Days after Discovery Communications announced Nik Wallenda would take next take his high-wire act to Chicago to walk between two tall buildings, rival NatGeo said the holder of 15 free-diving world records will attempt to swim to a depth of 350 feet — deeper than the height of the State of Liberty — setting a new world record. On a single breath and with only his hands and feet to propel him, William Trubridge, 33, will attempt his dive into the abyss at Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas.
Discovery has found ratings success with white-knuckle stunts. Wallenda’s walk across the Grand Canyon area of Arizona last year attracted more than 10 million live viewers. At its upfront pageant last week, Discovery did not set a date for Wallenda’s Chicago encore, except to say it probably will take place in November. The network also recently announced that it will telecast California mountain climber Joby Ogwyn’s attempt to jump off the top of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, in a specially constructed wing suit. Read More »
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s executive editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom wrap up the latest in the big Aereo case before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, including briefs from an unexpected collection of supporters and financial backer Barry Diller’s comments on the TV service’s future if it loses. The two Davids also weigh Amazon’s rather tardy arrival as a purveyor of video-streaming devices with this week’s launch of the Amazon Fire TV; the Tribune Co.’s evolution as its digital wing buys one TV-oriented data company and relaunches another; and Discovery’s latest in a flurry of deals, as it launches a digital studio in partnership with two big-name Hollywood veterans, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.
Listen to the podcast in your choice of audio formats here:
Deadline Big Media podcast 79 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 79 (.M4A version)
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Kevin Spacey To Play Title Role In Old Vic’s ‘Clarence Darrow’
Kevin Spacey is taking a break from playing Frank Underwood and is returning to the role of Clarence Darrow. The actor will portray the pioneering lawyer for the second time on stage in the upcoming Old Vic production of Darrow. Spacey previously played the legendary attorney in the Old Vic’s staging of Inherit The Wind and on TV in the PBS film Darrow, which was helmed by his House Of Cards collaborator John David Coles. From May 28-June 15, Thea Sharrock is directing him in Clarence Darrow, David W. Rintel’s one-man show that relives some of the civil rights hero’s pivotal experiences including the Scopes “Monkey” Trial and the “Thrill Killers” trial. Sharrock’s credits include Equus with Daniel Radcliffe, Henry V with Tom Hiddleston for Sam Mendes/Neal Street and the BBC and the latest Call The Midwife Christmas special. Spacey is celebrating his 10th anniversary this year as the artistic director of the Old Vic. Also as part of the upcoming summer/fall season in the round, Ian Rickson is directing Kristin Scott Thomas in a new take on Sophocles’ Electra written by Dancing At Lughnasa scribe Brian Friel. That runs September 20-December 20.
Related: Kevin Spacey Self-Releasing ‘Now: In The Wings On A World Stage’: Q&A
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Jane Latman retains her responsibilities as SVP Development at Investigation Discovery. In her new post, Latman will report to Henry Schleiff, who recently was named group president of ID, Destination America, American Heroes Channel, and Discovery Fit & Health. She will continue to work for Kevin Bennett, GM ID and American Heroes Channel as ID’s chief development exec.
Late last month, in a re-alignment of its U.S. network portfolio, Discovery Communications named Eileen O’Neill to be Group President of the Discovery Channel and gave her oversight of Science Channel and Velocity — two networks seen to have tremendous growth opportunity. TLC, which O’Neill is credited with turning around, was given to the care of Marjorie Kaplan, who became Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, while Schleiff added O’Neill’s Discovery Fit & Health network to his watch, as Group President of that network and Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel. Read More »
Dude, you’re renewed! Deadline has learned that Discovery quietly has ordered a second season of reality competition series Dude, You’re Screwed from High Noon Entertainment. A twist on the survival genre, the series follows five of the world’s most elite, thrill-seeking survivalists who are captured one at a time by the other four. Once captured, they are then dropped in one of the world’s harshest environments and must make their way back to civilization — all within 100 hours. Season one, which premiered in December, featured a range of survivalists including a Green Beret, a member of the UK Royal Air Force, a former Navy SEAL and a veteran Army Scout. Jim Berger and Scott Feeley are exec producing for High Noon, along with Discovery’s Julie Meisner Eagle and Erin Wanner.
In a re-alignment of its U.S. network portfolio, Discovery Communications has named Eileen O’Neill to be Group President of the Discovery Channel and has been given oversight of Science Channel and Velocity — two networks seen to have tremendous growth opportunity. TLC, which O’Neill is credited with turning around, has been given to the care of Marjorie Kaplan, who becomes Group President of TLC and Animal Planet, while Henry Schleiff adds O’Neill’s Discovery Fit & Health network to his watch, as Group President of that network and Investigation Discovery, Destination America, and American Heroes Channel.
Related: Military Channel Changing Name To American Heroes Channel
“Nearly 70% of our global output is developed, commissioned and acquired in the U.S.,” company CEO David Zaslav said this morning in a memo to staff. “Most of our big characters, new franchises and tent pole specials have been developed by U.S. Network creative teams. We continue to invest in new international and local content, but it turns out that Gold Rush, River Monsters and I (Almost) Got Away With It attract an audience in almost every market in the world. The optionality of sharing our programming across so many brands and countries, and lining up that domestic content engine to support our global distribution growth overall, is key to our success.” He noted the cpmpany’s marketshare in the U.S. is up significantly over the past six years, growing from 5% in 2007 to nearly 12% today, “and that creative output has helped drive marketshare growth of nearly 25% internationally during the same time.”
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“It’s another piece of American madness,” Sam Shepard said today of Discovery‘s first scripted project, Klondike. “You know, another chunk of insanity that we carry around with us, regardless of whether it’s involved in technology or involved in trapping beavers.” In December, Discovery announced its miniseries about the Klondike Gold Rush of 1895, co-produced by Scott Free Television, eOne and Nomadic Pictures and based on Canadian journalist Charlotte Gray’s novel Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich In The Klondike. The script, written by Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring, tells the story of six strangers and their collective fight for survival and wealth in a small frontier town in the remote Klondike. Chris Cooper, cast in February as Father Judge — who has come to Klondike to atone for his violent past on a mission to save souls — exited in March after suffering a minor heart attack. Shepard replaced him.
One TV critic wanted to know if Scheuring was intimidated writing for actor-playwright Shepard. “I wrote it before I knew he was going to be Judge – it’s easy to write in a vacuum.” he responded. That said, Shepard “was willing to collaborate; he had his thoughts,” he continued, adding quickly, “It’s obviously an honor – he’s Sam Shepard!” Shepard didn’t think much of a question about the difference between wearing the “writer hat” and the “actor hat.” “Hats look exactly the same. There’s no difference between The Writing Hat and The Acting Hat,” he said dismissively.
A question about his “motivation” for taking on this role, and whether his motivation for accepting roles has changed over his long career, didn’t play too well either. “Yeah. I was out of work…the landlord was going to kick me out,” he responded. Read More »
Discovery is renaming its Military Channel — now called American Heroes Channel, as of March 3. ”This newly renamed network is an intersection of miltiary and history programming, and looks to substantially broaden its current appeal, said Henry Schleiff, who oversees the network among other Discovery platforms. That includes programming about fireman, policemen, “and those who don’t necessarily wear a uniform.” The emphasis will still be on male viewers, he added. Heroism transcends the military, TV critics attending the TCA Winter Press Tour 2014 were told — and the explanation that when the channel launched in the midst of two wars, military and military issues were hot. American Heroes Channel’s first year will include 17 new series and specials, with four original series and specials launching in the first week. Premiere week programming will include: Raw War: The Lost Film Of Dak To, Against the Odds, CIA: Declassified, and Codes & Conspiracies.
The network then moved straight into its military show Q&A session for Against The Odds, billed as “the real-life Band Of Brothers,” featuring, among others, the genuinely emotional — not often seen at the press tour — World War II vet William Steele Sr, who noted, “This country was united” during WWII. “Roosevelt and Eisenhower were together. That’s what we need now,” he said, getting choked up. “War – we will always have them somehow…will be somebody shooting at one another. The bombing of us — that united us and everybody was supportive of us.” He added: “When I came home from overseas — I get a little emotional — when I come home and got off the ship in San Francisco, there was no band,” Steele said, fighting tears. “I walked down the plank…to a plot of grass and kissed it…. When you’re in war you don’t fight for honor — you fight for defense of each other. The heroes of war are the ones that didn’t come home.” Read More »
Discovery Channel has ordered a new series, The West, from Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn’s Sundance Productions. The West will focus on the wilderness, frontier lawlessness, and bloodshed of the 40 years between the end of the American Civil War until after the turn of the 20th Century.
From today’s announcement:
Discovery Channel announces today that it is in production of an all-new series, THE WEST, produced for Discovery by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn’s Sundance Productions, who recently produced Discovery Channel’s Emmy Award nominated documentary All the President’s Men Revisited, and Stephen David Entertainment, known for its two-time Emmy Award winning series, The Men Who Built America. THE WEST is set to premiere in 2014.
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Discovery Communications, intent upon owning the naked reality-TV genre, said this morning it will premiere a two-hour special/backdoor pilot, Buying Naked on TLC, on November 20. The special follows two nudist couples as they search for their dream homes. “Turns out, finding a home for a nudist couple is treacherous. Sharp corners and cramped kitchens “can injure the house’s inhabitants without the barrier of a basic T-shirt,” TLC explained. Enter Jackie Youngblood, a real estate agent who “has proven to be an authority figure on finding prime real estate for her clothing-optional clientele.” It all takes place in Pasco County, FL, which TLC says is home to one of the world’s largest nudist communities. Which presumably means it’s easier there than elsewhere to find homes for sale that boast T-shirt-covered corners. And, did you know that real estate agents specializing in nudist clients always have a good stock of towels, for the clients to sit on while touring homes? Apparently the clients don’t think to bring their own.
While the premiere resembles classic Discovery Communications backdoor-pilot strategy, it’s unclear whether there’s enough material for a series about nudist house hunting. However, TLC may be looking at doing a series about the nudist community – TLC being a network that specializes in “hidden communities.” A nudist show would be a nice departure from the prairie-dress hidden-community shows that now litter TLC’s lineup, including its programming on the Amish, and two new series on the FLDS community.
Here’s the trailer:
TLC, which, despite shortening its name to its initials, can’t seem to shake the feeling it has a responsibility to explain how its programming is instructive, explained in this morning’s announcement that Buying Naked will “expose viewers to essential nudist real estate tips to ensure a comfortable and danger-free abode for anyone interested in ditching their wardrobe for the au naturel.” Read More »
Discovery issued an email this morning letting the media know it has ended its programming partnership with BBC – a relationship that’s produced some of Discovery’s most acclaimed Oprah Winfrey-narrated natural history telecasts. “Discovery and the BBC today announced that their longstanding partnership is coming to an end, by mutual agreement,” a statement said this morning, taking a page out of the Kardashian playbook.
It’s the same old story: they’d grown apart — BBC focusing on blue-chip shows along the lines of Life, and Frozen Planet, Discovery looking for more character-driven reality series: Gold Rush, Gold Fever, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Naked And Afraid. Maybe even more important, in the years since the relationship began, Discovery has launched channels in international markets where, per terms of its deal, it did not have distribution rights on BBC programs. Discovery will now go it alone, without BBC by its side, like it did on the seven-part Tom Selleck-narrated natural history series North America it debuted last May. With its international becoming such a big part of its business, having content for all of its global channels became a major imperative.
And yet, Discovery’s Andrew Jackson, EVP Production & Development, Landmark Series and Specials, said in this morning’s announcement: “As Discovery’s global audiences continue to flourish, they demand the very best science and natural history programming. … Read More »
Nancy Daniels, general manager of Discovery Communications’ Discovery Fit & Health, is returning to TLC as its new GM. Daniels, who also was serving as Discovery Channel’s EVP Production & Development, is replacing Amy Winter who stepped down from the post last month but will remain with the net as EVP Brand Marketing. Winter, who’d told staff that her plans to relocate her family from Atlanta didn’t work out as planned, came to the post from a marketing position — Daniels is a programmer. As TLC’s SVP Production and Development, she oversaw the launch of Cake Boss, The Little Couple, Sister Wives and Sarah Palin’s Alaska. More recently, at Discovery Channel, she oversaw live events — Skywire Live, for example. She also oversaw such popular Discovery series as including Bering Sea Gold, Naked And Afraid, Deadliest Catch, Mythbusters as well as the All the President’s Men Revisited special. At Discovery Fit & Health, Daniels managed day-to-day operations. In her new gig, she will report to Eileen O’Neill, Group President, Discovery and TLC Networks. Read More »
Discovery Communications has promoted Robert Scanlon to general manager of Velocity network. Since October of 2011, Scanlon has been SVP at the network, which made news recently when Patrick Dempsey, star of its four-part miniseries Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans, told the press at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013 that acting — the thing he does on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy — is that which he does in order to finance his real love, which is race car driving. From today’s announcement: Read More »
This was a complicated quarter: In April Discovery closed its $1.7B acquisition of SBS Nordic, the Scandinavian TV and radio company. Even so, investors had high expectations for the company that the Q2 numbers out this morning missed. Net income came in at $300M, +2.4% vs the period last year, on revenues of $1.47B, +30.3%. The top line was just a hair below the $1.48B that analysts anticipated. But earnings at 82 cents a share missed forecasts for 90 cents. Meanwhile, Discovery shaved its full year outlook. It now foresees revenues going as high as $5.625B, down from $5.7B it had in its range three months ago, with the most optimistic net income forecast dropping to $1.15B from $1.3B. A 10% improvement in ad revenues, and a slug of cash from Netflix, helped to propel a 13% improvement in revenues at the U.S. cable networks, coming in at $793M. Discovery says that it saw an additional $37M from licensing arrangements; without that, distribution revenues would have been +5%. The company’s focus on overseas properties appeared to pay off: Revenues at international networks jumped 61% to $652M, and would have been up a respectable 14% without the new acquisitions. Strong performances in Latin America and Western Europe resulted in a 21% pick up in ad sales, not including the new properties. “Discovery’s strong operating and financial momentum continued during the second quarter as we further capitalized on the organic growth … Read More »
The season three premiere of MTV’s comedy Awkward last night garnered a 2.3 P12-34 rating for each of the two back-to-back episodes. That was up 5% from the show’s season two premiere and up 35% from Awkward‘s series debut to set a new season opener high mark. The series created by Lauren Iungerich also had its highest rating ever among teens, with a 4.0 rating for the 10 PM episode and a 3.9 for the 10:30 PM episode. The two Awkward episodes ranked as the top 2 telecasts yesterday among 12-34, teens and female teens. Awkward was also the most social TV program of the day, with a quarter of all Twitter TV conversations centering around the series, according to Social Guide.
Meanwhile, the ninth season premiere of Discovery‘s Deadliest Catch drew a 1.6/4 in adults 18-49 and 3.5 million total viewers, up 12% in the demo and 11% in total viewers from last season to post the veteran reality series’ best score in almost two years. It boosted Discovery to No. 1 among cable networks in adults 18-49 (1.2/3).
There will not be a third season of Discovery‘s docu reality series American Guns. The show, about a family of gun makers, has been drawing attention following Friday’s elementary school shooting in a Connecticut in which 26 people — including 20 first-grade children — were gunned down by a 20-year-old whose mom was a gun collector. There have been angry messages posted by viewers on the show’s Facebook page. American Guns has now been cancelled. Discovery sources say the decision was quietly made awhile ago, however it didn’t come to light until today. “American Guns concluded earlier this year,” a spokesperson said. “Discovery Channel chose not to renew the series and has no plans to air repeats of the show.” The fact that the network is not even keeping repeats of the show on the air indicate that the Connecticut tragedy may have played at least some part in the decision.
The second season of American Guns got off to a strong start in April with 1.15 HH rating, 0.87 in adults 25-54 and 0.79 in adults 18-49, up 50% from last year’s series premiere. But the ratings subsequently dropped off and, in the end, Season 2 finished down double-digits from Season 1. I hear Discovery brass also felt there was no story left to tell, contributing to the cancellation decision. American Guns joins two veteran Discovery series that have been recently cancelled: … Read More »
Atchity Entertainment and Ramos and Sparks Group announced today they plan to turn former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine’s bestselling book The Kennedy Detail into a feature film. The plan is for a late 2013 release to coincide with the assassination of Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Blaine’s 2010 book, written with Lisa McCubbin, tells the tale of JFK’s presidency from the perspective of the men who guarded his life while in office and on that day in Dallas. Discovery aired a Martin Sheen-narrated documentary based on The Kennedy Detail on December 2, 2010. The Emmy-nominated doc was executive produced by Ken Atchity and Chi-Li Wong. Blaine and McCubbin served as producers.
EXCLUSIVE: The revolving door at OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network continues. The latest high-level executive to depart the struggling cable network is SVP Business and Legal Affairs Alan Saxe, a well-respected executive who ran OWN’s business affairs department. In light of his departure (he reportedly left to pursue other opportunities), Tina Perry, VP Business and Legal Affairs, will lead the department as interim head. Saxe is the latest in a slew of executive departures at OWN, most recently EVP Production and Development Lisa Erspamer.
Meanwhile, OWN has been in cost-cutting mode after an yearlong struggle to break out in the ratings despite a marquee brand name and massive cash infusion from co-parent Discovery Communications. I hear the network’s executives have been told that the business in its current form is unsustainable and cuts have to be made, especially in the main Los Angeles office. Leading the charge in that area is new Discovery CFO Andy Warren, who has been examining OWN’s books. In one cost-cutting measure, OWN was recently asked to eliminate temp positions. The network has had a lot of essential positions, including assistants, filled by non-full-time employees, something that will now end. Read More »
3net, the joint venture 24/7 3D network from Sony, Discovery and IMAX, announced the debut of the world’s first dedicated kids 3D programming block with two all-new animated 3D series – Bolts & Blip and Dream Defenders — which will be introduced in a prime-time special Sept. 25. The “3net Three Dee Kids” Saturday and Sunday morning lineup will premiere in its regular 10 AM weekend time on Oct. 1 and will also include Sony Pictures 3D family films as well as the live-action original series Feeding Time, the 3net exclusive Puppy Bowl and more. Here are descriptions of the new series: Read More »