Norwegian broadcaster NRK has made its first U.S. sale of a scripted format with thriller series Mammon. 20th Century Fox Television has acquired the format through independent distributor DRG. Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope will executive produce a U.S. adaptation for Chernin Entertainment. The deal was also brokered by UTA. Mammon – the title refers to a New Testament term that’s used to describe material wealth or greed that’s often personified – has yet to air in Norway, but has already been commissioned for a second season. Its first season kicks off in January. The tense six-part thriller pits brother against brother in the worlds of politics, media and finance. It hails from sibling producer/writer team Vegard and Gjermund Stenberg Eriksen. This is the latest is a string of hot Scandinavian properties that have made their way to the States including current series The Bridge, adapted from Danish/Swedish series Bron.
Greg Berlanti entered the upfronts as the producer with the most pilots this year — four — in his first development season at Warner Bros. TV. Two of them, the CW’s Arrow and CBS’ Golden Boy, went to series, while a third, Fox legal drama Guilty, has a solid shot at a midseason order. Additionally, Berlanti has cable series Political Animals launching on USA this summer. Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage‘s Fake Empire also netted two new broadcast series orders. The company went 2-for-2 with its two pilots, the CW’s The Carrie Diaries and Cult, to increase its primetime portfolio to four series next season, including returning CW dramas Gossip Girl and Hart Of Dixie, and tie the Mark Gordon Co. as the pods with the most broadcast shows on the air. In addition to newly picked up comedy Family Tools and returning Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Criminal Minds, the Mark Gordon Co. also has Army Wives on Lifetime. With CSI: Miami ending its run, Bruckheimer TV will have three series on the air next season, same as Chernin Entertainment, which added one new series, Fox comedy Ben & Kate, to its returning New Girl and Touch; J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot (newbie Revolution and returning Person of Interest and Fringe) and Alloy (666 Park Ave, The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl).
Besides Fake Empire, the only other entity to log a 1.000 batting average this upfront was Lionsgate TV, also with two series out of two pilots, ABC darling Nashville and NBC’ midseason comedy Next Caller. The pickups capped the company’s renewed push into broadcast TV led by Chris Selak in her first season as head of development. Another established company in its first development cycle with a new top development executive, Wolf Films, which hired Danielle Gelber last July, landed its first non-Law & Order-branded new series in six years, NBC’s Chicago Fire. Two newly launched pods, Peter Traugott‘s Traugott Company and Lorenzo DiBonaventura‘s DiBonaventura Pictures Television, also scored series orders in their first year, NBC drama Do No Harm and ABC drama Zero Hour, respectively, as did two indies, Gaumont and Georgeville.
It’s just a matter of time, but “somewhere along the line you’re going to see a Chinese company buy a U.S. media company and technology company,” former News Corp COO Peter Chernin said today in an interview at The Paley Media Center. ”We’ll get up in arms. But it’s no different than us going in to buy their companies.” That’s something he’s been trying to do in his current role as chairman of the Chernin Group and Chernin Entertainment, where he’s scouring Asia for business opportunities. ”The tale of most of my career in the media business has been new technologies coming in and disrupting traditional media businesses,” he says. “You spend a lot of time wondering who’s attacking me? … I ultimately made the decision that it would be more fun to be a disruptor than to defend myself from disruption.” He particularly wants to develop businesses in Asia’s growing economies. For example, China has “the fastest-growing (movie) theatrical business in the world, about to pass Germany to be No. 3.” But local regulations and tastes make it difficult for U.S. companies to break in to key markets. Due to government restrictions in China, his view is for westerners to “avoid broadcasting first, avoid cable second.” India is more open, but western entertainment often baffles audiences. “It’s easier for the Chinese to understand the West than for the Indians,” Chernin says.
Part of a series that takes an analytical look at the current broadcast pilot season and some of its trends and heroes.
It has been a big year for non-writing producers this pilot season, the biggest since the so-called “invasion of the pod people” in 2003 when the broadcast pilot season and May series pickups for the first time were dominated by shows developed via pods, i.e. companies run by non-writing producers based at major studios.
There are a lot of familiar faces – some of the overachievers of the 2003 season are back in full force: Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, Brillstein Entertainment and Reveille as well as Imagine TV and Marty Adelstein. But Bruckheimer TV, a pilot season staple for the past decade and a top performer in 2003 with 3 pilots, all picked up to series, is without a pilot for the first time in years. (However, the company’s Fox project, a dramedy based on the life of music supervisor Kathy Nelson, has been pushed and remains in contention.)
But the big news this pilot season are the upstarts, companies formed in the past year-and-a-half, which have done very well. Leading the pack is the 20th TV-based Chernin Entertainment, which has had a dominating performance with 5 pilots this season: the Kiefer Suthaland starrer Touch, which is expected to get an episodic order at Fox, Stephen Gaghan’s cop drama S.I.L.A at NBC, Fox’s untitled Liz Meriwether comedy starring Zooey Deschanel, Fox comedy Outnumbered and NBC comedy Lovelives. The company already has 3 upcoming series, Fox’s Terra Nova - which it is co-producing with 2 of the other top performers this pilot season, DreamWorks TV and Kapital Entertainment – Fox’ animated comedy Allen Gregory and A&E’s Breakout Kings, which also started on broadcast.
Other recently formed TV companies that landed pilots this season include Aaron Kaplan’s indie Kapital Entertainment (ABC’s comedy Bad Mother, ABC dramedy Good Christian Bitches, NBC Western The Crossing), Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s 20th TV-based K/O Paper Products (Fox’s Ethan Hawke starrer Exit Strategy directed by Antoine Fuqua and another Fox drama, graphic novel adaptation Locke & Key), Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s Warner Bros.-based Fake Empire (ABC soap Georgetown starring Jimmy Wolk, the CW drama Hart of Dixie starring Rachel Bilson), Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein’s 20th TV-based 21 Laps/Adelstein (ABC’s untitled Jack Burditt comedy starring Tim Allen), Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen’s ABC Studios-based Temple Hill (ABC’s drama Revenge directed by Phillip Noyce) and Scot Armstrong and Ravi Nandan’s UMS-based American Work (NBC’s untitled Lennon Parham/Jessica St. Clair comedy)
In another twist this year, three independent production companies that operate outside of the studio system are having a great year. DreamWorks TV, a strong performer in 2003 with 5 pilots, 2 of which, Las Vegas and Line of Fire, went to series, has 3 pilots this year, second only to Chernin Entertainment, and tied with two another indies, Reveille and Kapital, as well as the ABC Studios-based Brillstein Entertainment and CBS TV Studios-based Tannenbaum Co. DreamWorks has NBC’s Broadway-themed Smash starring Debra Messing, ABC’s horror thriller The River directed by Jaume Collet-Sera and Fox’s Locke & Key. Reveille, which in 2003 had its Coupling remake picked up to series, has NBC comedy pilot My Life As an Experiment, Fox comedy Tagged and CW drama Awakening.
Heroes creator Tim Kring is back with his first pilot since the superhero NBC drama, and this time, it is at Fox. Fox has given a pilot order to Touch, another project with supernatural overtones from Kring, which is being produced by 20th TV and studio-based Chernin Entertainment. Touch centers on a father who discovers that his autistic, mute son can actually predict events before they happen. Kring wrote the project on spec, his first pilot script since Heroes. It was developed internally at Chernin Entertainment with the company’s head of TV Katherine Pope who had remained close with Kring after shepherding Heroes while at NBC and UMS. Because of 20th TV relationship with Fox, the spec was taken out to Fox first, and the network quickly gave it a pilot green light. Kring, Peter Chernin and Pope are executive producing Touch, one of two pilots picked up at Fox today. The network also greenlighted Little in Common, a single-camera comedy from Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas.
EXCLUSIVE: Chernin Entertainment is getting serious about comedy. The 20th Century Fox TV-based television division of the company has hired Tasha Brown as VP comedy, its first executive dedicated to developing half-hour projects. She started this week reporting to TV president Katherine Pope. Brown comes from BBC Worldwide Prods where she served as director of comedy development and worked on developing projects based on BBC formats, including Gavin and Stacey at ABC.
EXCLUSIVE: While he’s right now playing a lovable drunk in the Arthur reboot after portraying that drunken rock star in Get Him To The Greek, Russell Brand is finally getting the chance to play an old-time hero. Brand is the catalyst for Hawkwood, an action comedy that’s been acquired by 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment. Jared Stern will write the script. Brand’s deal is being negotiated by WME, but he’ll play the title role in an action-comedy that follows the adventures of a real-life swashbuckling figure, John Hawkwood.
Breakout Kings, the Cinderella story of this pilot season, officially got its happy ending today after I reported ‘Breakout Kings’ On The Verge Of A&E Deal. A&E completed a deal with 20th Century Fox’s Fox21 and Chernin Entertainment to pick up the former Fox pilot to series:
NEW YORK, NY – June 29, 2010 – A&E Network has picked up the new original drama series, “Breakout Kings” from Fox 21 and Chernin Entertainment. The network has ordered 13 one-hour episodes which will go into production this fall in Toronto for a 2011 premiere on A&E. From Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora, executive producers of the hit series “Prison Break,” comes “Breakout Kings,” a new action-packed ensemble drama following an unconventional partnership between the U.S. Marshals’ office and a group of convicts as they work to catch fugitives on the run. “As soon as we screened the ‘Breakout Kings’ pilot, it struck us as the perfect fit for A&E as the network of ‘Real Life. Drama,’” said Bob DeBitetto, President and General Manager of A&E and BIO Channel.