably the home of Big Brother, although its contract for the show expires in 2015. The net also airs U.S. dramas like Under The Dome, CSI and Person Of Interest, but it’s previously dropped such titles as Once Upon A Time and Justified. Its weekly ratings hover around 4%.
Malone and Discovery, …
EXCLUSIVE: Alessandro Nivola will join Jessica Chastain, Oscar Issac and Albert Brooks in J.C. Chandor’s thriller A Most Violent Year for Participant Films and Image Nation Abu Dhabi. Nivola is most recently remembered for playing the FBI agent with the slicked-back hair whose ambition was as grand as his sideburns in David O. Russell’s American Hustle, the ensemble film that has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Newly formed distribution company A24 acquired domestic distribution rights to A Most Violent Year at Sundance this year. Written and directed by Chandor, the thriller is set during the winter of 1981 in New York — one of the most violent years on record in the city’s history. The story, according to the distributor, “follows the lives of an immigrant and his family trying to expand their business and capitalize on opportunities as the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built.” Nivola will play Peter Forente, a heating oil distributor who is a competitor to Isaac’s character. A24 is looking at the dark drama as a possible Oscar contender for next year and with that cast and writer-director, it seems destined to deliver.
UK pay-TV giant BSkyB announced better-than-expected half-year operating profits this morning in London — and a major deal to expand its existing relationship with HBO. The pair has been cozy since 2010 when the Sky Atlantic channel became the “home of HBO” series. That exclusive first-run output deal will now be extended through 2020, giving Sky customers continued access to the entire HBO catalog including such shows as Game Of Thrones and Girls, as well as new series like True Detective and Looking. The extension of the pact could be worth up to £275M over five years. The partners have also committed to co-develop and produce what BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch calls, “epic drama of a truly spectacular scale.” The partners say they will make original drama series for broadcast on their respective networks and are looking at projects with the potential to run for multiple seasons. The high-end TV tax credit now flourishing in the UK has already brought American shows to shoot locally and this deal will likely see the Sky/HBO co-pros taking advantage of the incentives. The two companies will jointly finance the projects.
The moves come as the 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB has been fending off aggressive rival BT which has been muscling in on sports rights usually held by Sky. Movies and entertainment programming are the other key draws for Sky subscribers and today’s deal will see that offer bolstered. Sky has been on a drive to invest £600M a year in original British content and has committed to more than 100 hours of original drama this year. Sky Atlantic has already partnered with Canal Plus on The Tunnel, with BBC America on Fleming, and with Showtime on John Logan’s Penny Dreadful. Sky Living co-produces NBC series Dracula while Sky Arts has the Jon Hamm/Daniel Radcliffe series A Young Doctor’s Notebook. Click over for full details of the new HBO pact:
BSkyB posted £3.75B in adjusted revenues for the six months ended December 31, 2013, up 7.6% on the comparable period in 2012, the company said this morning. Operating profit dropped 8% to £595M compared to the same period the year prior. Still, that was slightly better than the £586M some analysts had predicted as Sky faces increasing rivalry from BT over sports rights. Adjusted earnings (EBIDTA) were stable at £813M. Of note, there was strong demand for subscription products including TV, telephone and broadband with 873,000 signed up in the last three months of 2013; 42% more than the similar period in 2012. The operator now has over 5.1M broadband subscribers. Churn, one of the elements that investors are keeping a close eye on, was 10.8% for the period, up .5%, but down .2% for the final quarter. On-demand usage also increased threefold in the last quarter. Shares in the 21st Century Fox-controlled pay-TV provider were up 4.6% in morning London trading.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Netflix Execs Headed Back To France For Expansion Talks; Patrick Malone Joins Goldcrest Post; More
Netflix Execs Headed Back To France For More Expansion Talks
Last week, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company was eyeing “substantial” European expansion in 2014. His comments came a little more than a month after execs from the streaming service met with staff of French President François Hollande to discuss an entry into France. According to local media reports, Netflix execs now are due to return to France to meet with industry folk within the next week. Pascal Rogard, head of authors’ rights group the SACD, told Le Figaro that the situation is coming into focus with a possible launch later this year. Netflix is available in 41 countries including France’s neighbors to the north such as the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic region. A French launch has been rumored over the years, but moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery in part due to a complex film-windows chronology that prohibits movies from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. There is no such protection for TV series, but Netflix’s House Of Cards already airs on local pay-TV leader Canal Plus, which would see the service’s arrival as competition. In a conversation with analysts, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos was asked last week whether the service would be out of certain markets with its key originals because it had already sold them to local providers. “It depends,” he said. “There’s multiple windows, and we’ll continue to have those negotiations as we get closer to those launches.” It’s expected that should Netflix enter France, it would have to adhere to obligations to invest in local content. Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti told Le Journal du Dimanche this weekend, “Netflix should be an additional player, not a stowaway.” It’s also believed that Netflix is eyeing a move into Germany. With regard to expansion, MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson said last week that “it remains difficult to figure out the ultimate size and value of Netflix’s international opportunity” due to the company’s “undisclosed new market entries, minimal transparency and continual reinvestment.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Sherlock’ Season Finale Draws 8.77M UK Viewers; BBFC Changes Criteria For UK Movie Ratings; More
‘Sherlock’ Season Finale Ratings Tops Weekend In UK
A roundly lauded finale for Season Three of Sherlock was the weekend’s most-watched TV program in the UK. The modern detective series’ third installment, entitled “His Last Vow,” drew 8.77M viewers for a 32.1% share, according to the overnights. While it was possibly the best-reviewed episode of the current season, it also was the lowest-rated. Last week’s 90-minute turn, “The Sign Of Three,” had brought in 8.84M viewers and the January 1st opener, “The Empty Hearse,” was the show’s most-watched episode ever at 9.2M on BBC One. In March last year, star Benedict Cumberbatch said there would be a fourth series of a three more episodes. At a BAFTA screening and panel discussion last week, Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat said the next season will be made “as quickly” as possible. Season 3 kicks off in the U.S. on PBS on January 19.
UK’s BBFC Changes Its Movie Ratings Criteria
After a spending nearly a year polling more than 10,000 members of the British public, the UK ratings board is tweaking its guidelines. Beginning February 24, the BBFC will give greater weight to the theme and tone of a film, especially around the 12A and 15 certificate levels (12A is similar to PG-13 in the U.S. and 15 means suitable only for 15 and overs). The board will also pay particular attention “to the psychological impact of horror” and strong visual details like gore. The BBFC has previously shown itself to be squeamish: In 2012, Lionsgate UK shaved seven seconds off The Hunger Games when it appeared the board was going to stamp it with a 15 certificate. Fixes were made in four scenes of violence and one showing details of injuries. It secured the 12A with a warning that it had “occasional gory moments.” While the BBFC will be stricter with language at the U level (equivalent to an MPAA G), it will also be more flexible about allowing very strong language at the 15 rating. “Context, not just frequency, is the most important factor in how language in films is perceived by the public,” the BBFC said today. Further, the group’s findings show that the public is notably concerned about the sexualization of girls in mainstream films and about risks to vulnerable adolescents, including what some described as the onscreen ‘normalization’ of behaviors which parents consider inappropriate. According to findings of the poll, 95% of parents with children under 15 say they check the BBFC rating before watching a film and 89% of moviegoers ratings important. The most complained-about film over the past four years was 2012′s The Woman In Black starring Daniel Radcliffe. Eleven percent of moviegoers polled thought it had received too low a rating at 12A and should have been given a 15.
The European Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings to examine certain provisions in licensing agreements between several major U.S. film studios and Europe’s biggest pay-TV groups. The EC said today that it’s looking into whether certain deal clauses covering satellite and online streaming transmissions prevent broadcasters from providing their services across Eurpean Union borders. The studios mentioned in an EC press release today include 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Sony, NBCUniversal and Paramount. The broadcasters in question include BSkyB, Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland (Fox has controlling stakes in each), France’s Canal Plus and Spain’s DTS.
In essence, the Commission is looking at whether the practice of selling film rights for one country at a time infringes on EU antitrust rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements. The Commission says that deals between the studios and the broadcasters grant the latter “absolute territorial protection” and mean that films cannot be made available outside that member state, even in response to requests from potential subscribers in another EU country. According to the Associated Press, EC antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia told reporters today in Brussles that the question is whether a subscriber to, say, a German pay-TV channel should be able to stream content online while in another EU country. “Or if you live in Belgium …
BSkyB’s international distribution unit has inked a deal with Ugly Brother, the newly launched production company by twin brothers Mike and Tim Duffy, to develop, produce and distribute reality series and formats targeted at U.S. and international audiences. The deal with Ugly Brother is a first for Sky Vision in that it covers both production and distribution. The Duffy brothers launched their production company last year after Mike did stints at T Group Productions, Electus and Zodiak USA, with exec producer credits including Hardcore Pawn, and Tim spent nearly a decade at Spike TV, most recently as SVP Original Series. “The strength of our relationships in the American market combined with the international muscle of Sky Vision makes this a truly unique and powerful partnership,” the brothers said in a statement. Said Sky Vision Managing Director Jane Millichip: “This deal gives both parties the opportunity to create exciting and commercially relevant programming on an international scale.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: China Lifts Video Game Console Ban; Fox Turkey Appointment; News Corp Commits To London; Sports Rights; ‘Downton’
China’s State Council has temporarily repealed a ban on selling foreign video game consoles, Reuters reports this morning. The move had been expected and will open up a path for the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to sell their wares after a 14-year block. Now, “foreign-invested enterprises” will be allowed to make game consoles within Shanghai’s free trade zone and sell them in China after inspection by cultural departments. Consoles were initially banned in 2000 over concern that gaming would harm young people. Reuters says the growing market is worth a potential $14B.
Fox Turkey has appointed Shebnem Askin as EVP of programming. She was previously SVP of international acquisitions and sales at Fox International Productions and will take up her new role immediately. Her mandate will cover building on Fox Turkey’s entertainment offering and commissioning, acquiring and scheduling film, drama, factual, kids and event entertainment programming in addition to working with Fox Turkey’s channel partners in the increasingly hot TV territory. At FIP, Askin was a key player on co-productions and acquisitions including Mexico’s Academy Award entry Miss.BALA; Gaumont’s upcoming Mea Culpa directed by Fred Cavaye; and Sundance prize winner Metro Manila.
While the phone-hacking trials involving a number of its former staff continue in Britain, News Corp Monday signaled its “long term …
Year-End: UK Tax Breaks Too Much Of A Good Thing? Tasty Danish Offerings; French Film Biz Blues; Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain
The UK emerged in 2013 as an increasingly attractive location destination with new and expanded tax credits – but can it stand the bulge? Hollywood has cozied up to Britain, not only bringing its films there to shoot, but now its TV programs while it also continues to plumb it as a source of original drama to be remade in the U.S. Across the Channel, after a wake-up call in the waning days of 2012 by France‘s influential Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch, the local industry spent 2013 debating its rich subsidy system that’s spent big (too big?) on talent. Germany‘s local share of the box office is expected to be down for 2013, only slightly, but it’s been fertile ground for the studios working in local language. Meanwhile, Olympics host Russia is seeing its star rise while Italy and Spain are still undergoing financial woes. And yet, nothing seems rotten in the state of Denmark where the box office is top heavy with local films and a new drama series could be the Danes’ answer to Downton Abbey. Here’s a look back at 2013 and some glimpses of what 2014 may hold:
The British government has strongly backed the film and television business by increasing tax breaks this year. But in so doing, has it backed the industry into a corner? Arguably one of the biggest stories out of the UK in …
Global Showbiz Briefs: Fox Sells Star China Stake; Lawyer Who Outed J.K. Rowling As ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ Author Fined; Channel 5 Sale?; Apollo Theatre Update; ‘SNL’
Twenty-First Century Fox is divesting of its stake in Star China TV. China Media Capital’s management team and CMC itself will acquire Fox’s 47% stake for an undisclosed sum. The company, which was already majority owned by CMC, operates three 24-hour Mandarin-language channels and the Fortune Star Chinese movie library. James Murdoch, Deputy COO, Chairman & CEO of International for 21st Century Fox said the sale was part of a “broader agenda” to streamline “affiliate ownership structures.” In other words, Fox is looking to get out of companies in which it cannot have a majority position, Bloomberg notes. (Last January, Fox increased its holdings in German pay-TV group Sky Deutschland from 49.9% to 54.5% and is believed to still be keen on reviving an aborted attempt to acquire the part of BSkyB it does not already own.) CMC chairman Ruigang Li said the Star China deal marked “a new era” China Media Capital is a partner in DreamWorks Animation’s Chinese venture, Oriental DreamWorks.
The lawyer who blew J.K. Rowling’s cover as the author of detective novel The Cuckoo’s Calling has been fined £1,000 for breaching privacy rules, the BBC reported. Rowling had penned the book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith but was revealed as its true writer in July after The Sunday Times ran a story outing her. Chris Gossage, a partner at Russells Solicitors, had confided in his wife’s best friend that Rowling had written the book and that person then revealed the information in the course of a Twitter exchange with a journalist. Rowling swiftly took legal action against those responsible. They apologized, and agreed to pay Rowling’s legal fees as well as making a substantial donation to the Soldiers’ Charity. The more recent fines were applied by the UK’s Solicitors Regulation Authority. Sales of Cuckoo’s Calling skyrocketed after the Harry Potter creator’s identity was made public.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BSkyB Opens Sky Store To Nonsubscribers; Netflix Eyeing France Launch?; More;
BSkyB Opens Its Sky Store Rentals To All Broadband Users
BSkyB set a challenge today to streaming providers in the UK such as Netflix and LoveFilm by announcing it has opened its Sky Store movie rental service to anyone with a broadband connection. The service does not require a Sky subscription, meaning all users in the UK and the Republic of Ireland will have access. Sky, which is controlled by 21st Century Fox, says new films including Man Of Steel and Despicable Me 2 are available from today with other fresh titles available at the same time as they drop on DVD. Those will rent for £3.49 ($5.70) each. Library titles will go for 99p-£1.99. There are already about 1,200 movies online which can be streamed through SkyStore.com, or via NOW TV, Roku and YouView. Sky’s had success with renting movies to its existing customers with 2.1 million rentals in the third quarter.
Report: Netflix Mulls Expansion Into France
Netflix has been a long time coming to France, Europe’s third-largest market, but is the tide about to turn? According to Reuters, executives from Netflix met with the staff of French President François Hollande this week to discuss the move. Netflix is available in 41 countries including France’s neighbors to the north such as the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic region. A French launch has been rumored over the years, but moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery for the streaming service given a complex film-windows chronology. There is no such protection for TV series, but many U.S. shows air as much as a year later than they do in the U.S. on traditional networks like TF1. TF1 has a VOD service that offers first-run U.S. series on a one-day delay and pay-TV leader Canal Plus airs first-run series within a few days; it even launched a new channel this year on which to showcase them. But movies are hampered by rules that prohibit films from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. Rentals via a set-top box are permissible four months after theatrical. The windows issue has long been a thorny one in France, with industry opinions divided, but discussions are ongoing. A Hollande rep told Reuters, “Netflix wanted information about the legal conditions that would affect its potential arrival in France.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: BT Nets NBA Games; Comedy Central Has New Overseas Projects; Salman Khan; BAFTA; More
BT Sport Scores NBA Games In Multi-Year Deal
Britain’s aggressive BT Sport has closed a multi-year, multi-platform deal with the NBA for up to 200 games a season including regular and playoff action. Although BT has been facing off with rival Sky, which previously had the NBA games under a short-term deal, I understand the News Corp-controlled company did not bid on rights for the coming basketball seasons. BT will broadcast up to seven live games per week in the UK and Ireland starting with the Pacers at the Clippers on December 1st. Sunday games will air in UK primetime. Also included in the partnership will be several magazine shows like NBA Action, NBA Inside Stuff, NBA Tonight and NBA Countdown, while some games will stream live online.
Shares in 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB were up today in London after falling as much as 10% on Monday. That drop came after the UK’s BT Sport scored a big goal by winning the exclusive broadcast rights to 350 UEFA Champions League and Europa League soccer matches per year from the 2015/2016 season. The £897M ($1.4B) deal that was announced Saturday marks the first time a single UK broadcaster has won the exclusive live rights to all matches from both tournaments (BSkyB and ITV currently share them). It was seen as a big kick in the shins to Britain’s leading pay-TV group, but could end up as a boon for British producers. Sky’s recent growth is through its entertainment channels, while premium sports and movies are relatively stable. So, increasing the pot on acquisitions and original commissions looks like “a sensible place to keep investing,” I’m told.
With the popularity of global soccer increasing in the States, and as next summer’s World Cup in Brazil approaches, 21st Century Fox is adding to its international rights portfolio. The group has partnered with the Deutsche Fussball Liga to deliver soccer to millions of fans in 80 territories on four continents, including North America. In North and South America and Asia, the new agreements are for five years; in Europe, they’ll last two years. Financial terms were not disclosed. Matches will be shown across Fox International Channels, Fox Sports and Sky Italia. The deals kick off with the 2015-16 season for all 306 Bundesliga matches per year. The Bundesliga is one of the premiere soccer leagues in the world with one of the best known teams in Bayern Munich, whose players include France’s Frank Ribéry and Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger. Fox is deep into soccer around the world with notable recent deals including BSkyB‘s £2.28B spend on rights to 116 English Premiere League matches for three seasons beginning this year, and Fox Sports’ record $425M for U.S. broadcast rights to the 2018-2022 World Cup package.
John Malone’s Liberty Global acquired the UK’s Virgin Media in a $23B deal in June. In the past year, Britain’s No. 2 pay-TV operator has added 1,000 extra customer service roles while its rival, 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB, said in May that it plans to add 550 jobs to meet demand and serve a growing customer base. Now, Virgin is looking at streamlining its senior and middle management ranks with the possible axing of 600 positions. The cuts would amount to about 4% of the company’s workforce and are intended to “find the best shape” for Virgin and help build an “agile and efficient” organization, I’m told. After the acquisition by Liberty, Virgin CEO Neil Berkett exited the company and Tom Mockridge, coincidentally the former CEO of News Corp’s News International, came aboard to replace him. Regarding the job cuts, Mockridge said today, “Like organizations across the public and private sector, Virgin Media is making sure it has the structure it needs to meet the needs of its customers. These proposals are designed to take advantage of the opportunities that come with being part of the world’s largest cable operator and create an organization that’s fit for growth.”