Starz‘s fantasy drama learned the hard way last weekend just how important a lead-in can be. With the 2013 pic White House Down playing beforehand, the Season 2 premiere of Da Vinci’s Demons fell 44% from its Season 1 debut last year. The Saturday night 9 PM airing on March 22 had 580,000 total viewers. Having the series finale of Spartacus: War Of The Damned as its lead-in, the Season 1 premiere pulled in 1.04 million total viewers in its 10 PM airing on on Friday, April 12. The news for the David S. Goyer-created series’ Season 2 debut gets a lot better when all its plays over the whole weekend are counted up. The Adjacent Productions show drew 2 million viewers over all its broadcasts last weekend. That’s just a 6% dip from the 2.14 million that Demons had over its Season 1 debut weekend last year. It’s also a 41% rise over the show’s Season 1 finale weekend in early June. The total plays for that weekend were 1.4 million. On its own, the Season 1 finale at 10PM on June 7 garnered 380,000 viewers – 34% fewer than the Season 2 debut. With Season 1 of the show getting an average audience of 1.6 million over its weekend airings, the Season 2 debut weekend was up 25%.
On the heels of its strong premiere last Friday, Da Vinci’s Demons, Starz’s new series from David Goyer, has been given a second season pickup. The historical fantasy about the young years of world’s greatest genius, Leonardo da Vinci (Tom Riley), drew 1.04 million viewers for its debut behind the series finale of Spartacus. The Da Vinci’s Demons opener was watched by more than 2.14 million total viewers over the weekend, making it the highest-rated premiere weekend ever for a Starz original series, edging Camelot (2.09 million). Starz had already made preparations for a potential second season, so production is expected to begin pretty soon, next month, for a 2014 premiere. ’Da Vinci’s Demons’ serves up action, adventure and history in a unique and highly entertaining way that only someone like David S. Goyer can,” said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht. Added Goyer, “I’m excited that we get to continue the adventures of the world’s most eccentric and glorious polymath.”
The trend towards transatlantic series was further confirmed this week at Mip-TV which starts winding down today. Internationally-packaged dramas that were tubthumped here included Starz/BBC Worldwide’s Da Vinci’s Demons, Endemol/AMC’s Low Winter Sun, Netflix/Gaumont International TV’s Hemlock Grove, Starz/BBC’s The White Queen, eOne/DirecTV‘s Rogue and Tandem Communication’s Crossing Lines, which NBC picked up last month for a summer debut. Early on in the market, Starz announced it was partnering with Sky Atlantic on Fortitude, a drama written by Simon Donald, creator of the original British version of Low Winter Sun.
Apart from their international flavor, the shows also have in common that they were almost all picked up in straight-to-series deals. Horrormeister and Hemlock Grove exec producer Eli Roth said knowing that he had 13 episodes from the outset was “really an advantage.” It enabled him to keep working along the way on one aspect of the initial episodes – a character’s complex transformation into a werewolf. Tandem’s Rola Bauer, who’s exec producing Crossing Lines said, “I would encourage” Hollywood to do more straight-to-series orders, and “trust us.” During pilot season, she said, “everyone is chasing the same actors” and trying to access state and foreign tax credits at the same time, making for a frenzied atmosphere. But she allowed that “The UK and America are open to realizing the economic market needs to have a different way of working creatively… I hope the show makes it easier for people to come over here and make co-productions.”
Listen to (and share) the MIPTV edition of our audio podcast Deadline Festivals & Markets Watch, featuring Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione. Nancy and host David Bloom discuss trends shaping this year’s MIPTV show in Cannes, including the ongoing fight between reality and scripted drama supporters over which is the best way to go in global markets; Dark Knight and Man Of Steel scribe David Goyer’s latest project, Da Vinci’s Demons; and why CSI creator Anthony Zuiker won the Pioneer Prize for his brand-driven online series Cybergeddon. Nancy also looks ahead to likely highlights for the rest of the show.
Da Vinci’s Demons creator David S. Goyer was in Cannes this morning to present clips from the new Starz/BBC Worldwide series that debuts April 12 in the U.S. The Batman trilogy and Man Of Steel scripter said he’d already had a lifelong interest in the famed inventor when he was approached for Da Vinci’s Demons and “wrote a crazy idea I never thought they’d go for.” Likening Da Vinci to the original Batman, whose cape was based Da Vinci’s glider drawings, he said the show could be seen as “Leonardo as a superhero.” British actor Tom Riley, who plays Da Vinci, was also in the MIPTV audience and showed off his ambidextrous talents in snippets from the series which got a rousing reaction.
The adventure drama written by David S. Goyer stars Tom Riley as a young Leonardo Da Vinci navigating the turbulent world of Renaissance Florence as his genius begins to …
EXCLUSIVE: British actor Tom Riley has landed the lead in Starz’s new original series Da Vinci’s Demons, from David S. Goyer and BBC Worldwide Prods. Riley will play a young Leonardo da Vinci in the drama, described as a historical fantasy following the ‘untold’ story of the world’s greatest genius during his turbulent youth in Renaissance Florence. Brilliant and passionate, the twenty five-year old da Vinci is an artist, inventor, swordsman, lover, dreamer and idealist who begins to not only see the future, but invent it. “Given that da Vinci was the model for the ‘Renaissance Man,’ these were incredibly large shoes to fill,” Goyer said of the search to cast the role. “Leonardo had to be smart, witty, and incredibly confident – without coming across as arrogant. He also had to be tormented, because, as a true visionary and polymath, he was ostracized for his ideas as much as he was celebrated. Tom came in and was able to effortlessly combine all of those elements. As soon as he finished his audition, we knew we’d found our man.”
Analysts attending Liberty Media’s annual investor day on Thursday will be listening carefully when Starz CEO Chris Albrecht discusses his channel’s plans. His boss, Liberty Chairman John Malone, loves to buy, sell, and swap assets — as long as he can do so without paying a big tax bill. And there’s a growing belief that Malone is positioning Starz for a deal as the company focuses its branding efforts around more than 50 hours of original programs — including Boss, Magic City, Spartacus, and Da Vinci’s Demons — instead of theatrical films from Disney and Sony. For example, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says in a blog post today that “a transaction may…be coming to turn Starz into an asset based security” instead of just part of the Liberty Starz tracking stock. Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible says that Starz’ “strategic benefits could make it an M&A target.” Maxim Group’s John Tinker agrees that Starz “should be merged into a larger entity.”
Albrecht reinforced those views recently by talking up his desire to have the channel stand out as a premium service. On Friday he elaborated at the Monaco Media Forum on points he made earlier in the week on the Liberty earnings call: The channel scrapped its effort to negotiate a new streaming deal with Netflix because it didn’t set Starz apart from the video pack.
EXCLUSIVE: Starz has given a straight-to-series order to Da Vinci’s Demons, an adventure series from The Dark Knight/Man Of Steel co-writer David S. Goyer and BBC Worldwide Prods. Da Vinci’s Demons has received an eight-episode order and is slated to start filming in early 2012 for a 2013 premiere. This is the first project to enter production under the multi-year agreement Starz signed with BBC Worldwide Prods. in August.
Written by Goyer, Da Vinci’s Demons is described as a historical fantasy that follows the “untold” story of the world’s greatest genius during his raucous youth in Renaissance Florence. Brash and brilliant, the 25-year-old da Vinci is an artist, inventor, swordsman, lover, dreamer and idealist. As a free thinker, with intellect and talents that are almost superhuman, he struggles to live within the confines of his own reality and time. He begins to not only see the future, but invent it. “Da Vinci was the original Renaissance man — a near-mythic figure that has world-wide appeal,” Goyer said. “This will be a show about secret histories, genius, madness, and all things profane. And I’m particularly excited that I get to do it on premium cable, where the story can be as dark and challenging and irreverent as it deserves to be.”
Goyer will serve as showrunner on the series, executive producing alongside Julie Gardner and BBC Worldwide Prods. head Jane Tranter. “David has reimagined some of the most iconic superheroes of all time, and is again building an extraordinary prism through which to rediscover the world’s greatest genius and most mysterious man,” Starz Media Managing Director Carmi Zlotnik said. “If modern day has Tony Stark, the Renaissance had da Vinci.” Da Vinci’s Demons started heating up in late August when produces began sending out feelers to writers about potential staffing jobs. That has now turned to firm staffing offers.