Good Morning America has secured George Stephanopoulos as part of a long-term deal with ABC News that also includes his continued duties as host of the Sunday Beltway show This Week.
“We are thrilled that the team is locked in and that the [Stephanopoulos] deal was done so quickly,” ABC News said this morning. That in marked contrast to the long-running storyline about the division’s talks with GMA regulars Josh Elliott and Sam Champion — both of whom wound up being poached by NBC. Elliott went to NBC Sports and Champion to NBC co-owned The Weather Channel. Lara Spencer, whose contract came up around the same time as Elliott’s and Champion’s, re-signed to GMA in March, and recently was promoted to co-anchor. Elliott and Champion were replaced by Amy Robach and Ginger Zee, respectively.
Stephanopoulos’ contract was not set to expire until the end of the calendar year. But, given the GMA talent churn, the deal was an important one to close for new ABC News chief James Goldston, who is in his second week on the job. Terms of the deal, which sources said locks in Stephanopoulos for more than three years, were not disclosed. “We expect him to remain with us for many, many years,” ABC News said coyly of the anchor, who has been with GMA since 2010. Robin Roberts signed a lucrative deal to remain with GMA last December. Read More »
TLC is bolstering its West Coast Development and Production operations with the hires of two new vice presidents. Jack Tarantino has been named VP Production West Coast and Elvia Van Es Oliva joins as VP Development West Coast. Both are based in the LA office and report to Sandy Varo Jarrell, SVP, Production & Development West Coast. In his new role, Tarantino leads the department’s production team and their slate of current programming. Tarantino comes to TLC from Style Network, where he served as VP of Original Programming, overseeing the day-to-day of new and recurring series for the network. Van Es Oliva will lead her team in creating original concepts for the network, as well as working with the external creative community to add to TLC’s programming slate. Prior to TLC, Van Es Oliva served as SVP of Development for Fly On The Wall Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: Zombieland scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have been set to script Watch Dogs, a live-action feature based on the upcoming Ubisoft video game. Sony and New Regency are developing the film with Ubisoft. The story centers on Aiden Pearce, a hacker who turns the city of Chicago into his personal stomping grounds to carry out his own brand of justice after a violent family tragedy. He is certainly adept physically, but his true gift is his ability to tap into a citywide computer system and control everything from traffic lights to accessing intel that allows him to engage the bad guys, and thwart attempts to kill innocents.
Wernick and Rheese are currently developing Epsilon, a spec they sold to Sony for Greg Berlanti to direct and for Michael De Luca to produce. The scribes are repped by WME and Hansen, Jacobson. This is the third screen collaboration for New Regency and Ubisoft: Tom Hardy is starring in the Doug Liman-directed Splinter Cell, and Michael Fassbender is starring in Assassin’s Creed, which will have a director shortly. Here is a trailer that gives a better idea of Watch Dogs‘ movie potential.
The term is key: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says in a blog post that the ability to bar “commercially unreasonable” practices empowers the agency — in a plan he will begin to circulate — to crack down on Internet service providers that discriminate against some content providers. But open Internet advocates fear it’s too squishy, and could allow ISPs to create tiers of service that enable some content providers (Netflix or HBO GO, perhaps) to pay for speedy transmissions. Wheeler hopes to “conclude this proceeding and have enforceable rules by the end of the year.” The plan he will begin to circulate will look at net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, an adjustment needed to meet the objections that the D.C. Court of Appeals raised in January when it remanded the FCC’s previous net neutrality rules. But he vigorously objects to the “great deal of misinformation” that characterized his proposal as an effort to gut the principle of open Internet by allowing companies to pay for speedier service. His plan “would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” he says. The court said that the FCC could stop practices it deems not ” commercially reasonable” — and he says that his plan will “establish a high bar for what is ‘commercially reasonable.’” Read More »
On his Facebook page, Peter Jackson revealed that he has retitled the final installment of The Hobbit, which he had originally titled There And Back Again. All I can say is that after being initially skeptical when Jackson revealed he was turning the single J.R.R. Tolkien book and some appendices into a full trilogy, the second film was so strong after a whimsical first effort that I cannot wait to see the conclusion of this massive tale, and that he was right to stretch it out. The new title certainly conveys more urgency.
Here is Jackson’s missive:
“Our journey to make The Hobbit Trilogy has been in some ways like Bilbo’s own, with hidden paths revealing their secrets to us as we’ve gone along. “There and Back Again” felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo’s arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film. But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived “there” in the “Desolation of Smaug”.
When we did the premiere trip late last year, I had a quiet conversation with the studio about the idea of revisiting the title. We decided to keep an open mind until a cut of the film was ready to look at. We reached that point last week, and after viewing the movie, we all agreed there is now one title that feels … Read More »
So far, the symbiotic relationship between Telemundo and its NBCUniversal siblings had gone mainly in one direction — with Telemundo doing Spanish-language versions of programs on its English-language counterparts, like La Voz Kids (The Voice Kids), Top Chef Estrellas and Access Hollywood Al Rojo Vivo. Now the flow will start moving the other way too, with NBC committing to develop an English-language version of El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord Of The Skies), Telemundo’s highest-rated novela last season, and USA Network putting in development Telemundo’s upcoming novela Mujer de Acero (Woman Of Steel). The adaptations will be produced by Universal TV and Universal Cable Prods., respectively. This marks the first time that NBC and USA have optioned content from Telemundo. The move comes a year after the Spanish-language network was placed under the purview of NBCUniversal’s Bonnie Hammer, who also oversees USA, and Joe Uva was put in charge of it. NBC had been interested in cracking the telenovela genre. Last fall, the network inked a deal with Electus to develop three telenovelas with an eye toward airing one as a 13-episode series — with multiple episodes running each week, following telenovelas’ traditional air pattern.
Inspired by true events, the action-filled El Señor de los Cielos tells the story of Aurelio Casillas (Rafael Amaya), one of the most prominent Mexican drug lords from the ’90s, whose ambition was to become one of the richest and most powerful men in Mexico (watch the English-language trailer below.) It ranked as Telemundo’s #1 novela last year averaging 2.3 million total viewers and nearly 1.5 million adults 18-49. The season finale averaged over 3.6 million viewers and beat Univision among adults 18-49 and 18-34 in its period. Read More »
Jamaica Inn, the highly-anticipated three-part BBC One adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 gothic novel, kicked off to strong ratings on Monday night – and got a lot of people talking. But much of the chatter has come in the form of complaints – nearly 2,200 so far, according to BBC News. British viewers are decrying sound issues, and what people have called “mumbling” by the cast of the Origin Pictures production. (The Twittersphere is referring to it as #MumbleInn.) Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay stars with Joanne Whalley, Sean Harris and Matthew McNulty in the drama that’s set in 1820s Cornwall (a West Country county that has a very particular accent). But there’s been some debate as to whether the sound troubles were technical or artistic. Here’s the trailer:
After initial complaints, the BBC on Tuesday apologized, saying there were “issues with the sound levels” which would be adjusted for episodes 2 and 3. (Screenwriter Emma Frost also tweeted: “None of the production team knew what happened with the (transmission) sound. It was fine before.”) Even so, folks continued to gripe and after Monday’s first installment averaged 6.09M viewers, the mini shed 2M viewers by its last on Wednesday. When asked about actors’ delivery, BBC Drama Controller Ben Stephenson told BBC News, Read More »
Rob Marcus pitched a what-me-worry response to an analyst who asked him this morning about Time Warner Cable‘s inability to persuade other pay TV providers (aside from close ally Bright House) to carry SportsNet LA — which the Dodgers own and TWC distributes. “The good news is the product is great,” the CEO says. “We have a first place baseball team and the production quality is outstanding….There are a whole lot of customers at Time Warner Cable who are happy” while others are “moving to Time Warner Cable” to watch the Dodgers. TWC is said to want other distributors to pay $4 per month for each subscriber — including those who don’t watch sports. That would make SportsNet LA one of the country’s most expensive regional sports channels. TWC needs the high price to help it cover its $8.35B, 25-year commitment for the distribution rights.
Related: Time Warner Cable Q1 Earnings Beat Estimates
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ITV Studios UK has moved quickly to fill the Managing Director post that will be vacated by Denise O’Donoghue at the end of 2014. Julian Bellamy, who is currently Discovery Networks International Creative Director and Head of Commissioning, will take over from O’Donoghue later this year, ITV said today. TV veteran O’Donoghue has been MD at ITV Studios UK for four years and will remain on the board of the country’s largest commercial production company after stepping down. Bellamy has spent three years at Discovery, running production and development across 200 countries, with commissioning teams in five international bases. Prior to DNI, he ran the UK’s Channel 4, managing over 2,000 hours of original programming per year including Undercover Boss, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and One Born Every Minute. He previously held executive posts at the BBC and E4. ITV Studios’ titles include Mr Selfridge, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Breathless and the upcoming Thunderbirds Are Go! The production arm of ITV is one of the biggest growth areas for the group, which has been on a U.S. and UK shopping spree in the past 18 months.
Price hikes for Internet and the company’s growing attention to business customers saved the day for Time Warner Cable in Q1 as its video subscriptions fell and it grappled with rising costs for programming and its planned merger with Comcast. TWC shares are up about 2% pre-market after the No. 2 cable operator reported net income of $479M, +19.5% vs the period last year, on revenues of $5.58B, +2%. Analysts expected the top line to come in higher at $5.64B. After factoring out one-time costs, including merger-related expenses, earnings came in at $1.78 a share, a dime ahead of the consensus forecast. The period included $62M in expenses tied to Comcast’s $42B takeover effort, including $29M in “employee retention costs” and $33M in advisory and legal fees. Programming costs rose 2.9% to $1.3B, including costs associated with TWC’s LA regional sports channels for the Lakers and Dodgers. But with 11.16M video subs at the end of March — down 748,000 vs last year and -34,000 from the end of December — the average monthly programming costs per residential sub increased 10.2% to $37.69. (By contrast, Comcast eeked out a small increase in video subs in Q1.)
Related: Time Warner Cable Chief Says Subs Coming Over For Dodgers Channel
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Expanding its European reach, AMC Networks‘ AMC/Sundance Channel Global is buying Frankfurt-based KinoweltTV. The pay-TV channel airs classic and contemporary films and is distributed to 4.5 million subscribers throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The acquisition provides the international arm of AMC Networks with distribution across all platforms in German-speaking Europe for the first time. AMC has been actively growing its overseas presence; last year, it paid about $1B for Chellomedia which produces and distributes TV channels across such territories as the UK, Benelux, Central Europe, Spain and Latin America, and reaches about 390 million households. Founded in 2004, KinoweltTV was the first German TV station completely dedicated to high-class feature films; it now offers European and American cult movies, indies, arthouse fare, classics and monthly retrospectives. The channel’s existing management will join the AMC/Sundance Channel Global team which is led by Bruce Tuchman. Achim Apell will continue as KinoweltTV’s Managing Director. Financial terms of the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, were not disclosed.
‘The Extra Mile’ Debuts Big In Israel
The Extra Mile, the new reality format from Israel’s Studio Glam, debuted locally on Tuesday as the most-watched show on Channel 10 in the past two years. The show, which challenges divorced couples to work together in hope of winning a trust fund for their children, had an average rating of 26.6 with a 37.7% share, the latter a 167% increase on the slot average. It was the highest launch in Channel 10 history and the No. 1 show of the day. At Mip-TV earlier this month, Endemol acquired rights to produce the format in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Scandinavia.
European Film Promotion Taps 24 Partners For Producers On The Move
The European Film Promotion, the international network of organizations that promotes and markets European cinema worldwide, has selected 24 emerging producers to take part in its Producers On The Move initiative at the Cannes Film Festival next month. From May 17-19, the program will include working sessions, one-to-one speed-dating meetings and various opportunities to exchange knowledge and follow-up discussions on future projects. EFP launched the scheme in 2000. Last year’s Producers On The Move resulted in 17 co-productions going into development. A full list of up-and-comers who’ll be in Cannes is available here. Read More »
UPDATED, 7:28 PM: Savannah Women In Film and Television has issued a statement about comments Jody Savin made at its meeting in February: “The executive committee of SWIFT recognizes that Jody Savin did speak to our membership on Feb. 16. Some of her remarks were very unprofessional and disrespectful. Her statements took an unexpected direction and left a negative impact on the entire group. We do not have any further comments at this time.”
PREVIOUSLY, APRIL 21: The weekend before the February 20 train accident that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones, Midnight Rider producer Jody Savin made controversial public comments at a meeting of local production crew in which she touted her company’s methods and complained about the Savannah film commission for keeping a close watch on her previous film, CBGB. Savin, who is married to Midnight Rider director Randall Miller and co-owns their Unclaimed Freight production company, was an invited guest speaker at a February 16 meeting held by the Savannah Women In Film and Television (SWIFT). Savannah-based hair stylist JC Davis was in attendance with about 30 others including local production crew, many of whom were seeking to work on the upcoming Midnight Rider production. According to her, Savin “went on to talk about CBGB and was bitching about how our former film commissioner Jay Self kept showing up to set, telling her she couldn’t do this, she couldn’t do that and that she was so glad he was no longer film commissioner. [Savin] said, ‘We make movies by our own rules.’ ” Deadline has talked to other attendees who also corroborate the comments made by Savin at the event.
Related: ‘Midnight Rider’ Investigation Handed Over To D.A.
Savin’s comments during the hourlong chat reportedly left some of those in attendance unsettled. “A lot of people felt insulted by the whole thing. It was very negative toward a lot of people who work in this town,” another attendee present at the event told Deadline. “Savin seemed proud of the fact that she was able to get crew cheaply. It was more about the bottom line. A lot of women wanted to work on it but I think after meeting a lot walked away and thought. ‘I wouldn’t work on that show.’ ” Read More »
Prolific TV movie producer Larry Levinson Productions has denied claims from the WGA that it owes millions of dollars in residuals to writers. The production company told Deadline today that the dispute instead is “over what appears to be the WGA’s unfair, improper, over-reaching and arbitrary application of its residual calculation for these pay TV movies.” In the past 20 years, the company has produced nearly 200 family-oriented telefilms, most of which were made for Hallmark Channel or in association with Hallmark Entertainment. The guild is pursuing arbitration claims against Levinson’s various production entities for unpaid residuals and interest owed on 33 of those TV movies and is threatening to bar the company from using guild writers again until it pays up. An arbitration hearing is scheduled for May 14.
Related: WGA Targets Larry Levinson And Hallmark For Unpaid Residuals
LLP said in a statement today, “The companies involved and drawn into this dispute are determining their respective legal rights and remedies against these WGA practices and will vigorously defend and pursue their rights as smaller independents to be treated equally.” Hallmark parent company Crown Media Holdings also is named as a respondent in the arbitration notice. It said Tuesday that it is up to date on its residuals payments. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Hot off the biggest animated movie of all time with Frozen, Josh Gad is reteaming with Disney. He and his writing partner Ryan Dixon will be developing an untitled comedy/family adventure for the studio. The project marks his first post-Frozen collaboration with Disney, having won an Annie Award for voicing Olaf the snowman in the Oscar-winning toon. He has a number of acting projects in the pipeline, including Pixels at Sony, The Wedding Ringer at Screen Gems and Gilligan’s Island at Warner Bros. He’s also starring with Billy Crystal in FX’s The Comedians, which was picked up to series last month. He next appears in Zach Braff’s crowdfunded film Wish I Was Here. He is repped by ICM Partners, Brillstein Entertainment and attorney P.J. Shapiro. Dixon penned the comedy Opening Night and is writing the Twins sequel Triplets.
Related: Josh Gad To Play Sam Kinison In Larry Charles-Directed Feature
EXCLUSIVE: The LA Film Critics Association today made the booting of member Len Klady official after months of behind-the-scenes deliberations over a major financial snafu attributed to the author and film critic. Klady, a longtime member of the LA critics group, was expelled over an unauthorized agreement he’d made on behalf of LAFCA to third-party consultant Sheri Wish, who was contracted for $3,000 to bring in sponsorships for LAFCA’s annual awards dinner last January. Wish failed to deliver any sponsorships at all. Worse, Farber and other executive members of LAFCA had no prior knowledge of Wish’s contract or that Klady had tapped her to bring in sponsorships. When she invoiced, LAFCA President Stephen Farber refused to pay the $3,000, and Wish hit back with a small claims lawsuit against the org for the sum.
Thirty LAFCA members attended a closed-door meeting March 22 to address the matter, voting in favor of dipping into LAFCA’s funds to settle with Wish before the suit was brought to court, paying $1,000 of her requested fee. They also voted to strip Klady of his membership, as recommended by the executive board and the membership committee. According to Farber’s letter to LAFCA members, there was enough in the organization’s coffers from last year’s dinner — where studios typically pay for tables and bring in talent to accept their awards — to cover the settlement payout. Read More »