BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, is selling its Lonely Planet travel guide business at the knockdown price of £51.5M ($77M) after paying £130M to acquire it in an earlier two-stage deal. The company had been looking for a buyer for the past year before settling on Brad Kelley’s Nashville-based NC2 Media, a content creation, acquisition, and distribution company which is also engaged in developing new technologies. The sale price has been criticized by the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, whose Diane Coyle said, “Given the significant financial loss to Worldwide… we have asked the BBC executive to commission a review of lessons learnt and report to the Trust with its findings.” According to The Guardian, Coyle allowed there had been a “credible rationale” for the original purchase, but said, “Worldwide would not make this sort of acquisition again.” BBCWW handles about 50,000 hours of BBC and independently-produced content including such series as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Teletubbies. Interim BBCWW CEO, Paul Dempsey, said, “We acquired Lonely Planet in 2007 when both our strategy and the market conditions were quite different.” Despite Lonely Planet’s growth, Dempsey allowed, “We have also recognized that it no longer fits with our plans to put BBC brands at the heart of our business.” READ MORE »
‘Dancing With The Stars’ Gets Regional Indian Version
BBC Worldwide and ETV Bangla will produce a regional version of Dancing With The Stars in India. Produced by BBC Worldwide Productions India, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Bangla will air on ETV Bangla next month. Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa is already a hit throughout India and the new local version for West Bengal is a first in the country. The show will be extensively remodeled from the international version to appeal to Bengali viewers and will be hosted by local actor Jishu Sengupta. The Hindi language Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, produced by BBC Worldwide Productions India for Colors, completed its fifth season with an audience of over 100M.
BBC Worldwide president and managing director of sales and distribution, Steve Macallister, will exit the commercial arm of the pubcaster on March 31. The move comes as BBCWW is shifting the management of sales and distribution to the …
Global Showbiz Briefs: BBC Worldwide, ‘The Devil’s Playground’, Ovation Acquires ‘Scapegoat’, ‘Life Of Pi’ To Open Dubai
BBC Worldwide Appoints Interim CEO
As the BBC regroups amid its ongoing crises, a game of management musical chairs is playing out. Paul Dempsey will take over as interim CEO of BBC Worldwide beginning next month. Dempsey, who is currently managing director for consumer products at BBCW, will oversee the division until Tim Davie takes over as CEO in March. Davie became interim director general of the BBC when George Entwistle resigned earlier this month, but had previously been named to follow outgoing BBCW CEO John Smith who leaves in December. Tony Hall is to become the official BBC director general in March. Dempsey joined BBCW in 1998 as UK sales director and has since held posts that include managing director of BBC Audiobooks and director of BBCW’s audio & music business.
Irish Film Commission Exec Launches ArtCastle With Director Gary Shore
Jonathan Loughran, senior vice president of the Irish Film Board’s US outpost, is leaving to set up LA- and Dublin-based production company ArtCastle. Loughran, who opened the Irish Film Commission in LA in 2005, will partner with compatriot filmmaker Gary Shore. Shore has a three-picture deal with Universal and entered negotiations to direct Dracula Year Zero earlier this year. He and his short, Cup Of Tears, appeared on the Black List for Aspiring Filmmakers in 2010. Cup is being turned into a feature by Working Title. Loughran will produce Shore’s projects under the ArtCastle banner and continue to work with international filmmakers looking to shoot in Ireland.
‘Innocence Of Muslims’ Leads Saudis To Seek Global Internet Restrictions
Saudi Arabia has called on stricter policing of the internet in the wake of the Innocence Of Muslims video that sparked deadly violence in the Middle East last month. The kingdom’s government has told United Nations body the World Telecommunications Policy Forum that access to the video was an “obvious example” of the need for greater cooperation on restricting content, Britain’s Telegraph reports. The letter to the UN said, “There is a crying need for international collaboration to address ‘freedom of expression’ which clearly disregards public order… Any reasonable person would know that this film would foment violence and, indeed, many innocent persons have died and been injured with this film as a root cause.” YouTube parent Google restricted the video in certain countries but refused an overall ban. The producer of the anti-Islam video is currently in jail awaiting a hearing on possible probation violations.
The companies provide few details about the deal, including whether it’s exclusive to Netflix. It appears to be limited to library episodes of series including Torchwood, Spooks, Fawlty Towers, Miss Marple, and Inspector Linley. Netflix plans to launch its service in the UK and Ireland in early 2012. It previously announced licensing agreements with studios including MGM, Miramax, Lionsgate. Here’s the release about Netflix’s new agreement with the BBC:
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Dec. 20, 2011 – Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, today announced a new digital licensing agreement that will bring a broad range of great BBC series to Netflix members in the UK and Ireland.
Beginning early 2012, previous series of BBC shows such as “Torchwood” and “Spooks” will be available for Netflix members to watch instantly in the UK and Ireland streamed over the Internet to connected TVs, tablets, game consoles, computers and mobile phones.
Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed. Netflix announced in October that it would launch its service in the UK and Ireland early in 2012.
Sundance Channel has closed a deal with BBC Worldwide to co-produce and distribute in the U.S. Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake miniseries for BBC Two. Oscar winner Campion (The Piano) and Australian director Garth Davis will direct the seven-part mini written by Campion and Gerard Lee (Sweetie). Joining star Elisabeth Moss are Holly Hunter, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Campion’s The Piano; Peter Mullan (War Horse); and David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings). Oscar winners Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech) of See-Saw Films and Philippa Campbell of Escapade Pictures are producing Top Of The Lake, which will be made available in both seven-hour (with commercials) and six-hour (without) formats.
The Irish Technology Leadership Group launched its Hollywood chapter tonight with an event at Sony Pictures Studios that included a panel discussion among execs from companies such as HBO, Warner Bros and BBC Worldwide. Panelists at Innovation in Entertainment, as the evening was billed, discussed the new ways people consume entertainment, how much they’re willing to pay for it (increasingly, that amount is nothing, one said), and whether they’ve even caught up to all the technology out there. The future is in knowing how to pitch and make the right product at the right time and place, said Jay Roewe, HBO’s SVP West Coast production. “Computer programmers that understand the film biz — that’s the kind of people I want to work with because I know I’m going to adapt to the future in a very big way,” Roewe said. One example of HBO embracing technology is social media integration in its new comedy series Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “The producers said, ‘If you have these ideas you want to do, come to us.’ The core is our programming, but it’s leading us down the road to other content,” Roewe said. The Veep team decided to work Twitter into the show so viewers can follow along at home. Roewe also detailed a cost-cutting measure on HBO’s epic Game of Thrones, which shot in Belfast using a new digital camera instead of film, a risk that technology allowed the team to take.
Robert Nashak, EVP digital entertainment at BBC Worldwide, touted a Torchwood app in conjunction with Starz that features content written by the series’ scribes and voiced by its actors. The app creates alternate story worlds and “reaches users anywhere they happen to be,” Nashak said. Another extra for BBC Worldwide is a massively multiplayer online game for sci-fi series Doctor Who, which would bring gamer data to the network, in addition to its “actionable analytics” — Twitter and Facebook activity that reveals how viewers feel about different parts of the show. “This data will be useful and relied on more and more as time goes on,” Nashak said. The shift in distribution platforms is another growing concern. Warner Bros’ SVP postproduction Bill Daly said he sees the industry eventually providing content directly to the consumer. Because of this, companies are looking to move away from the idea that you “launch it and leave it,” said Nashak. “The community and fanbase need constant nurturing.”
EXCLUSIVE: First, Ricky Gervais blogged earlier this week: “We are about to start work on a Chinese The Office. How cool is that?” Then BBC Worldwide poured cold water on the story, telling AP there was “no deal in place, no broadcaster, no production company”. That’s not entirely true. The BBC has now admitted to me that it is indeed developing a Mandarin version of the show with NY-based film financier John Heyman, father of Harry Potter producer David Heyman. So a Hong Kong subsidiary of Heyman’s World Film Group is developing The Office with BBC exec Pierre Cheung in Beijing. There’s no broadcaster on board yet. Auntie has already sold The Office format to the U.S., Chile, France, Germany, Israel, and Quebec. Next week BBC Worldwide is hosting BBC Showcase China