The Irish Film and Television Academy has unveiled its nominees for the 11th annual Irish Film and Television Awards, which takes place on April 5 in Dublin. In the Best Film category are Neil Jordan’s Byzantium; John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary; Steph Green’s Run & Jump; Stephen Brown’s The Sea; and John Butler’s The Stag. Ruiri Robinson is nominated for director for his debut sci-fi feature film The Last Days On Mars alongside Butler, Jordan and McDonagh. The Best Actor category includes Brendan Gleeson for Calvary; Domhnall Gleeson for About Time; Ciarán Hinds in The Sea; and The Stag’s Andrew Scott. Antonia Campbell-Hughes is nominated for Best Actress in 3096 Days, alongside Saoirse Ronan in Byzantium; Jane McGrath in Black Ice; and Kelly Thornton in Life’s A Breeze. The male supporting race includes Colin Farrell for Saving Mr Banks; Michael Fassbender for 12 Years A Slave; Edward MacLiam for Run & Jump and Peter McDonald for The Stag. Female supporting actors recognized are Sinead Cusack for The Sea; Fionnula Flannigan for Life’s A Breeze; Amy Huberman for The Stag and Orla O’Rourke for Calvary. Up for Best International Film are 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Philomena and The Wolf Of Wall Street. Among TV nominees is Gillian Anderson thriller The Fall; HBO’s Game Of Thrones; historical action drama Vikings; period crime series Quirke; and urban drama Love/Hate. Downton Abbey, Moone Boy and Dracula also scored acting nods. The full list of IFTA nominees is here.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Irish Film & TV Academy Nominations; Sky Renews ‘Stella’; Sylvie Pialat Honored In France; More
UK pay-TV giant BSkyB announced better-than-expected half-year operating profits this morning in London — and a major deal to expand its existing relationship with HBO. The pair has been cozy since 2010 when the Sky Atlantic channel became the “home of HBO” series. That exclusive first-run output deal will now be extended through 2020, giving Sky customers continued access to the entire HBO catalog including such shows as Game Of Thrones and Girls, as well as new series like True Detective and Looking. The extension of the pact could be worth up to £275M over five years. The partners have also committed to co-develop and produce what BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch calls, “epic drama of a truly spectacular scale.” The partners say they will make original drama series for broadcast on their respective networks and are looking at projects with the potential to run for multiple seasons. The high-end TV tax credit now flourishing in the UK has already brought American shows to shoot locally and this deal will likely see the Sky/HBO co-pros taking advantage of the incentives. The two companies will jointly finance the projects.
The moves come as the 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB has been fending off aggressive rival BT which has been muscling in on sports rights usually held by Sky. Movies and entertainment programming are the other key draws for Sky subscribers and today’s deal will see that offer bolstered. Sky has been on a drive to invest £600M a year in original British content and has committed to more than 100 hours of original drama this year. Sky Atlantic has already partnered with Canal Plus on The Tunnel, with BBC America on Fleming, and with Showtime on John Logan’s Penny Dreadful. Sky Living co-produces NBC series Dracula while Sky Arts has the Jon Hamm/Daniel Radcliffe series A Young Doctor’s Notebook. Click over for full details of the new HBO pact:
BSkyB posted £3.75B in adjusted revenues for the six months ended December 31, 2013, up 7.6% on the comparable period in 2012, the company said this morning. Operating profit dropped 8% to £595M compared to the same period the year prior. Still, that was slightly better than the £586M some analysts had predicted as Sky faces increasing rivalry from BT over sports rights. Adjusted earnings (EBIDTA) were stable at £813M. Of note, there was strong demand for subscription products including TV, telephone and broadband with 873,000 signed up in the last three months of 2013; 42% more than the similar period in 2012. The operator now has over 5.1M broadband subscribers. Churn, one of the elements that investors are keeping a close eye on, was 10.8% for the period, up .5%, but down .2% for the final quarter. On-demand usage also increased threefold in the last quarter. Shares in the 21st Century Fox-controlled pay-TV provider were up 4.6% in morning London trading.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BSkyB Opens Sky Store To Nonsubscribers; Netflix Eyeing France Launch?; More;
BSkyB Opens Its Sky Store Rentals To All Broadband Users
BSkyB set a challenge today to streaming providers in the UK such as Netflix and LoveFilm by announcing it has opened its Sky Store movie rental service to anyone with a broadband connection. The service does not require a Sky subscription, meaning all users in the UK and the Republic of Ireland will have access. Sky, which is controlled by 21st Century Fox, says new films including Man Of Steel and Despicable Me 2 are available from today with other fresh titles available at the same time as they drop on DVD. Those will rent for £3.49 ($5.70) each. Library titles will go for 99p-£1.99. There are already about 1,200 movies online which can be streamed through SkyStore.com, or via NOW TV, Roku and YouView. Sky’s had success with renting movies to its existing customers with 2.1 million rentals in the third quarter.
Report: Netflix Mulls Expansion Into France
Netflix has been a long time coming to France, Europe’s third-largest market, but is the tide about to turn? According to Reuters, executives from Netflix met with the staff of French President François Hollande this week to discuss the move. Netflix is available in 41 countries including France’s neighbors to the north such as the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic region. A French launch has been rumored over the years, but moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery for the streaming service given a complex film-windows chronology. There is no such protection for TV series, but many U.S. shows air as much as a year later than they do in the U.S. on traditional networks like TF1. TF1 has a VOD service that offers first-run U.S. series on a one-day delay and pay-TV leader Canal Plus airs first-run series within a few days; it even launched a new channel this year on which to showcase them. But movies are hampered by rules that prohibit films from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. Rentals via a set-top box are permissible four months after theatrical. The windows issue has long been a thorny one in France, with industry opinions divided, but discussions are ongoing. A Hollande rep told Reuters, “Netflix wanted information about the legal conditions that would affect its potential arrival in France.”
Shares in 21st Century Fox-controlled BSkyB were up today in London after falling as much as 10% on Monday. That drop came after the UK’s BT Sport scored a big goal by winning the exclusive broadcast rights to 350 UEFA Champions League and Europa League soccer matches per year from the 2015/2016 season. The £897M ($1.4B) deal that was announced Saturday marks the first time a single UK broadcaster has won the exclusive live rights to all matches from both tournaments (BSkyB and ITV currently share them). It was seen as a big kick in the shins to Britain’s leading pay-TV group, but could end up as a boon for British producers. Sky’s recent growth is through its entertainment channels, while premium sports and movies are relatively stable. So, increasing the pot on acquisitions and original commissions looks like “a sensible place to keep investing,” I’m told.
When News Corp announced plans to divide into two distinct entities, questions remained about chief Rupert Murdoch‘s aspirations for full ownership of Britain’s BSkyB. Talking to watchers this week, an issue that arises is what effect comments Murdoch made to Sun staffers about News Corp’s handling of bribery and hacking charges could have on his interest in the pay-TV giant. One analyst tells me they don’t think that any business in which Rupert or son James Murdoch has a substantial role “will ever be allowed to buy a single more share” of the company. This person allows, however, that it’s hardly clear from the secretly-recorded tapes whether there was conspiracy to encourage misconduct in a public office, “I’d think the evidence is marginal.” Still, if any serious evidence does emerge from a Parliamentary hearing or a police investigation, most are agreed that UK regulator Ofcom could take another look at Murdoch’s relationship to BSkyB.
The phone-hacking scandal led News Corp in 2011 to withdraw a bid to acquire the 61% of BSkyB that it didn’t already hold. This was considered a blow to Murdoch who had long coveted full ownership. Analysts have held that News Corp would make another run at BSkyB in a few years’ time with the entertainment division, 21st Century Fox, putting forth a bid after the dust had settled around the publishing arm. But the dust may be kicking up again.
The secret recordings of Murdoch talking to Sun journalists, exposed last week by Exaro News, reveal him saying that the practice of making payments to police officers for news tips had “been going on a hundred years” and was the “culture of Fleet Street.” Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday invited Murdoch to appear and discuss the comments and he has accepted the invitation. The Committee itself has no real teeth (and has to be careful not to prejudice any ongoing criminal cases), but it can influence Ofcom.
Global Showbiz Briefs: IMAX In Israel, BSkyB Scores, FIFA Reviews World Cup In 3D, ‘Summer In February’ Lines Up International & More
IMAX president Richard Gelfond told the Israeli Presidential Conference today that the experience of going to the movies will always appeal despite the proliferation of mobile devices. “People are social animals and I don’t think they want to be chained to their couches, mobile devices and tablets. They want to go out,” Gelfond said, according to Reuters. “They recognize the fact that Steven Spielberg and James Cameron may be better at telling a story than a 16-year-old over the Internet. I think they can exist side by side.” Also on Thursday, IMAX and Germany’s largest exhibitor CineStar Cinemas said they would partner to put an IMAX theater at the CineStar Sony Centre in Berlin. The giant Potzdamer Platz multiplex hosts big film premiers and is familiar to Berlin Film Festival regulars. The new theater will eventually transition to IMAX’s next-generation laser digital projection system which boasts greater brightness and clarity, a wider color gamut and deeper blacks. IMAX EMEA president Andrew Cripps noted that Germany is an under-penetrated market for the company where it is looking to expand.
BSkyB revenues were up 6% to £5.38B ($8.37B) with operating profit beating forecasts by jumping 9% to £994M ($1.55B). The News Corp.-controlled company announced its third-quarter results this morning with CEO Jeremy Darroch noting that it would add 550 jobs to meet demand and serve a growing customer base. He added that the number of Internet- connected Sky+HD boxes grew by almost 45,000 each week during the quarter, leading to a five-fold increase in On Demand downloads and a 37% growth in movie rentals against last year. Britain’s largest pay-TV operator said it had over 30M paid-for subscription products across TV, broadband and telephony the first time in its history. Its customer base is now at 10.7M in the UK and Ireland. The churn rate was up, however, to 10.8% versus 10.1% in the comparable quarter last year. BSkyB competes most notably with BT and Virgin Media in the UK and is likely to see that competition heat up with John Malone’s Liberty Global recently getting the go-ahead from European authorities to acquire Virgin in a $23.3B takeover.
Former BBC Daytime controller Liam Keelan was originally named dirctor of BSkyB‘s flagship Sky 1 HD back in December, but he later pulled out to move to BBC Worldwide. After opening up the search again, Sky has now …
UK telecommunications provider BT is negotiating to buy soccer rights from ESPN as the Disney-owned channel explores an exit from the UK, the Financial Times reports. BT aims to launch as many as three sports channels offering soccer, rugby …
Sky and Sony Pictures Television have signed a new multi-year agreement giving the News Corp-controlled group first window rights to the studio’s new and classic movies in the UK and Ireland. BSkyB made the announcement this morning as it reported better-than-expected fiscal first half results. Operating profit for the six months ended December 31 was up 8% to £647M ($1.02B) versus £601M ($951M) in the last comparable period. The leading satcaster noted this morning that, “In a tough economic environment, more customers are taking more products and spending more money with Sky.” In the three months to December 31, the company added 615,000 products and 88,000 new subscribers for a total base of 10.7M. The period saw particular growth of weekly On Demand downloads, up 150%, and users of the recently-launched Sky Go service also increased by 46% to 3.1M. Chairman Jeremy Darroch commented, “Although we expect the consumer environment in 2013 to remain challenging, we have a strong set of plans for the year ahead.
‘The Following’ Gets Killer Ratings On Sky Atlantic
Kevin Bacon serial killer drama The Following had a solid debut on Fox in the U.S. on Monday and on Tuesday premiered on UK pay channel Sky Atlantic. In the 10PM-11PM slot, the violent horror thriller drew an average of 270,000 viewers for a 1.4% share. The numbers may not sound earth-shattering but they were more than 636% higher than the slot average over the past three months, The Guardian reported. Meanwhile, the premiere of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes’ reality show about English manses, Great Houses With Julian Fellowes, drew 2.2M viewers on ITV at 9PM for an 8.8% share on Tuesday.