In light of the recent exit of co-founder Gail Berman, BermanBraun has been renamed Whalerock Industries, a name said to have special meaning to co-founder and now full owner Lloyd Braun. The company also has folded scripted television, which had been overseen by Gene Stein, into film, with Andrew Mittman, who has run BermanBraun’s film division since 2009, as head of the combined unit. Stein, who has been at BermanBraun since 2008, is leaving. Meanwhile, Jenna Glazier has been promoted to SVP of television and film. “This reorganization reflects our approach to development throughout the company,” Braun said. “The traditional lines between media are increasingly blurred – particularly in film and television. Our executives will work the same way – evaluating material, developing relationships and understanding business models across the media landscape.”
Gail Berman just made the announcement amid ongoing speculation that the former top Fox and Paramount executive might be mulling a return to the executive fold. In her statement, Berman indicates that she is considering “several unique opportunities” with an announcement about her next gig expected “very soon.” (Despite persistent chatter, I hear Berman’s immediate plans do not seem to include a position at ABC.) Berman co-founded BermanBraun in 2007 with former ABC topper Lloyd Braun who will now become sole owner of the company by acquiring Berman’s interest. BermanBraun, which employs 150 people vs. four employees at its launch, made its mark in the digital arena where it operates 11 properties in categories including celebrity, entertainment, fashion and beauty, pets, Moms and lifestyle. BermanBraun also has been active in TV, producing scripted and unscripted series and has in the works Dig, USA Network’s upcoming six-episode action adventure event series from Tim Kring and Gideon Raff. In June, BermanBraun inked a multi-year film and TV deal with MGM. Before taking over Fox’s entertainment division, Berman ran Regency TV. Here are her and Braun’s statements on Berman’s departure:
If you look at the Moviefone’s amateurish looking site, which AOL bought for $400M in 1999, you’ll see why it needs work. The company says today that it has enlisted BermanBraun “to reimagine Moviefone and give the iconic entertainment brand a new design and enhanced user experience.” Early next year the site will have “a fresh look and a more robust offering of entertainment news and content as well as a state of the art utility for consumers to find and watch premium content on all devices.” Susan Lyne, who’s CEO of the AOL Brand Group, worked with BermanBraun principal Lloyd Braun at ABC where they developed shows including Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s Anatomy. The Hollywood-based media company has helped AOL shape sites including Mandatory, Pawnation, and Skye. With that background “we are excited to partner with them to ensure Moviefone becomes a premiere, multiscreen destination for movie news and information,” Lyne says. Braun and his partner, Gail Berman, say they will “reimagine Moviefone as a vital and essential entertainment brand for the mobile generation.”
UPDATED: Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun’s TV/digital/film production company has set up shop at MGM for television and film. BermanBraun, which just came out of a five-year stint at NBCUniversal, has signed an exclusive multiyear production deal with MGM Television to create and develop scripted and unscripted programming for broadcast and cable. The agreement, the first such production pact for MGM Television, which has been in a rapid expansion mode, came together pretty quickly only two weeks after BermanBraun’s most recent deal at NBCU expired. “It was a real meeting of minds,“ said Roma Khanna, President, Television Group & Digital, MGM Television.”The idea of this deal is to say that our appetite is large for quality productions, that we want to work with the best talent and are smart about the TV projects we put together.”
Berman and Braun took several meetings but ultimately opted to go with upstart MGM vs. a traditional TV studio because of their plan to aggressively build their TV operation. “We’re exited to be part of their expansion, it gives us an unique opportunity to spread our wings,” Berman said.
BermanBraun and MGM TV both have experimented with not-traditional production models, something BermanBraun is employing in their summer NBC series Camp, which was done as a straight-to-series, lower license fee show. MGM TV is behind History’s Vikings, which went straight to series and is made as an international co-production, as well as FX’s straight-to-series limited series Fargo. Khanna noted that MGM “got lucky” to land the two straight-to-series orders but is staying “flexible”, pursuing both non-traditional and traditional pilot development and willing to deficit finance/co-finance its projects. MGM’s focus remain on cable dramas, though Khanna hopes to expand into unscripted series via BermanBraun’s expertise in the arena. Meanwhile, BermanBraun had serviced NBCU’s cable networks, including producing Syfy’s Alphas, though its primary focus for the past five years has been on broadcast, supplying NBC. The deal with MGM “really allows to get (the cable drama) part of our business jump-started, so our interests aligned beautifully in that,” Berman said,. In addition to Khanna, BermanBraun will work with Steve Stark, President, TV Production, MGM Television. On the BermanBraun side, Gene Stein, President of Television, will be leading their team in the new venture.
MGM has also signed BermanBraun to a first-look deal on all theatrical projects they are developing and will work directly with Jonathan Glickman, President, Motion Picture Group, MGM. The theatrical executive from BermanBraun is Andrew Mittman, Head of Feature Film Development.
Gunnar Wetterberg, who as head of development at Magical Elves spearheaded such formats as Top Chef on Bravo and Treasure Hunters on NBC, has been appointed Senior Unscripted Television Executive at BermanBraun. He most recently was SVP Development at T Group Prods and has sold shows to both broadcast and cable networks over his career. He also developed Sony Pictures Television’s game show franchise Russian Roulette, which has been produced in more than 30 countries. “He has proven himself to be a true innovator in the world of television and we look forward to working with him on expanding our unscripted business”, BermanBraun television president Gene Stein said in announcing the deal.
BermanBraun has named Jeff Berman to the new position of president of Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun’s TV, film and digital production company. Jeff Berman (no relation) was GM of Digital Media for the NFL, and before that was president of sales and marketing at MySpace, and he oversaw the 2008 deal for Quarterlife to become the first scripted digital series to migrate from the web to network television. “We are thrilled to have Jeff join BermanBraun as president of the company,” said Gail Berman and Braun. “His vast expertise in media, technology and the consumer marketplace will be an asset to all of our divisions at BermanBraun.” In his role with the NFL, Jeff Berman oversaw the league’s web, mobile, social, and non-console gaming efforts, and spearheaded such cross-platform initiatives the integration of multi-party video chat into Fantasy Football (with Google Hangouts) and related television programming. At MySpace, responsibilities included branded advertising, sales operations, entertainment, content, and marketing.
Ahead of the debut of NBC‘s midseason drama Deception tomorrow, the network has given a straight-to-series order to another hourlong project from the Deception team of creator/executive producer Liz Heldens and Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun’s production company BermanBraun. Created by Heldens and Deception co-executive producer Peter Elkoff, Camp has been picked up for 13 episodes to air in the summer. This will be Heldens and BermanBraun’s third series on NBC following medical drama Mercy, which Heldens also created, and Deception. Elkoff also worked with Heldens on Mercy.
In the tradition of Meatballs and Dazed And Confused, Little Hawk Family Camp is a wicked slice of lake-side heaven. In the one-hour dramedy, parents decompress with gin while teenagers make gleeful mischief and fall in and out of love. “In our desire to make summer an exciting place at NBC along with our signature unscripted shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice and American Ninja Warrior, we developed a scripted dramedy we love with BermanBraun that has rich and dysfunctional characters in that great setting where millions of families and young people go each summer: camp,” said NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke. “Most of us have had great experiences at camp, and this show — created by two of our favorite producers, Liz Heldens and Peter Elkoff — is sophisticated, funny, and emotional, and we think it will be the ideal summer series for us.” Camp will be produced by Matchbox Pictures (The Slap) and BermanBraun. Heldens and Elkoff executive produce with Berman, Braun and Gene Stein. Production is scheduled to begin in Australia in March.
Michael Eisner’s Vuguru and BermanBraun are partnering on the comedy web series Greetings From Home that launches on AOL on October 1. The 12-episode series is a humorous look at a military dad who’s raising two unruly teens while mom is deployed overseas. It was directed by Jared Drake and written by Bill Rosenthal, Bill Masters, and Michael Davidoff. BermanBraun’s Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun executive produced. Here’s the exclusive trailer:
Chris Cowan, a former principal of Rocket Science Laboratories and Angel City Factory, has joined BermanBraun as head of unscripted television. He also will oversee all video development and production in the company’s digital unit, including the building of an in-house video studio to supply BermanBraun’s three You Tube channels and websites. This is a new position. Cowan also is taking over responsibilities previously held by Jared Heinke, who was recently promoted to co-run digital division with Paco Vinoly. “Chris is one of the best storytellers and producers we have ever worked with,” said Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, who have known Cowan for a while. Cowan’s reality series credits include Temptation Island, Joe Millionaire, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance and Mobbed.
Santa Monica, CA (March 15, 2012) … BermanBraun has closed a deal to acquire Whiskey Media, it was announced today by Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun of BermanBraun and Shelby Bonnie, Whiskey Media creator and CEO.
As part of this acquisition, BermanBraun will get three key sites of San Francisco-based Whiskey Media and acquire its content publishing platform. The three sites include the video entertainment-focused Screened, tech testing site Tested and Anime Vice, which covers anime and manga comics. The new Tested will become the Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage site and will go live later today (Hyneman and Savage are in a producing partnership with BermanBraun).
Universal TV has rounded out its development team with the hire of Andy Weil as VP Comedy Development. Universal TV EVP Bela Bajaria last month appointed Russell Rothberg as SVP drama/department head, Tracey Pakosta as SVP comedy/department head and Erin Underhill as SVP Drama, with a similar position on the comedy side left open. It will now be filled by 27-year-old Weil, who comes from BermanBraun, where he served as head of scripted television. “Andy has great creative instincts, strong relationships, and a good track record in selling comedies,” Bajaria said. At BermanBraun, Weil shepherded the development of the company’s drama series Alphas for Syfy and The Cape for NBC; comedy Accidentally On Purpose for CBS; the Lifetime dramedy pilot Modern Love, which was originally developed at HBO as a half-hour comedy; and Apocalipstick, a comedy BermanBraun recently sold to NBC with Universal TV.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Google has put Hollywood on notice to keep mum as it prepares to announce its big plan to redefine YouTube with 25 or so channels that will offer professionally produced news, information and entertainment. Google plans to spend an estimated $150M for the services — top tier channels would get about $5M apiece. I’m told that the search giant wants to unveil its initial slate of channels by the end of this month. They’d go live in January. YouTube is gearing up to announce additional channels in January that would be up around April. Partners expected in the the first round include Warner Bros., Shine Group, BermanBraun, FremantleMedia, and skate boarder Tony Hawk. But Google has insisted that partners sign non-disclosure agreements — and has warned that those identified publicly before things are official might be cut out of the announcement. There’s also lots of skittishness because Google will control the promotion and ad sales for many of the channels.
So what does this mean? Google hopes that the slick productions will open doors on Madison Avenue where many major advertisers still turn their backs on YouTube’s user-generated content. If the financial model works, then Google could launch countless channels to make it the destination of choice for people who want to explore passions or interests that are too specialized for mass media including broadcast and cable TV.
Google’s investment is huge in the nickel-and-dime world …
NBC has bought Kept Men, a multi-camera comedy from writers-actors Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, members of the Broken Lizard comedy filmmaking group behind such movies as Super Troopers and Beerfest. Heffernan and Lemme will write the project, which tells he story of two friends who become supported by their respective wives after their business closes down. They also will executive produce with 3 Arts. APA-repped Heffernan and UTA-repped Lemme just wrapped photography on The Babymakers with Olivia Munn and Paul Schneider.
Additionally, NBC is developing a U.S. version of the Australian black comedy series Laid, from BermanBraun. Ali Rushfield (Help Me Help You) will write the script for the project, which was brought to NBC and BermanBraun by Jeremy Fox and Kary Mchoul of Digital Rights Group. It centers on a woman whose ex-boyfriends/one-night stands start dying under suspicious circumstances, prompting her to launch an investigation with her roommate and try to stop the murder spree. UTA-repped Rushfield, Lloyd Braun, Gail Berman and Gene Stein are executive producing. The original series, created by Marieke Hardy and Kirsty Fisher, premiered on ABC1 in February. The format was repped by ICM.
Syfy has renewed freshman drama Alphas for a second season with a 13-episode order. The series, from BermanBraun, Universal Cable Prods. and writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow, has been a solid ratings performer airing behind veteran Warehouse 13. Alphas, whose Season 2 will premiere in 2012, stars David Strathairn and follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. Penn is executive producing with showrunner Ira Steven Behr and BermanBraun’s Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein.
EXCLUSIVE: Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun’s production company BermanBraun has signed with WME for representation. At the agency, the company’s entertainment division will be handled by co-CEO Ari Emanuel and head of the TV department Rick Rosen. The move formalizes BermanBraun’s existing relationship with WME as Berman and Braun are long-time very close friends with Emanuel and Rosen, and the agency has been unofficially handing the production company in its deals. (BermanBraun hasn’t had official agency representation until now.) On the TV side, BermanBraun, which has had a first-look TV deal with NBC Universal, has the series Alphas on Syfy. It produced two pilots this past season, drama Weekends at Bellevue at Fox and the Dan Goor comedy at NBC. On the film side, BermanBraun has several projects in development, including comedies Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, based on the book, and Rentaghost, which has Russell Brand attached to star. Additionally, the company has a strong digital division that is behind several celebrity/lifestyle sites with MSN, including Wonderwall and GLO.
Jean Smart is set to star in NBC’s untitled Dan Goor pilot. The multicamera comedy, from BermanBraun, UMS and writer-exec producer Dan Goor, centers on Adam Foote, a young doctor who joins his parents’ medical practice and spends as much time tending to his family as to his patients. Smart will play Adam’s doting, meddlesome mom, Dr. Barbara Foote. Emmy winner Smart recurs on two CBS series this season, drama Hawaii Five-0 and comedy $#*! My Dad Says.
Gabrielle Union is set to co-star opposite Rob Corddry, Paula Marshall and Kevin Hart in Rob Thomas’ single-camera comedy pilot for Fox Little in Common. The WBTV-produced pilot is about three families united through their kids’ little league sports. It centers on the Wellers (Corddry, Marshall), who move from San Jose, CA to Austin, TX, but find that their adjustment won’t be quite that easy considering that their Latino neighbors, the Pachecos, have a radically different approach to child-rearing than they do, while their other new neighborhood acquaintances, the African American Burlesons (Hart, Union), take sports very seriously. Union’s Nicole Burleson is a lobbyist on the fast track to success who is every bit as competitive and intense as her husband.
EXCLUSIVE: Fox has handed a late pilot order to Weekends at Bellevue, a medical drama from former ER writer-producer Lisa Zwerling and BermanBraun. The project, centered on a psychiatrist in charge of the weekend shift of Bellevue Hospital psychiatric unit, was originally set up at NBC and UMS earlier this season. After the network recently passed on the script, it was taken to Fox. UMS, which produces Fox’s hit drama House, will stay on as the studio. Weekends at Bellevue is based on Dr. Julie Holland’s memoir about her nine-year stint as the weekend physician in charge of the psychiatric emergency room at the oldest public hospital in the United States whose name has become synonymous with insanity. Zwerling, Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein are executive producing.
EXCLUSIVE: Star Trek veteran Ira Steven Behr has joined Syfy’s newly picked up series Alphas as executive producer/showrunner. Alphas, from BermanBraun, Universal Cable Prods. and writers Zak Penn and Michael Karnow, stars David Strathairn and follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. Behr will serve as an executive producer alongside Penn and BermanBraun’s Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein. The series’ 90-minute pilot was directed by Lost director-producer Jack Bender. Behr has an extensive sci-fi background. He worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. On Deep Space Nine, he rose to executive producer/showrunner and wrote a total of 53 episodes, more than any other numbers. Behr also served as executive producer/showrunner on USA’s sci-fi drama The 4400 as well as on the second season of Starz’s series Crash, based on the Oscar-winning feature. Syfy had ordered 2 pilots set in the world of real-life superheros, Alphas and 3 Inches. Alphas has been picked up to series while 3 Inches is being reworked and remains in contention.