E! is making a regal entry into scripted programming. The network has picked up one of its first two scripted pilots, The Royals starring Elizabeth Hurley, to series. The one-hour drama, about a fictional British Royal family set in modern London that is informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, hails from Lionsgate and a trio of One Tree Hill alums. OTH creator Mark Schwahn wrote and directed Royals, which he is executive producing with Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. Getting reality focused E! into the scripted space had been a priority for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment topper Bonnie Hammer. Sibling cable channel Bravo had been put on a similar path and just greenlighted its first scripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce. E!’s second pilot, musical drama Songbyrd, remains in contention. “The Royals will offer a fictional look behind the very public gilded façade of the palace gates to imagine the private, lush, fun, sexy world of the most-watched celebrity family on the planet,” said E! EVP Original Programming and development Jeff Olde said. Added the network’s scripted executive Kevin Plunkett who spearheads E!’s scripted efforts, “This is a big idea and Mark, Brian, Joe and the Lionsgate team delivered.”
Alex Fragen, Summit Entertainment’s former president of TV distribution who oversaw the company’s free and pay TV and VOD and PPV, has joined UTA as a strategist to help agents and clients maximize various delivery platforms. He also previously worked for 14 years at Paramount Pictures where he was responsible for all aspects of television distribution for the studio library in North America. Most recently he worked at multi-media consultancy firm Question Media Group helping such companies as EPIX, Colony Capital and AwesomenessTV to maximize their multi-platform efforts. So basically, Fragen was hired to help the agency negotiate deals and get the best terms for their clients throughout various platforms. The business model for content distribution (with the various windows) has changed so much over the years that all agencies should probably be doing this, if they aren’t already, for their clients. The move to bring in Fragen and his expertise is smart, considering that there is so much content — for instance at Sundance or other film festivals — that might not get picked up but will be able to find new life outside mainstream theatrical distribution.
This is an area UTA has been very involved with in the past. For instance, the agency helped established a distribution model for writer-producer Tom Fontana’s series Borgia on VOD and one of the first scripted series exclusivity deals for Netflix. They also assisted their client Brian Robbins create the digital network AwesomenessTV, a web-based multi-channel network (or MCN, which means it works with YouTube to facilitate the programming, cross-promotion, and monetization, in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenues from the channel). AwesomenessTV distributes content both theatrically and on cable television networks using social media platforms to brand-build.
From Dusk Till Dawn, the first original series from the El Rey Network, is based on the cult horror movie by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Internationally, it’s being branded as From Dusk Till Dawn: A Netflix Original Series now that the streaming giant, in association with Miramax, El Rey and FactoryMade Ventures, has pacted to make the 10-part drama available to subscribers in the UK, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Nordics starting March 12. Netflix members in Latin America will get the show a week later on March 19. The series is Rodriguez’s first foray into serialized drama. It premieres on El Rey in the U.S. on March 11. From then, new episodes will arrive weekly in Europe and Canada within 24 hours of the U.S. broadcast. Latin America will follow a week later. The story follows bank robber Seth Gecko (D.J. Cotrona) and his brother, Richard ‘Richie’ Gecko (Zane Holtz) as they shoot their way south after a bank heist in Abilene, Texas. The series takes place over the course of one night, following the brothers as they try to evade a pair of Texas rangers. Along the way, they take a family hostage and steal their RV to cross the border. Chaos ensues when the group detours to a strip club populated by vampires. With the law, the undead and some of Mexico’s most hardened criminals on …
In its first exclusive order of original Canadian content, Netflix has sealed a deal with Entertainment One to revive the popular comedy Trailer Park Boys. The series originally ran on Canada’s Showcase, with the seventh season ending in 2007. Netflix has now come on board for an eighth and ninth season, which will be available exclusively to subscribers across all of the streaming service’s territories including Canada, the U.S. and the UK. Ten new episodes of Season 8 will debut on Netflix this year. The service also will offer all past seasons of the show and debut three stand-alone specials and two new features, Trailer Park Boys 3: Don’t Legalize It and Swearnet, which will come to the service following their theatrical premieres this year. Trailer Park Boys stars John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells and Mike Smith as denizens of the Sunnyvale Trailer Park, whose misadventures are based in friendship, family and loyalty – but those values are hidden behind a façade of gunfights, dope, liquor and swearing. It aired in more than a dozen countries including the U.S. (on BBC America and via DirecTV), Australia, the UK, Spain, Germany and Scandinavia. Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, also known as The Big Dirty and Trailer Park Boys, was in released in Canada in 2006, and later in the U.S. in 2008. It’s become a cult film since …
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘The End’ Gets German Remake; Turkish Censors Ban ‘Nymphomaniac’; Berlin Fest Dates; BBC3 Moving To Web?; Oz’s Animal Logic; More
Eccho Rights has sold popular Turkish drama The End into further markets. It’s already being remade in the U.S. by Sander/Moses Prods at Fox, and now Germany’s UFA will develop a local version for broadcaster SAT1 while Shine France has also taken an option on the series. Further, Netflix has signed a non-exclusive agreement for the original in Sweden and the UK. The story is about a woman navigating a web of lies and intrigue as she searches for her husband whom she presumed dead following a plane crash. But it turns out he never boarded the plane. Produced by Ay Yapim in Turkey, the show is also getting a Russian version.
The No. 2 cable company is seeing the “best subscriber performance in the residential side that we’ve had in a 5 year period,” with total relationships up by 75,000 in the first two months of this year, CFO Artie Minson told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today. But all of the increases are in broadband, phone and business services: Residential video subscriptions are down by about 50,000 so far. The company lost 217,000 in the last three months of 2013 to end the year with 11.4M. Still, the exec says there’s a silver lining with net additions over the last four weeks. “As we head into March we’re excited about the positive momentum.” Minson warned that the current quarter may be “the low point of the year” for revenue growth in comparison with the same periods in 2013. While the company works to promote its $45.2B sale to Comcast, Time Warner Cable is going “full steam ahead on all of [its product enhancement] initiatives.” TWC hopes to win back market share by hitting customers with “more modest rate increases” after a period when “we were getting too much of the revenue growth from the rate side.” Minson says he’s not concerned about the growing talk about an online pay TV service, possibly including one from Dish Network with programming rights it just secured from Disney. “I’m not sure it is a business unless …
EXCLUSIVE: The Rayburn siblings are all in place. Broadway star Norbert Leo Butz is set to co-star opposite Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini and Sissy Spacek in Netflix‘s 13-episode psychological thriller from Damages creators Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler and Sony Pictures TV. It centers on a close-knit family of four adult siblings (Chandler, Mendelsohn, Cardellini, Butz) whose secrets and scars are revealed when the black sheep oldest brother, Danny (Mendelsohn), returns home. Butz will play the youngest brother Kevin, the extroverted and charming owner of a boat repair yard who considers himself the “unofficial mayor” of this small coastal town. Butz, repped by CAA and Elin Flack Management, is one of only nine actors ever to have won a lead actor Tony Award twice.
While California Gov. Jerry Brown is still “not committed” to expanding the state’s film and TV tax credit, Los Angeles is seeing another drop in broadcast pilot production to what appears to be an all-time low. Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been doing photo ops with Disney and Marvel execs to celebrate their commitment to film some 60 episodes of Marvel’s four Netflix series and a miniseries in the Big Apple. And now New York, which also lured The Tonight Show franchise away from Los Angeles, has more reasons to celebrate after another very strong pilot performance, returning this year to the top as the most popular drama location and reinforcing its strong position in comedy.
A record 15 broadcast pilots will be filming in New York this year, including 10 — almost a third — of the 34 drama pilot/direct-to-series projects filming within the regular cycle that have set their locations (two remain TBD). That is up from 13 total and eight dramas last year and just shy of the city’s all-time drama record of 11 in 2012. (Keep in mind that the number of NY-based was zero just four years ago, before the state implemented its aggressive tax break program.) New York is chipping away at Los Angeles’ comedy dominance. LA used to own the comedy space, with virtually every pilot filming here. Just two years ago, it housed 100% of the broadcast comedy pilots. The percentage dropped to 89% last year and is at 85% (39 out of 46) this season. New York made a big move in the arena in 2013 after seven years of no major broadcast comedy pilot presence there. A whopping five broadcast half-hour pilots were filmed in the city last year, including straight-to-series The Michael J. Fox Show. Proving that that wasn’t a fluke, New York matched its comedy haul this year with another five pilots, including NBC’s straight-to-series Tooken. Like last year, all five are single-camera. What’s more, a hybrid comedy, How I Met Your Dad, which is filming the pilot in Los Angeles, will move to New York if it goes to pilot. In most cases, the NY location is talent-driven (Irreversible star David Schwimmer, Dead Boss‘ Jane Krakowski, How I Met Your Dad star Greta Gerwig, Lowell and Gaffigan are all based in NY). But studios wouldn’t have been as open to setting shop in New York had the tax incentives not been strong enough to rein in production costs on comedies, especially the expensive single-camera format, which are still higher than a Los Angeles-based half-hour pilot but not by much. One drawback of comedy series filming in New York has been the shortage of writing talent as broadcast shows have to compete with such cable comedies as Louie and Girls, but with New York-based comedy production appearing to be here to stay, more writing talent may relocate there to support them.
Verizon’s already talking to content creators about ways to enable subscribers to access video content nationally. “You could do a wireless over-the-top” — the jargon term for an Internet pay TV service — CEO Lowell McAdam told attendees at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. “We’re going to work with them and find a model.” That’s been difficult until recently, he says, because many programmers feared that a new service could upset a TV distribution system that’s been lucrative for them. But many now realize that with Internet pay TV “you can get a virtuous cycle” where everybody grows. Verizon took a step toward developing its own wireless over-the-top service in January when it bought Intel’s OnCue platform. “The set top box in an OnCue environment is a little bigger than the tip of my thumb,” McAdam says. Wireless offers Verizon a relatively inexpensive way around its aging copper wire network at a time when he sees signs of video cord cutting. A few years ago his FiOS fiber optic service signed up an equal number of broadband and video customers. “Now we’re seeing significant divergence. People are buying a lot more broadband.”
Netflix has complained that its transmissions to Verizon broadband customers have been slowing — but McAdam says that should be resolved soon with a Netflix payment arrangement similar to the one it just cut with Comcast. “I’ve spoken live and via email with [Netflix CEO] Reed Hastings and …
Indicating a ramp-up in television, MRC has added a scripted executive, bringing in BBC America’s Erin Jontow as VP Television, reporting to indie company’s TV head Joe Hipps, SVP, Television. MRC has House of Cards on Netflix, which has been renewed for a third season. It also has a pilot order at AMC for Knifeman and is developing a drama with director Alejandro González Iñárritu who co-created the project with Nicolas Giacobone, Armando Bo and Alexander Dinelaris and is attached to direct. Jontow most recently served as VP, Scripted Programming at BBC America where she worked on Orphan Black and Copper. Before that, she spent three years at Comedy Central.
CAA has signed actor, writer, and comedian Aziz Ansari, who co-stars in NBC’s Parks And Recreation. The actor, who had been at UTA, just opened his third Netflix hourlong stand-up special Buried Alive, and resumes touring next month. Anzari most recently voiced the Fox animated film Epic and made a short cameo until he fell into the pits of hell in This is The End. Before that he appeared in 30 Minutes Or Less and Funny People. Ansari separately is writing a book for Penguin Press about how modern dating has been complicated by the Internet and other technological innovations. The book comes out next year. Ansari continues to be repped by APA for books and comedy touring, managed by APA Dave Becky and David Miner of 3 Arts Entertainment, and lawyered by Jared Levine.
Netflix had to make its potentially game-changing new deal to pay Comcast for improved service over its broadband lines because “there were some choke points around peak usage times,” the streaming service’s CFO David Wells said today at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. That should ease now that the agreement — which eliminates intermediaries handling Netflix traffic to Comcast — will “shore up the long-term subscriber experience.” Some investors are concerned that the arrangement might become costly. But Wells says not to worry: the additional outlays won’t change its forecast for fatter profit margins in its U.S. streaming business this year. The amount Netflix will pay Comcast “was incremental, but not to the point where we’re changing that.” Nor is he concerned that other broadband providers will now insist on large payments to improve Netflix transmissions. Others “could” ask for a similar deal, and the company is “somewhat caught in the middle” because it wants to ensure “a long-term subscriber experience” that will require more bandwidth as it offers more HD and, soon, 4K transmissions. Still, “not all ISPs are created equal,” Wells says, and “we’re not going to be interested in doing anything that will meaningfully change the economics.”
You can bet that government officials and opponents of Comcast’s $45.2B planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable will scrutinize its just-released third annual report describing how it has fulfilled the promises it made in 2011 to win FCC approval for the deal to buy NBCUniversal. Opponents already say the cable giant can’t be trusted. ”To the extent that Comcast has a history of breaching its legal obligations to consumers, such history should be taken into account when evaluating Comcast’s proposal for future market expansion,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said last week in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But Comcast says the new 90-page report shows that it has “continued to meet and in many cases exceed our obligations.” For example, it says that its Internet Essentials program has provided home broadband service to more than 250,000 low income families, and has exceeded by 64 the requirement to provide courtesy video and broadband to an additional 600 schools, libraries and community institutions in underserved areas. (The company says that tomorrow it will “make an important announcement about the future of the [Internet Essentials] program.”) For online video Comcast says it has “new or renewed agreements with Amazon and Netflix, among others” resulting in a third year in which it has made these deals to provide programming to potentially competitive services without having to go to arbitration.
Here we are again after the Golden Globes, Mike Fleming and Anita Busch taking on the task of play by play during the most wide-open Oscar race we can remember. Even on the party circuit, industry insiders who usually have a grasp of who’ll walk away with Oscars were evenly torn between Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D masterpiece Gravity and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. Then again, there were so many terrific films that got Best Picture nominations, and all of them have at least a puncher’s chance at an upset.
That includes American Hustle, where David O Russell co-wrote the Best Original Script nominee with Eric Warren Singer and got tour de force performances and nominations for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Perfs so strong there was no room on the nomination roster for perennial Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. The film is up for 10 awards, and has grossed over $240 million on a $40 million budget.
Then there is The Wolf Of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio giving the most emphatic and complete performance of a great career, and Jonah Hill right there with him as his crazy con man sidekick. The film is up for five nominations, including Martin Scorsese for directing a terrific adaptation from The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire vet Terence Winter.
Before tonight’s Academy Awards, catch up on the top stories you missed this week on Deadline:
Oscars Finally Here – Record Voting Turnout According To Academy But What Does It All Mean?
By Pete Hammond – The robocalls and emails apparently did the trick as Academy CEO Dawn Hudson reports the 86th Oscar contest is responsible another significant high mark in the Academy’s efforts to turn out the vote.
OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever
By Pete Hammond – With no real clarity from the usually reliable guild contests and critics awards, the best picture race is one of the most unpredictable in years. Considering the preferential Oscar voting system, it is not probable there will be a winner on the first ballot because it’s unlikely any film in this great year for films will be able to muster more than 50% of the first-place votes required. The second choice on those best picture ballots could end up being the most important.
Dylan McDermott To Star In CBS’ Kevin Williamson Drama Pilot
By Nellie Andreeva – Hostages‘ Dylan McDermott is set as the male lead in another CBS/Warner Bros TV drama project, the untitled Kevin Williamson pilot.
2ND UPDATE, 12:01 PM PT: After much back and forth Saturday involving Sony, Universal and a last-ditch overture from Warner Bros, Sony finally closed its deal for Winter’s Knight, the Viking-mythology-tinged origin story of St. Nick and Christmas. Sony emerged as front-runner when it agreed to pay $1 million to newbie scribes Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton, for the biggest spec sale of this year so far. That was the easy part. Deals were then made for producers Marc Platt and Lawrence Grey. More challenging was making a deal with the white hot Kon-Tiki helmers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, but that effort was led by incoming Sony Pictures Production President Michael De Luca. His persuasive pitch was that he plans to bring in the next generation of emerging filmmakers, much the way he did at ’90s New Line with the likes of David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson. That, and a precedent-setting mid-seven-figure salary for the directing team, sealed the deal. If Disney can keep to its schedule and get the next Pirates of the Caribbean to set sail before year’s end, the directors will make that after completing the pilot for the Netflix/Weinstein Company series Marco Polo, and Winter’s Knight will come after. Also intriguing is how this movie will lengthen the movie credit resume of L. Frank Baum, best known for The Wizard Of Oz. The subject matter is his 1902 book The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus. Of course, Baum’s work has fallen into public domain, meaning anyone can pillage it for movie ideas. At the rate Baum is going, with all the Oz incarnations and now this work being turned into big money Hollywood films, he might end up spinning in his grave almost as fast as Shakespeare, long Hollywood’s most heavily exploited public domain wordsmith.
OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever
This column originally ran Thursday.
With no real clarity from the usually reliable guild contests and critics awards, the best picture race is one of the most unpredictable in years. Considering the preferential Oscar voting system, it is not probable there will be a winner on the first ballot because it’s unlikely any film in this great year for films will be able to muster more than 50% of the first-place votes required. The second choice on those best picture ballots could end up being the most important. The top three contenders—12 Years A Slave, American Hustle and Gravity—are in a real dog fight, which means a dark horse like The Wolf Of Wall Street, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club or Nebraska could sneak in if a true three-way split occurs, although I don’t think that scenario is too likely. Never say never though. In 1981 for example no one was expecting a small British film called Chariots Of Fire to sneak in and take Best Picture but indeed it did. The last huge upset in the Picture race was probably Crash over Brokeback Mountain in 2005 but judging from voter interviews that year I saw a tidal wave of last minute support. This year I don’t get that. There are lots of opinions out there and it looks like …
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom look at the many implications of Netflix’s big, big deal with Comcast to ensure better video quality of its shows streamed by their mutual customers. The deal could affect the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, net neutrality issues, the business of online video and much more, and likely will serve as a template for other content-quality deals to come. They also take a peek at a multimillion-dollar production-incentive package that persuaded Disney to shoot a Netflix-only Marvel series in New York City and preview another interesting Disney online-content venture, this one involving live streaming online of this weekend’s Oscar telecast on ABC.