EXCLUSIVE: John Goodman is set to star in Alpha House, one of Amazon Studios’ first six original comedy pilots. Written by Oscar nominee and Pulitzer-Prize winner Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Alpha House follows four senators who live together in a rented house in Washington DC. Goodman will play North Carolina Senator Gil John Biggs, a large man with large appetites. His cranky sense of entitlement comes from years of being revered as a successful basketball coach, but when the Duke basketball coach decides to run against him, he finds his Senate seat in jeopardy. Amazon has been going for a mix of big TV names and up-and-coming young talent for its comedy pilots. Frasier and Cheers alumna Bebe Neuwirth was recently cast in Browsers. Since a story about Democratic politicians Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, George Miller and Bill Delahunt sharing a rented house gained popularity several years ago, there have been several attempts to use the setup for a TV show. In 2010, ABC ordered a pilot for Greg Malins’ comedy Freshmen, executive produced by Arianna Huffington, which revolved around three newly-elected members of Congress who share a house together.
EXCLUSIVE: The CW just wrapped its pilot orders for this season with eight pickups, including planted The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals. Amazon was not among them, and I have learned that the network has decided to roll the Wonder Woman origin project to next season. Additionally, I hear the CW may order an off-cycle pilot, so Amazon may go into production sooner if the network is happy with the final script.
Amazon was the first project this development cycle to begin preliminary casting back in November when Warner Bros TV started exploring choices for the lead, Diana, while the script by Allan Heinberg was still being written. “We’re waiting to see the script and are busy casting Diana,” the CW president Mark Pedowitz said at TCA earlier this month. In the end, I hear the CW brass felt the project needed more time.
This could allay some doubts as to whether Amazon has the stomach to keep competing in the tablet wars vs Apple’s iPad and a growing fleet of products powered by Google’s Android operating system. The e-retailer says today that …
UPDATE: No reason for panic, Wonder Woman fans. While the warrior princess character is listed on the breakdown as Iris, not Diana, I’ve confirmed that, as writer Allan Heinberg hinted on Twitter after I posted the story, that is just a code name the producers used to avoid attention. So much for that…
PREVIOUS: To all actresses in their early to mid-20s who are 5’8″ or taller — you may be TV’s next Wonder Woman. I’ve learned that Warner Bros TV, the studio behind the CW drama project Amazon, has hired casting directors Barbara Fiorentino and Danielle Aufiero to launch a search for the lead in the project in anticipation of a potential pilot pickup. A breakdown for the role has been released, providing a glimpse into the Tarzan-like fish-out-of-water premise and the central character of the Wonder Woman origin story written by Allan Heinberg that chronicles the female superhero’s life as a young Amazonian, before she becomes a warrior princess with super powers.
The stock is down about 6.5% in early trading following the leading bookstore chain’s earnings report that left open questions about whether it can keep up with online rivals led by Amazon that continue to take market share. Helped by $2.8M in dividends received from preferred shares, Barnes & Noble reported net income of $2.2M for the quarter ending in October — up from a $6.6M loss a year ago — on revenues of $1.88B, -0.4%. The revenue figure is slightly lower than the $1.91B that analysts expected. But excluding the dividend, the net loss attributable to B&N of 4 cents a share beat the Street’s forecast of a 6 cent loss. At the retail unit, which includes the bookstores and book sales at BN.com, revenues fell 2.9% to $996M. The company says that last year’s numbers were helped after Borders liquidated. But in stores open at least a year, sales (not including its NOOK eReaders and tablets) were up 1.8%. In college textbooks B&N revenues were up 0.4% to $773M. Meanwhile the NOOK operation — which includes the hardware as well as digital content — remains a mixed story: Revenues were up 5.6% to $160.3M but it still generates a cash flow loss as B&N invests in new products and overseas expansion. The company says that NOOK unit sales doubled in last week’s four day Black Friday period vs last year — which matches Amazon’s experience with its Kindles.
Amazon is ramping up its efforts to get an original series on its streaming service. I hear Amazon Studios, the content development division of the online retailer, has greenlighted animated comedy pilot Supa Natural. The move comes on the heels of the company also giving a pilot order to Browsers, a live-action single-camera comedy from writer David Javerbaum and 3 Arts Entertainment. Supa Natural, produced by Underground Films, centers on two outspoken divas who happened to be humanity’s only line of defense against the supernatural… just so long as they’re not busy shopping at the mall. Lily Sparks, Price Peterson and Ryan Sandoval wrote the script and executive produce with Underground’s Trevor Engelson and Josh McGuire as well as Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show) and Jason Micallef.
It was down and down for Amazon with its Q3 results today, when the online retailer reported that it missed estimates for sales and earnings. Amazon reported $13.18 billion in revenue for Q3, up 27% from a year ago but lighter than the $13.93 billion expectation. Excluding the 37 cents-a-share loss related to the company’s investment in locally based discount site LivingSocial, Amazon lost 23 cents a share in the quarter, much worse than the consensus expectation of an 8 cent loss. Shares in the online and cloud giant fell as much as 9% in volatile after-hours trading — it currently sits at around -3% at $220.70 a share.
UPDATE, 11:10 AM: It’s official — there’s a new Kindle. It’s called Kindle Paper White, costs $119 and will ship October 1. At 9.1 millimeters and 7.5 ounces, it is very slender. “Thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paperback,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said as he announced the product in Santa Monica this morning. A higher-priced $179 Kindle Paper White has free 3G wireless. Both also have a bright light so you can read in the dark and it has eight weeks of battery life. It also has a timer that tracks individuals’ reading speed and can then tell them how long it will take them to finish a chapter or a book. A total of 180,000 books available on the Paper White are exclusive to Amazon, Bezos said.
The CEO today also unveiled the new Kindle Fire HD. The new 8.9-inch tablet is designed to be almost glare free, comes with dual speakers and advanced WiFi. With a few implied digs at the cost and limitations of Apple’s iPad, Bezos said the 32 GB and 4G wireless tablet will retail for $499 and ships November 20. “Is it a little bit more expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely,” he told the crowd.
Amazon shares touched an all-time high today of $252.27. With an hour to go before the market close, the shares are up around 1.8% — in line with the overall market. (The S&P 500 is higher than it’s been since May 2008.)
Warner Bros Home Entertainment filed 16 separate copyright infringement lawsuits (read two of them here and here) this week against vendors who sell “counterfeit product” DVDs on Amazon Marketplace. From the Harry Potter movies to TV series like The Wire, The Sorpranos, Game of Thrones, One Tree Hill, and Hung, the company alleges “the Defendants have distributed, advertised and/or sold and continue to copy, reproduce, distribute, advertise and/or sell unauthorized copies of motion pictures owned by Warner Bros.” Amazon is not listed as a defendant in any of the nearly identical actions.
With a view to enabling Amazon customers worldwide to watch online content wherever, whenever and however they want, the company has announced the creation of a new London design and development hub. Amazon will put teams from its subscription movie service, Lovefilm, and its interactive TV agency, Pushbutton, under one roof where they will create new interactive digital services for TVs, game consoles, smartphones and PCs. The Digital Media Development Center, according to managing director Paula Byrne, will “develop the next generation of TV and film services for a wide range of digital devices.” She further told Bloomberg that the goal is to ensure “every single person who is an Amazon customer wolrdwide is able to get to watch content where and when they want it, on the device they want it and to a very good standard.” The software developers and engineers who’ll be stationed at the new center previously worked on Lovefilm Instant, a service that provides members with unlimited streaming on over 280 internet-enabled devices.
SEATTLE– Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Avalon Books today announced that Amazon Publishing has acquired the publication rights from Avalon Books to over 3,000 backlist titles predominantly in the Romance, Mystery and Western categories. Established in 1950 by Thomas Bouregy, Avalon Books has long been a home to writers specializing in wholesome entertainment across popular genres, such as Holly Jacobs, Carolyn Hughey and Carolyn Brown, whose book “The Ladies’ Room” is nominated for a 2012 RITA by the Romance Writers of America.