EXCLUSIVE: The six-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic War And Peace is beginning to cast up. I hear that Downton Abbey’s Lily James and Prisoners’ Paul Dano have offers for lead roles and are seriously circling. The mini hails from BBC Worldwide, The Weinstein Co and Ripper Street‘s Look Out Point. Described as one of the most ambitious event series ever made for the BBC, it will be produced by BBC Cymru Wales and scripted by Andrew Davies. James would play Natasha Rostova, one of the novel’s central characters, who ultimately falls in love with Pierre Bezukhov, the awkward illegitimate son who rises in society but leads a tumultuous life as he seeks to overcome his emotions. Dano would play Pierre. In King Vidor’s 1956 feature adaptation, the roles were played by Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda.
The notoriously expansive novel begins in 1805 Russia and revolves around five aristocratic families set against the backdrop of the reign of Alexander I, the lingering effects of his grandmother Catherine The Great’s rule and the events surrounding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Executive producers on the mini are BBC Cymru Wales drama chief Faith Penhale, BBC Wales’ George Ormond, Davies, Look Out Point’s Simon Vaughn and Harvey Weinstein.
The miniseries is due for air in the UK in 2015 and was a first sign of The Weinstein Co’s ambitions to forge into the European TV arena when it was announced in October. The company subsequently teamed with the BBC and Look Out on upcoming TV movie Stan And Ollie, which is being scripted by Philomena’s Jeff Pope. TWC also acquired U.S. TV and VOD rights for the first three seasons of BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders. Read More »
‘Pretty Little Liars’, ‘Gossip Girl’, ‘ER’ Getting Local Versions In Asia
Warner Bros Television Group series Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl and ER have been commissioned and optioned as local versions in the Philippines, Thailand and India, respectively. In the Philippines, ABC Development Corporation is in production on Pretty Little Liars with the 22-episode adaptation to air on TV5 in April. The show ranks as the No. 1 original series of all time on ABC Family, where its 5th season will air this summer. In Thailand, Kantana Public Company Limited is producing an 18-episode local adaptation of Gossip Girl. In India, ER is under option with Gold Television Network. This follows the announcement last month that a Colombian version of the show was going forward. Read More »
BBC America has given the green light to vehicle transformation series Mud, Sweat & Gears. The eight-episode series, produced by BBC Worldwide Productions for BBC America and BBC Worldwide’s new Brit channel, will be hosted by Tom ‘Wookie’ Ford and Jonny Smith — two UK car journalists. Each week, the pair will work as rival captains for two teams of car enthusiasts. They will have 24 hours to reconstruct ordinary vehicles and complete competitive stunt challenges. Perry Simon, General Manager of BBC America, called it a perfect fit for the network’s Top Gear driven Monday lineup. Top Gear, in its 21st season, is on target for its highest rated season yet in the U.S. Production begins shooting next month in California. Mud, Sweat & Gears also will launch across the BBC’s international channels and is the first original commission to be announced for BBC Brit – the new male-skewing factual entertainment channel due to launch in several worldwide markets outside of the U.S. in 2014. In the U.S., the series joins BBC America’s slate of new unscripted programming including Top Gear, Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan, and its new BBC Earth block of natural history programs, The Graham Norton Show and upcoming original series Million Dollar Critic Starring Giles Coren. Read More »
BBC Worldwide Sells Drama ‘The Musketeers’ To Multiple Territories
BBC Worldwide is gearing up for its annual showcase in Liverpool next week and ahead of it has announced sales of 10-part drama series The Musketeers. Set on the streets of 17th century Paris, the series is made by BBC Drama Productions and co-produced by BBC Worldwide and BBC America. The new take on the classic characters created by Alexandre Dumas stars Luke Pasqualino, Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera, Howard Charles, Alexandra Dowling and Maimie McCoy. Adrian Hodges is executive producer and lead writer. The series launched on BBC One in the UK in January and has been renewed for a second season. Sales deals have been concluded with Germany (ARD), Norway (NRK), Sweden (TV4), Ukraine (1+1), Greece (OTE) and Turkey (NTV). Read More »
Former BBC Worldwide president and managing director Steve Macallister has been appointed CEO Zodiak Rights, the international sales and distribution arm of Zodiak Media. The exec is replacing Matthew Frank who is stepping down after 20 years. Frank originally joined the group when it was fledgling indie RDF which was founded by his brother David Frank. RDF was acquired in 2010 by Zodiak and became Zodiak Rights. David Frank left the role of CEO of Zodiak Media in October 2013 and was replaced by Marc-Antoine d’Halluin. Commenting on the departing Matthew Frank, d’Halluin said, “The scale of what Matthew has achieved over the last 20 years is remarkable, and I know he will be missed on both a professional and personal level and I wish him all the best. He leaves behind an incredibly successful and reputable business and I have every confidence that Steve will now take the company to its next phase.” Macallister joined BBC Worldwide in 2007 and prior to that managed the distribution business for Disney ABC International Television in Asia Pacific. He left the BBC in March 2013 as the commercial arm was shifting the management of sales and distribution to the regional level. Zodiak Media’s properties include Millennium, Wife Swap, The Inbetweeners, Totally Spies and The Returned.
CEO Tim Davie Reveals Vision For Future Of BBC Worldwide
In an address to employees, BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie today unveiled a new vision to build the BBC’s brands, audiences and commercial returns around the globe. It includes a £200M investment in premium content, the launch of three new core consumer brands propositions – spanning the genres of premium factual, factual entertainment and drama — and a greater focus on digital innovation to extend the company’s reach and routes to market. “BBC Worldwide has a good track record of taking British content to the world, benefiting international audiences, license fee payers and the wider industry alike,” he said. “But the time has come for a step-change, reflecting the rapid development in our markets.”
UK Culture Secretary Spends The Week Meeting With U.S. Showbiz Execs
During a visit to the U.S. this week, UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller met with senior executives at Disney, Warner Bros and other showbiz companies to discuss collaboration and hear suggestions on how UK filming conditions could be made more attractive to American productions. She also sought reaction to the UK’s recent extension of tax credits and talked with HBO about its Game of Thrones production model and with Lucasfilm about its plan to shoot the new Star Wars film in the UK and whether there could be other ways to help support the local film industry. Read More »
The BBC has confirmed the recovery of nine Doctor Who episodes which had long been thought missing. Reports of the trove first surfaced earlier this week, to the delight of the Tardis faithful, and BBC Worldwide has now made the re-mastered episodes available for download via iTunes. Back in the fold are five installments of 1967 story The Enemy Of The World, and four installments of 1968’s The Web Of Fear which sees the Time Lord battle a robot yeti in the London Underground. All of the episodes feature Patrick Troughton as the 2nd Doctor. Many of the original transmission tapes were destroyed by the BBC, so it’s often copies made for foreign broadcast that turn up to fill in the gaps. According to the BBC, there are still 27 Doctor Who stories that are missing or have incomplete episodes. Here’s a video for the re-mastered Web Of Fear:
In a move that signals its serious intent to forge into the European TV arena, The Weinstein Co has joined Look Out Point and BBC Worldwide as production partner on the upcoming six-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace. The event series — described as “one of the most ambitious” ever produced for the BBC — will be made by BBC Cymru Wales and penned by Andrew Davies. Davies’ credits include screen versions of everything from the original House Of Cards to Pride And Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Brideshead Revisited and Bridget Jones. His serialized adaptation of the tome of tomes is due to air in the UK in 2015.
Tolstoy’s War And Peace begins in 1805 Russia and centers on five aristocratic families set against the backdrop of the reign of Alexander I, the lingering effects of his grandmother Catherine The Great’s rule and the events surrounding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Harvey Weinstein said today, “Needless to say, adapting War And Peace is a tremendous but exciting task. There’s no one I’d rather be partnering with than Lookout Point’s Simon Vaughan and the BBC’s Ben Stephenson and Faith Penhale on this production, whose incredible visions are second to none in bringing classic literature to the screen in the most sophisticated way possible.” The series will be executive produced by BBC Cymru Wales drama chief Penhale, … Read More »
London’s Heathrow Airport can sometimes be a pain for foreign travelers who’ve been known to wait two hours or more in serpentine immigration lines. So here’s something to make the overall airport experience more enjoyable. As the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who approaches, BBC Worldwide has teamed with Heathrow to celebrate the sci-fi series. Starting today, passengers traveling through Terminal 5 will be treated to “a variety of exciting Doctor Who themed experiences,” the BBC said. Those include Cybermen appearances, TARDIS photobooths, props and memorabilia, and “augmented reality experiences.” Terminal 5 is also hosting special performances of music from the series by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This weekend, the cast of the show, including outgoing Time Lord Matt Smith, companion Jenna Coleman and showrunner Steven Moffat will be at Comic-Con in San Diego.
ITV Studios Global Entertainment, the commercial arm of the UK’s leading private broadcaster ITV, has named Jill Kellie as senior acquisitions executive. She’ll work with the acquisitions team across ITVSGE’s portfolio which includes Jeremy Piven-starrer Mr. Selfridge, Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and the upcoming medical drama, Breathless. The exec was formerly commercial manager at BBC Worldwide and was also a commissioner at the BBC’s 2 Entertain Video.
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 »
BBC Worldwide’s Sarah Cooper is leaving her COO post at the commercial arm of the BBC to become COO of NBCUniversal International Television Production. Cooper takes over the newly-created role on March 11, reporting to NBCU International TV Production president Michael Edelstein. She will assume day-to-day operational responsibility for business and legal affairs, HR, finance, merchandising and licensing and format sales. The company is on a drive to become “the premiere destination for content creators working outside the United States,” Edelstein said. It encompasses in-house labels Carnival Films, producer of Downton Abbey and Dracula; reality producer Monkey Kingdom; Lucky Giant, which is making Christopher Guest’s Family Tree with the BBC and HBO and factual label Chocolate Media. The company also has a joint TV production deal with Working Title, an equity stake in Oz-based Matchbox Pictures and a partnership with Canada’s Lark Productions, among other ventures.
‘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. Read More »
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 regional level. Macallister joined the company in 2007, growing headline sales to £292.7M in the last fiscal year. BBCWW handles about 50,000 hours of BBC and independently-produced content including such series as Doctor Who, Top Gear and Teletubbies. As part of the restructure, Helen Jackson has been named chief content officer. Paul Dempsey recently took over as interim BBCWW CEO until Tim Davie can assume the post in March. Davie is currently acting director general of the BBC, having stepped up when George Entwistle resigned in November.
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. Read More »
BBC Worldwide CEO John Smith has been at the helm of the commercial arm of the BBC for the past eight years. After a total 18 years at the broadcaster, he told staff today he was leaving to pursue new opportunities in the commercial sector. Tim Davie, the BBC’s director of audio & music, will succeed Smith as CEO starting December 1. During Smith’s tenure, BBCW doubled revenues, tripled margins and quadrupled profits with the last fiscal year hitting £155M, the company said today. Among its businesses, BBCW operates international channels including BBC America and exploits and produces formats. Smith is credited with helping grow such global franchises as Dancing With The Stars, Doctor Who and Top Gear. Davie has been in his current role since 2008 and before that was director of the BBC’s marketing, communications & audiences division. He came to the BBC in 2005 from Pepsi Europe where he was a marketing and franchise exec.
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.
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David S. Goyer’s historical fantasy series Da Vinci’s Demons was picked up straight to series by Starz with an eight-episode order back in October. Now Fox International Channels has come aboard the Starz-BBC Worldwide co-production to become the exclusive first window pay-TV broadcaster in territories outside the U.S. and Canada, similar to distribution deals it has struck for Dexter, Touch and The Walking Dead. Demons will roll out across FIC’s 200 channels in 120 countries when it premieres in early 2013; BBC Worldwide has all other international rights. The series stars Tom Riley as Leonardo Da Vinci in the untold story of the world’s greatest genius, who comes of age as an artist, inventor, swordsman, lover, dreamer and idealist in Renaissance Florence. Production is underway in Wales.
Anger Management, Lionsgate TV’s upcoming sitcom starring former Two And A Hale Men leading man Charlie Sheen as an irascible anger management therapist, has been picked up by Modern Times Group (MTG) to air on its Viasat Broadcasting free-TV channels in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Viasat’s channels also carry Two And A Half Men. Lionsgate International has already sold Anger Management, loosely based on the 2003 feature starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, in Canada, Latin America and Germany. In the U.S., it launches on FX in June.
Parlez-vous ‘Jersey Shore’?
France’s leading pubcaster TF1 has acquired rights to Jersey Shore for air on its DTT channel NT1. NT1 also picked up a format option to adapt the MTV series for local audiences. On the news, Viacom International Media Networks’ SVP of international sales, Caroline Beaton, said in part: “I’m extremely excited that a localized version through NT1’s format option will enable French audiences to connect even more deeply with their favorite program in their own language and through their own local personalities.” No word on where the show could be set, though I’m guessing Nice or Marseille would be potentials given their coastal settings, vibrant nightlife and young populace…
BBC Worldwide, China’s CCTV-9 Get Scientific In Co-Production Pact
In a first, BBC Worldwide has pacted with China’s CCTV-9, the documentary arm … Read More »