Back in February, word began to spread that longtime frenemies John Malone and Rupert Murdoch were eyeing a joint acquisition of the UK’s Channel 5. Malone-backed Discovery Communications and BSkyB, majority owned by Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, have now reportedly gone ahead and sewn up a deal. Broadcast reported that Discovery and BskyB are nearing an announcement they have acquired the broadcaster in a deal valued at £350M, which would give the former a 70% stake and the latter 30%. But media entrepreneur Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell, owner of Channel 5, has said it received several bids and was still evaluating them, according to Bloomberg. The free-to-air broadcaster was thought to be seeking a buyer with about £700M to spend, but many were skeptical it would fetch such a price; Desmond paid about £103.5M for it in 2010. Other companies that have been said to have shown interest include Viacom, Turner Broadcasting, BT, NBCUniversal and Saban Capital.
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; weekly average ratings hover around 4%. Read More »
Jan Koeppen, the current COO of 21st Century Fox Europe and Asia, is making a transition to Fox International Channels where he will take over as President of Europe and Africa. He is stepping into the position vacated by Jesus Perezagua, who announced his departure last month. Koeppen will be based in London and report to President and CEO Hernan Lopez. The exec will have P&L responsibility for FIC’s 94 TV and online services across 88 countries in Europe and Africa where leading channel brands include Fox, Fox Sports, Fox Life and National Geographic Channel. As COO of 21st Century Fox, Koeppen has overseen the group’s portfolio of companies including Sky Italia, Sky Deutschland, BSkyB, Star India and Fox Turkey. Among his myriad transactions, Koeppen was instrumental in the creation of Star India as a stand-alone operation and in the acquisition of a majority stake in Sky Deutschland. He serves on the boards of Sky Deutschland, Tata Sky and Fox Turkey. Koeppen was previously with Boston Consulting Group.
Avon Pension Fund and others who owned News Corp stock from mid-February to mid-July 2011 charged in the class action suit that Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, former News Of The World editor Rebekah Brooks, and other execs at News Corp (before it split into two companies) committed fraud when the UK hacking scandal was unfolding. They told the public — including in testimony at Parliament — that it was just an isolated problem, and it wasn’t. When the widespread extent of the hacking became known in mid-2011, News Corp shares fell 17%, and it derailed the company’s plan to buy British Sky Broadcasting. But a U.S. District Court in New York dismissed the case today, Reuters reports. The problem? Judge Paul Gardephe said that the News Corp execs couldn’t be held liable for statements made before the period when the plaintiffs said that they lost money.”To hold otherwise would require adopting an ‘endless breach argument,’ which would permit plaintiffs to circumvent the well-settled rule that defendants are liable only for those statements made during the class period,” Gardephe says.
Allan Leighton, Linda Robinson Named To eOne Board
Canadian giant Entertainment One has appointed Allan Leighton to its board as Non-Executive Director and Chairman. He replaces James Corsellis as Chairman, though Corsellis will remain a Non-Exec Director. Leighton is a former board director of BSkyB in the U.K. and previously was Chairman of The Royal Mail, CEO of Asda Stores Limited and Walmart Europe, Deputy Chairman of Selfridges & Co and Chairman of LastMinute.com. Also joining the eOne board a little more than a year after its acquisition of Alliance Films is media attorney Linda Robinson as Non-Exec Director. Patrice Theroux, who leads eOne’s global film business, is stepping down from the board to focus on his exec responsibilities. Read More »
Netflix Bringing ‘Fargo’ To The Netherlands
Netflix has scored rights to new series Fargo for the Netherlands. The 10-episode limited series is inspired by the Coen brothers’ 1996 feature and will be available exclusively to Netflix members beginning April 16. New episodes will roll out weekly on Netflix Netherlands within 24 hours of the U.S. broadcast on FX. Fargo is produced by MGM Television and FX Productions with MGM handling worldwide distribution. Billy Bob Thornton stars as a rootless, manipulative man who meets and forever changes the life of a small-town insurance salesman (Martin Freeman). Colin Hanks, Allison Tolman, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Kate Walsh, Glenn Howerton, Joey King, Peter Breitmayer, Tom Musgrave, Josh Close, Russell Harvard, Adam Goldberg, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele round out the cast. Read More »
In a deal that gives it further access to the Chinese market, Discovery Communications has partnered with China’s Wasu Digital TV Media Group to supply content for new local pay-TV channel Qiu Suo. The subscription channel launched earlier this week and offers factual and lifestyle entertainment programming from outlets including Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet. Wasu is owned by State-run outfits Hangzhou Culture, Radio and Television Group and the Zhejiang Radio and Television Group. It has China’s largest digital content library and about 20M subscribers. Discovery, some of whose programming was already available in China via other providers, will act as a channel and content consultant for Qiu nSuo. Arjan Hoekstra, president and managing director of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, said, “The new channel will introduce millions of Chinese viewers to some of Discovery’s best content and, building on the success of our existing business in China, paves the way for the next phase of growth for Discovery in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.” Discovery has been on a big international push of late. In January, it fast-tracked its acquisition of a controlling stake in pan-European platform Eurosport, and last year bought the SBS Nordic operations of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1. It’s also understood to be considering a bid for the UK’s Channel 5.
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.
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 27 (.MP3 version)
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 27 (.M4A version)
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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.
Related: Military Channel Changing Name To 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.”
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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. Read More »
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, … Read More »
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. Read More »
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.
Related: Will BSkyB’s Soccer Rights Loss Be A Win For British TV Producers?
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: Read More »
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.
Related: BSkyB, HBO Pact To Co-Produce “Epic” Original Dramas, Extend UK Output Deal
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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.” Read 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. Read More »
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 … Read More »
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.”
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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »