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.
Amazon has come to the rescue of British period drama Ripper Street. The online giant is today launching its Amazon Prime Instant Video service in the UK and with that has announced a commission for a 3rd season of the BBC crime series. It’s also acquired UK subscription streaming rights to the previous seasons. The Victorian era show, which stars Matthew Macfadyen, was cancelled by the BBC in December after a 2nd season ratings drop. The news elicited an outpouring of lament from fans and it was soon rumored that Amazon’s streaming service LoveFilm might pick up the slack. Amazon recently said it was folding LoveFilm into its Prime service in Britain with the new-look platform bowing today, along with the news that new episodes of Ripper Street will be made available exclusively to Amazon Prime Instant Video members before screening on BBC One a few months later.
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘The X Factor’ Musical ‘I Can’t Sing’ Pushes Back Previews; Quentin Tarantino To Present Honorary Cesar To Scarlett Johansson; More
‘X Factor’ Musical ‘I Can’t Sing’ Delays Previews By Two Days
Previews of Simon Cowell‘s The X Factor musical, I Can’t Sing, have been postponed by two days at the London Palladium. Stage Entertainment and Syco Entertainment are producing the show and say they’ve decided to start previews on March 1 as opposed to February 27 due to “technical issues caused by the ambitious staging of the new musical comedy.” Rebecca Quigley, producer for Stage Entertainment, said, “As audiences will soon see, the production is hugely ambitious, and the volume of installation and scale of the set means that technical work has taken slightly longer than could have been anticipated to make the show audience-ready.” Nigel Harman (EastEnders, Downton Abbey) is playing a character based on Cowell in the musical that’s directed by Olivier Award-winner and Tony nominee Sean Foley. British comedian Harry Hill wrote the show.
Quentin Tarantino To Present Scarlett Johansson’s Honorary Cesar
Quentin Tarantino has been enlisted by France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma to present Scarlett Johansson with this year’s honorary César Award. The director will hand the award to Johansson this Friday at the 39th César Awards ceremony in Paris. Tarantino himself received the prize in 2011.
Launching what it calls the UK’s “most complete digital video service” Amazon is upping the ante in its rivalry with Netflix. The online retailer will fold its LoveFilm streaming service into its British website as of February 26 and combine it with Amazon Prime which offers perks like premium delivery services and Kindle ebook borrowing. The combination will effectively make Amazon the UK’s largest digital TV and film streaming provider. LoveFilm, which Amazon acquired in 2011 for about £200M ($334M), will rebrand as Prime Instant Video. It has a catalog of over 15,000 movies and TV episodes and is the main rival to Netflix which launched in the UK in January 2012. Among its TV offerings are The Walking Dead and Vikings which are available the day after their U.S. broadcast. Amazon has pledged to increase its investment in original programming and Prime will offer new series and pilots from Amazon Studios. A la iTunes, the new service will also give users the option of digital downloads and rentals of some 50,000 titles including new releases. The service will come with a £79 ($131.55) annual subscription fee. Amazon says that’s a 35% savings compared to paying for LoveFilm and Amazon Prime separately. Customers who join this week ahead of the launch are being given a discounted rate of £49 ($81.55). Netflix goes for just under £72 …
Global Showbiz Briefs: China Says Not Raising Film Quota; César Awards To Honor Scarlett Johansson; Taylor Lautner To BBC3
Not So Fast: China Says It Isn’t Increasing Movie Quota
Contrary to reports earlier this week, China is not planning to increase its quota on films imported from Hollywood. Official state news agency Xinhua said Tuesday that the quota will remain unchanged at 34, citing an official with the country’s film governing body, SAPPRFT. In February 2012, China and the U.S. signed a pact to increase the number of films approved for theatrical release in China from 20 to 34. The parties also agreed on an increased revenue share of 25%. In the first year the change was implemented, local Chinese films lost market share but since have rebounded strongly with about 58.7% of box office takings in 2013. In a statement on Monday, MPA Asia chief Mike Ellis said the org was unaware of any official plans on changing the quota system but noted that the belief that an open market “best serves filmmakers and audiences alike. … Removing the quota for international films is something we’ve been advocating for some time and would provide the widest possible movie experience for audiences while benefiting the Chinese screen community and our member studios.”
Amazon Releases 10 New Pilots, Including ‘Bosch’, Chris Carter’s ‘The After’, Jason Schwartzman’s ‘Mozart In The Jungle’ & Jill Soloway’s ‘Transparent’
Amazon‘s second batch of pilots — 5 primetime and 5 kids ones — are launching today on Prime Instant Video in the U.S. (you can watch them here) and LOVEFiLM in the UK. All are available for free, with viewers encouraged to give feedback, which will help Amazon brass to determine which pilots will go to series. The crop includes Amazon’s first drama pilots: The After from Chris Carter (The X-Files), and Bosch from Eric Overmyer (The Wire) and Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch). Half-hour comedy pilots include Mozart In The Jungle, from Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom), Jason Schwartzman (Saving Mr. Banks), Alex Timbers and Paul Weitz; Transparent from Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under); and Rebels, from Ice Cube and Michael Strahan. The lineup features such stars as Gael Garcia Bernal, Malcolm McDowell, and Jeffrey Tambor. The children’s pilots include pre-school shows, and new this year, shows for kids ages 6-11.
Amazon’s first group of pilots last year resulted in series pickups for Garry Trudeau’s comedy Alpha House, tech comedy Betasand and the soon to premiere kids series Creative Galaxy, Tumble Leaf and Annedroids. And while launching its second wave of pilots today, Amazon already is working on the next batch, recently greenlighting four new pilots, two comedies and three dramas and one comedy.
Here is full list of pilots available for viewing with statements from some of the creators:
Global Showbiz Briefs: Liberty Global Buying Dutch Cabler Ziggo; Epic Pictures Selling ‘Louder Than Words’ At EFM; More
Liberty Global Set To Acquire Dutch Cabler Ziggo
John Malone’s Liberty Global plans to expand its European cable holdings with an agreement to pay $9.4B in cash and stock for Dutch cable operator Ziggo. If regulators approve the deal, then Liberty — which already owns 28.5% of Ziggo — will merge it with UPC, another cable company it owns there. “Our combined operations will reach over 90% of all Dutch households, allowing us to compete more effectively with the other national telecommunications and satellite platforms in the Netherlands, and at the same time generate significant revenue and operating efficiencies,” says Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries.
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: 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.”
The e-retailer’s stock is poised to hit a 52-week high tomorrow based on post-market trading +5.2%. Amazon says it had a net loss of $41M in Q3, an 85% improvement from the period last year, on revenues of $17.09B, +23.8%. That number beat analyst forecasts for $16.76B. The net loss of 9 cents a share matches the consensus prediction. Domestic media sales were strong, rising 17.8% to $2.6B, although international was up just 1.6% to $2.4B. Excluding the impact of exchange rates, international media would have been +9%. Electronics and other general merchandise sales grew 33% in North America to $6.7B, and 23.4% abroad to $4.3B. CEO Jeff Bezos touted Amazon’s decision to greenlight pilots for six kids shows, and three half-hour shows. Amazon Prime and LoveFilm customers will be able to watch them and help decide which ones should become full-fledged series. He also said that the company’s new Paperwhite and Kindle Fire models were introduced “to positive reviews” — with response times for the new tablet’s Mayday button, a call for personal help, averaging 11 seconds.
Fargo, Platoon, Annie Hall, Hotel Rwanda, and Hoosiers are among the films from the MGM library that will join the programming lineup for those who pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime (which provides free shipping for merchandise in addition to entertainment content). But the e-retailer seems most excited about Vikings, which airs in the U.S. on History. It’s not a shock to see it on Amazon: The company’s European streaming service, Lovefilm, has had it since May. It’s “a series we know our customers love in both the U.S. and abroad,” says Brad Beale, Director of Digital Video Content Acquisition for Amazon. And MGM is glad to collect the check. “We are always looking for opportunities to bring our content to new audiences in innovative ways, which is exactly what this partnership delivers,” says John Bryan, MGM’s President, Domestic Television Distribution.
Global Showbiz Briefs: French Charter For Film Biz Gender Equality; Keshet’s ‘Rising Star’ To Germany; Marvel Anime In UK; More
French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti and Womens’ Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem signed a charter on Thursday in pursuit of equality for women and men in the local film business. Included in the text are pledges to apply equal pay and fight against stereotypes, and a bid to encourage projects that subvert traditional representations of women and men. The text was written up by gender equality lobby, Le Deuxième Regard. Bérénice Vincent, president of the group said the next step is to get other players from all aspects of the industry to sign on, AFP reported. Filippetti for her part stressed that the charter was part of a desire to “enhance the role of women in culture” without impeding freedom of programming. “I’m against establishing arbitrary quotas, like how many films by women should be selected for the next Cannes Film Festival!” In 2012 there was a brouhaha when French Feminist organization La Barbe strongly lamented the lack of women in the main competition. Festival chief Thierry Frémaux maintained at the time that the festival will never choose a film “that doesn’t deserve it just because it’s directed by a woman.” This year there was one film by a woman in the Competition.
Mipcom Briefs: One Three Media In Deal For Cee-Lo Series; FremantleMedia Inks Digital Deal With Youku China; ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Goes Wide; More
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Mark Burnett’s One Three Media has closed a deal to distribute TBS’ upcoming CeeLo’s Goodie Life, the reality series that will feature musician, producer and The Voice co-host CeeLo Green. In a 10-year, multi-platform agreement, One Three Media will distribute the show globally across all platforms. It airs next year on TBS and follows Green as he tackles his packed schedule of producing, recording and performing, and also looks at the creative partnership with his longtime best friends — Big Gipp, Khujo and T-Mo — as they prepare to revive their iconic hip-hop group Goodie Mob. One Three Media will start offering the show at MipTV in April. CeeLo’s Goodie Life, which is a working title, is produced by Emerald TV Productions, LLC and Rogue Atlas. TBS has ordered six episodes for a 2014 premiere.
There will be no third season for BBC’s period drama Copper, whose second-season finale this Sunday will be a series finale. Copper, BBC America‘s first original scripted series, got off to a strong start, setting a record for a BBC America series premiere. But, despite a cast infusion with Donal Logue and Alfre Woodard joining the series in Season 2, Copper lost momentum and was overshadowed by BBC America’s second drama series, the buzzy Orphan Black. “Copper has been a fascinating and exciting experience for everyone involved,” said BBC America GM Perry Simon. “The opportunity to work with (executive producers) Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson, Will Rokos, Thomas Kelly and the extraordinary cast and crew on this journey is one that we are extremely proud of. Their vision to re-tell the immigrant experience through the melting pot of New York City was an original and fresh idea that melded well with the essence of BBC America’s programming. After 23 episodes, with Lincoln dead and the nation starting to heal, it seems a fitting moment to conclude this American story.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: LoveFilm Brings ‘Copper’ To UK Via Stream; Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi Launch AMBI Pictures; More
‘Copper’ Will Make UK Debut Streaming On LoveFilm
LoveFilm has acquired UK rights to Cineflix series Copper. The series follows Vikings as the second to debut in the UK exclusively via the streaming service, bypassing traditional broadcasters. Netflix competitor LoveFilm will make the show available for streaming starting Friday. Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid and Anastasia Griffith star in the period police drama co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos. Copper airs on BBC America in the U.S.
On the heels of its recent deal for Viacom TV content, Amazon-owned LoveFilm has struck a new pact with Warner Bros International Television Distribution. The deal will give Netflix competitor LoveFilm a library of hundreds of hours of animated content that includes Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave And The Bold, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Thundercats. LoveFilm previously pacted with WBITD for live-action library content.
LOVEFiLM, an Amazon company, today announced the arrival of hundreds of hours of popular reality TV series, comedy and children’s entertainment on the LOVEFiLM Instant streaming service following a deal with worldwide entertainment leader Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN). The wide selection of new shows will allow members of LOVEFiLM Instant in the UK to experience some of the greatest entertainment from across VIMN’s exciting broadcast portfolio – which includes MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Comedy Central.
Amazon Studios is kicking off a new pilot cycle with the order of five original pilots for kids, including the streaming service’s first pilots for older kids, ages 6-11. The new pilots come from a mix of established creators as well as a newcomer discovered though Amazon Studios’ open-door submission process. Like the first batch of kids pilots, all for the preschool set, the pilots will stream on Amazon Instant Video and LoveFilm in the UK. for customers to watch, provide feedback, and help determine which shows should be produced as series. In its first-ever pilot orders in April, Amazon greenlighted 6 kids and 8 comedy pilots, five of which — 3 kids and 2 comedy — went to series to stream later this year and in early 2014. Amazon had been looking to do more comedies and expand into drama. Here are descriptions of Amazon’s newly picked up kids pilots:
Global Showbiz Briefs: Romania’s Oscar Entry, Michelle Ryan Back To BBC, ‘Captain Phillips’ Docks In Tokyo, More
Romania’s ‘Child’s Pose’ Tapped For Foreign Language Oscar Spot
Berlin Golden Bear winner Child’s Pose has been selected as the Romanian entry for the Foreign Language Oscar. Călin Peter Netzer’s family drama was chosen unanimously by the national jury, Film News Europe reported. The movie took both Berlin’s top prize and the FIPRESCI award in February and was released in Romania on March 8 to record-breaking box office. It is now the most successful local film in more than a decade and is still screening. Germany’s Beta Cinema has international rights and has almost sold out across the world (there is no U.S. distributor yet). Luminita Gheorghiu stars in the Parada Film production playing a woman trying to save her son from prison. Gheorghiu also starred in two recent Romanian submissions for the Foreign Language Oscar, both directed by Cristian Mungiu. The 2007 drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days was notoriously left off the shortlist while Mungiu’s Beyond The Hills made the shortlist last year. Romania began entering films for the foreign-language prize in 1966 and has never garnered a nomination.