Roman Polanski‘s 1971 feature documentary Weekend Of A Champion is being sold at Cannes this week after Brett Ratner’s Rat Documentary Films acquired the docu in February as part of a 12-picture deal with Netflix to produce and acquire feature-length documentaries. Never shown in the U.S., Weekend offered up a portrait of legendary Formula 1 champ Jackie Stewart during his victory at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix — it also shows a pair of icons (Polanski and Stewart) at the height of their powers. Pathe is handling international and Submarine is handling all other U.S. rights beside Netflx. Polanski, meanwhile, has just completed filming Venus In Fur, which is here in competition. Here’s the exclusive first look at the poster:
This is “a new, developing phenomenon,” AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan told investors this morning at the Barclays’ Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference. Although advertisers still crave ratings points, they also increasingly want to reach people who say that “there are only two or three shows I watch and I live and die for them.” The trend is gaining momentum as viewers discover opportunities to binge view shows on pay TV, VOD and streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Prime. In addition, young viewers become obsessive about programs when social networks such as Facebook and Twitter help to connect them with others who share their passion. As a result, “that favorite stuff in media is emerging as the most important [driver] of value,” Sapan says. That’s encouraging for networks such as AMC — which has high-engagement hits with dramas including Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad. But it’s hard to build a business around the trend: “Good dramatic TV shows aren’t known until they’re on,” he says. And nobody has perfect pitch. “There are many shows that have spectacular television pedigree and the show doesn’t work” while others from untested producers or stars “take off like crazy.” Sapan says he’s encouraged by his upcoming shows including Low Winter Sun (a police drama), Turn (about Revolutionary War spies), Halt & Catch Fire (about the computing boom in the 1980s), and Line Of Sight (a sci-fi drama the AMC chief calls “nuanced and exquisite”).
Last year, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association might have helped fuel Homeland‘s surprise Emmy win by awarding its top drama prize to the then-rookie Showtime series. But with today’s announcement of nominees for its 3rd annual Critics’ Choice TV Awards, the group might make more noise with what it spurned than what it honored. HBO and FX lead the network tally with 21 and 19 noms, respectively, and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and FX’s American Horror Story each drew six to top all programs. However, a look at the Best Comedy and Best Drama races reveal some surprising omissions. Missing from the BJTA’s comedy series hopefuls are three-time defending Emmy champ Modern Family (supporting actress Sarah Hyland is the show’s lone nominee), along with recently wrapped perennial 30 Rock and, perhaps most glaringly, HBO’s hipster darling Girls. And conspicuously absent from the drama series combatants is four-time Emmy winner Mad Men, which also earned only a single nom, for lead actress Elizabeth Moss.
Instead, vying for the Critics’ Choice Award for best drama are Homeland, HBO’s Game Of Thrones, PBS’ Downtown Abbey, CBS’ The Good Wife and AMC’s Breaking Bad — all of which also were nominated in the category last year — along with FX’s freshman The Americans. Up for best comedy are Modern Family‘s Wednesday night companion The Middle, landing its first major awards recognition, as well as Big Bang Theory, FX’s Louie, Fox’s New Girl, NBC’s Parks and Recreation and HBO Veep. (No sign of last year’s winner Community, led by new showrunners Moses Port and David Guarascio.) Netflix’s House Of Cards made an entrance into the awards circles with two acting noms, including one for star Kevin Spacey.
The awards will be handed out June 10 at the Beverly Hilton — not coincidentally during Emmy voting season. Parks and Rec‘s Retta will host. See the complete list of nominees, along with the breakdown of noms by show and network, after the jump:
Last year, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association likely helped fuel Homeland‘s surprise Emmy win by awarding its top drama prize to the then-rookie Showtime series. But with today’s announcement of nominees for its 3rd annual Critics’ Choice TV Awards, the group might make more noise with what it spurned than what it honored. HBO and FX lead the network tally with 21 and 19 noms, respectively, and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory and FX’s American Horror Story each drew six to top all programs, though the latter is not among the six finalists for Best Drama Series. However, a look at the Best Comedy and Best Drama races reveal some surprising omissions. Missing from the BJTA’s comedy series hopefuls are three-time defending Emmy champ Modern Family, along with recently wrapped perennial 30 Rock and, perhaps most glaringly, HBO’s hipster darling Girls. And conspicuously absent from the drama series combatants is four-time Emmy winner Mad Men, which earned only a single nom, for lead actress Elizabeth Moss.
Instead, vying for the Critics’ Choice Award for best drama are Homeland, HBO’s Game Of Thrones, PBS’ Downtown Abbey, CBS’ The Good Wife and AMC’s Breaking Bad — all of which also were nominated in the category last year — along with FX’s …
Ricky Gervais writes, directs, exec produces, and stars in the original series about a naive man who works in a nursing home, which Netflix will debut at 12:01 AM PT on September 12. Derek already premiered in the UK via Channel 4. The show will launch stateside and in international Netflix territories including Canada, Ireland, Latin America, Brazil and the Nordics in seven 30-minute episodes launching simultaneously. A second season has already been renewed. David Earl, Karl Pilkington and Kerry Godliman star in the comedy-drama series as fellow care workers. Derek is produced by Derek Productions Ltd. for Netflix.
First off, congratulations to all writers, producers, actors and agents who landed new series this week. I know it wasn’t easy. Here is Deadline’s annual list of those who excelled at the upfronts. I tried to be inclusive, but if I’ve missed anyone who’s had a banner week, let me know. I’ve also compiled a list of pods and independent producers with multiple broadcast series.
Cougar Town co-creator Bill Lawrence and his Doozer banner had three new series unveiled at the upfronts this week: comedies Undateable on NBC, Surviving Jack on Fox and Ground Floor on TBS. Also, TBS recently renewed Cougar Town for a fifth season.
J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot claimed one of the top new drama series last season with NBC’s Revolution and one of the hottest sophomore shows with CBS’ Person Of Interest. The company is keeping the momentum with two new series orders for next season: Almost Human at Fox and Believe at NBC.
Independent producer Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment received two new series orders from the broadcast networks: Back In The Game at ABC and Friends With Better Lives at CBS. Additionally, his freshman ABC comedy The Neighbors was renewed and his ABC pilot Bad Management is in serious contention for a series pickup. Kaplan also received two cable series orders in the past month, for Chasing Life on ABC Family and Instant Mom on NickMom, and also has comedy series Wendell & Vinnie on Nick at Nite and pilot HR at Lifetime.
Writer-producer Julie Plec also landed two new series this week, both at the CW: She wrote/executive produces the planted Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals and executive produces The Tomorrow People. Additionally, she executive produces TVD, giving her three series on the air next season. (Fellow Tomorrow People executive producer Greg Berlanti has two, including returning CW hit Arrow.)
This is a — and possibly “the” — key question for Big Media investors coming out of the major broadcast and cable networks’ upfront programming presentations this week. As the sales pitches wore on it became clear that execs plan to spare no expense to recover from a year of dreary ratings. There’ll be 25 new programs on the Big Four networks, up from 18 planned this time last year. What’s more, “all of the broadcast networks are moving toward year-round original schedules, less re-runs [and] more frequent ‘mini-events’,” Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger says. He adds that networks continue to depend on star power — for example CBS landed Robin Williams for its sitcom The Crazy Ones and Turner enlisted off-camera help from Michael Bay (Transformers), Dick Wolf (Law & Order), Howard Gordon (Homeland), Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead), and Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI). “These guys don’t come cheap, and we presume they must participate significantly in the back-end,” Juenger says. Execs no doubt feel confident that their bets will pay off. For example, hit dramas could play well in international syndication. Mini-series also should appeal to streaming services including Netflix and Amazon where subscribers like to binge view.
But domestic advertisers still provide lions’ share of revenues for TV shows. And if networks are optimistic about that market, it has as much to do with whether they believe consumers will buy lots of cars as with the merits of what programmers put on the screen. “Auto represents about 13% of annual TV ad spend and is seen as a pivotal player in this year’s upfront,” says Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible. That may be good news for the networks: Car companies appear to be headed for a big year as the economy improves and consumers take advantage of today’s low interest rates. As a result, Wible says “the tone of the upfront was more in favor of the sellers than we had anticipated” — leading him to forecast “substantial CPM [unit cost] increases that will offset recent ratings losses.” UBS Investment Research’s John Janedis forecasts that cable CPMs will be up as much as 7% with the major broadcasters “slightly better,” although some advertisers will just shift dollars for late this year from the scatter market to the upfront “which will make the total dollars look a little better.”
Cannes: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard Introduce Imagine 2.0; A Pele Pic On The Croisette, A Crowd-Funded ‘Friday Night Lights’, ‘Dark Tower’, Jay-Z And One Angry White Whale
EXCLUSIVE:When Imagine Entertainment partners Brian Grazer and Ron Howard re-upped in their 26th year at Universal in early 2012, like all studio term producers they watched the deal get smaller. They also went from exclusive to first look and while that might have humbled less energetic founders who’d made 50 films for the same studio, Grazer and Howard took it as license to tap into new avenues of distribution and funding to be more productive than ever.
Consider that while Howard tinkers with the finished Formula One drama Rush and casts the Warner Bros adaptation of the Nathaniel Philbrick novel In The Heart Of The Sea with Chris Hemsworth, Grazer is on the Croisette, beating the drum for a Pele biopic to be directed by The Two Escobars helmer Jeff Zimbalist and his brother Michael. Grazer and production president Kim Roth called the film a close cousin to the search for genius depicted in 8 Mile, only here it’s a dirt-poor kid’s journey from being part of the Shoeless Wonders (a band of soccer wunderkinds too poor to afford shoes) to a phenom who at 17 led Brazil to the World Cup. Grazer and his partners will have the film ready by the time the world is whipped into a frenzy for World Cup action next year.
* While they’ve temporarily halted the move to turn Jack Bauer loose in a 24 feature, they’ve instead decided to bring him back in a limited series, this after selling an Arrested Development revival directly to Netflix. Grazer tells me they are absolutely moving forward with a movie version of another Imagine series, Friday Night Lights, and they will likely use crowdfunding to directly tap the rabid fan base of that drama for some of the budget. “We made a terrific feature with Pete Berg, turned it into a terrific TV series and will now make a movie from that series,” Grazer said. “I’m not sure such a thing has been done before.”
Turner Entertainment seems to try hardest to make advertisers laugh at its upfront presentation — and generally succeeded this time with help from Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, and TBS newcomer Pete Holmes. In a recorded routine, Ferrell said that he had bought the company and with his background in comedy “I couldn’t care less” about networks including CNN, TNT, and TruTv. Since “I like to mess around with my new toys,” he introduced the new boss: Charles Barkley. The former NBA star said that since “I’m in charge now” viewers would be “seeing a lot more Charles Barkley” — cutting to clips from Turner shows that insert him into the action. “This is the kind of bold thinking I was hoping for,” Ferrell said. “With me as CEO of Turner, and Charles, can you really go wrong?”
EXCLUSIVE: Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura is making his first foray into the digital world, joining with Break Media on thriller Higher Power (see trailer below). Produced by Di Bonaventura Pictures and the digital video company’s SVP Entertainment Development Greg Siegel and Evan Cholfin, the film is a sci-fi thriller about a regular guy who acquires the power of a demi-God. The plan is to shoot Higher Power as a feature but release it in several formats. As one example, the movie will be reformatted into chapters to be distributed online through Break Media’s male-targeted network. Higher Power will also come out as a feature through more traditional distribution options including Netflix and Amazon, VOD and international film and television channels. 300 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine VFX specialist Matthew Santoro is slated to direct from a script by Julia Fair. “We are very excited about the opportunity to partner with Greg, his team at Break Media, and Matt and Julia on this project, which I believe can be a new model for bringing high-concept, long-form content to the public,” said di Bonaventura in a statement today. Both di Bonaventura and Santoro are repped by CAA. Check out the trailer here:
In a first for a Hollywood star, Kevin Spacey will deliver the keynote MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival in August. The influential speech traditionally focuses on serious issues facing the UK TV business. It has in the past been delivered by three members of the Murdoch family: Rupert, James and Elisabeth, who gave last year’s address. Other previous speakers include Ted Turner, Eric Schmidt and former BBC chief Mark Thompson.
Spacey’s involvement comes on the heels of exec producing and starring in House Of Cards, which Netflix positioned as a game-changer by releasing all 13 episodes of the drama’s first season at once. Season two is currently filming. On giving the MacTaggart, Spacey said, “Clearly this has been an exciting period for me personally, but also I believe this is a time of huge opportunity, innovation and creativity for all of us who live to tell stories and engage audiences. I’m excited to share my thoughts and meet players from across the media industry. I’m also an Edinburgh TV Festival virgin so have no idea what I am letting myself in for!”
WE TV Eyes Expansion Into Scripted Programming With Series Order To AMC’s LaGravenese/Goldwyn Drama Pilot
EXCLUSIVE: AMC Networks‘ female-focused WEtv is looking to follow in the footsteps of siblings AMC, IFC and Sundance Channel by moving into original scripted series. I hear WE is getting help in its plans from AMC, whose untitled Richard LaGravenese/Tony Goldwyn drama project is eyed to become WE’s first scripted series. (The cable network also is exploring other scripted ideas.) I hear WE is considering a nine-episode order to the LaGravenese/Goldwyn project, originally ordered as a pilot by AMC last year. It is a legal thriller centered on a district attorney (Damon Gupton) who uncovers new evidence that prompts the reinvestigation of a sensational murder case. It explores race, capital punishment, personal morality and how people struggle with the shades of gray found in the absence of a simple, ordered moral universe. I hear the potential series order is contingent on finding a showrunner as David Manson, who ran the pilot at AMC, has since moved to Netflix’s House Of Cards as executive producer. LaGravenese wrote and Goldwyn directed the pilot, which the two executive produced, with Andrew Sugarman serving as a co-executive producer. Marin Ireland, Clarke Peters and Aunjanue Ellis co-star in the pilot, which didn’t get a series pickup in December alongside Low Winter Sun but was left in contention. WE, which like AMC started off airing commercial-free movies, currently has its scheduled dominated by unscripted series, led by flagship …
In the company’s first such deal, Amazon-owned LoveFilm has acquired exclusive streaming rights to History‘s Vikings for the UK and Germany. The Netflix rival will make all nine episodes of the hit show available via LoveFilm Instant in the UK on May 24 and in Germany on June 15. Vikings, handled internationally by MGM Television, is the No. 1 new cable series of the year in the U.S. and was renewed for a second season in April. This marks the first time LoveFilm has pacted for a series to stream on the service ahead of traditional broadcast television. Amazon Studios recently used the platform for its pilot screening process, making a slate of 14 pilots available on Amazon Instant Video, LoveFilm UK and LoveFilm Germany.
And just like we predicted a month ago, the CW has renewed all of its existing series. The last to get the nod today are The Carrie Diaries and Nikita. The network is not confirming the sizes of the pickups, but Carrie’s is automatically a 13-episode order as it is a midseason show, and I hear Nikita will return for a six-episode cycle. I had heard that could be the final chapter for Nikita, though if the limited event series format works, the CW may leave the door open to additional installments. The network had been looking to break into the limited series format for the last couple of seasons. Carrie Diaries and Nikita join previously renewed Arrow, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Hart Of Dixie and Beauty And The Beast.
Among the more interesting new paid YouTube channels of the 30 unveiled today are the ones belonging to indie film distributors leading the charge into untested digital and outside-the-box models. Cinedigm relaunched their Docurama brand in April with a library of 1,250 documentary features, also plotting a streaming app for launch this spring which would make more than 150 Docurama titles available for free on multiple devices. Their new curated Docurama YouTube channel could similarly boost digital niche moviewatching and carve a path for other distributors and filmmakers exploring alternative distribution online. For $2.99 a month, users will get access to Docurama’s playlist of docu features and bonus materials refreshed each week, with 25% of those feature offerings being new or recent releases. (All of YouTube’s new premium channels will first launch with a 14-day free trial.) The ambitious growth plan set in motion last year under Cinedigm CEO Chris McGurk so far has also included a plan to help outfit drive-in theaters with digital projectors and last month’s Arthur Newman BitTorrent experiment.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. and BURBANK, Calif., May 9, 2013 — Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq:NFLX) and The Disney/ABC Television Group (NYSE:DIS) today announced a new multi-year licensing agreement that will make Netflix the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for one of the most popular shows on Disney Junior, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, as well as fan favorite Disney XD show Tron: Uprising. In addition, Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso and JoJo’s Circus will also be available for members in the U.S. to watch instantly later this month.
The folks at Starz couldn’t have been happy writing this morning’s earnings release. Start with the numbers: The premium cable network company generated Q1 net income of $58.2M, -26.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $399.3M, -1.4%. Analysts expected revenues to hit $404.5M. And earnings at 47 cents a share missed forecasts for 49 cents. But the explanations had to have been equally painful. The company says revenues are off in part due to the expiration of its distribution deal with Netflix last year. It adds that it also had to renew two distribution deals in Q4 “on less favorable financial terms than the prior affiliation agreements.” On top of that Starz Animation’s Film Roman studio had fewer projects in the pipeline. Although programming costs fell 9.3% to about $146M, other expenses were up including a 21.2% increase in sales and administrative to $69.2M while stock-based compensation was up 181% to $7.3M. On a cheerier note, Starz subscriptions at the end of March were up 1.9% from the end of 2012 to 21.6M while Encore subs were +8.6% to 35.1M. CEO Chris Albrecht says that the subscription growth is a sign of “solid operational performance.” He adds that the company has renewed Da Vinci’s Demons for a second season and is “confident that over time our approach to original programming will deliver strong shareholder value.”
Amy Poehler & Her Brother Launch Production Company, Land Series On Swedish TV With Entertainment One
Amy Poehler and her brother Greg Poehler have launched Syskon, a production banner dedicated to developing half-hour comedies. The first series to come out of the company, Welcome To Sweden, created by and starring Greg Poehler and co-starring Lena Olin and Illeana Douglas and Patrick Duffy, has just been ordered by Sweden’s TV4. A fish-out-of-water comedy, Welcome To Sweden is based on Greg Poehler’s true-life story about a New York accountant, Bruce (Poehler), who falls in love with a Swedish girl, Emma, and follows his heart to Sweden. Making his acting debut, Greg will star along with Josephine Bornebusch (Solsidan) as Emma, Olin as Emma’s mother Viveka, and Douglas and Duffy as Bruce’s parents. Welcome To Sweden, which marks TV4′s first English-language co-production, will be produced by local Swedish producer FLX (TV4’s comedy Solsidan), with Entertainment One handling worldwide rights. Amy Poehler and Greg Poehler executive produce.