EXCLUSIVE: A sequel to Lifetime’s five-part original movie Five, which told five breast cancer stories, is in the final stages of development at the network, closing in on a green light. Tentatively titled Five 2, the followup will address mental illness, keeping the structure of five short films tied together. Most of the auspices of the original movie are back, led by Friends star Jennifer Aniston and co-creator Marta Kauffman, who return as executive producers, alongside Kristin Hahn, Kevin Chinoy and Francesca Silvestri. Sony Pictures TV, Echo Films and Freestyle Picture Company will produce. In addition to executive producing the first film, Aniston also directed one of the five shorts in it. While not a ratings hit, Five was a project Lifetime brass are proud about. It attracted big stars behind and in front of the camera, including Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore and Patty Jenkins as directors.
2ND UPDATE: A 5 AM walkthrough of the Royal Wedding route took place today complete with carriages, trumpeters and up to 1,000 members of the Armed Forces wearing full ceremonial uniform. Meanwhile, the first spectator has claimed his spot right outside Westminster Abbey, kitted out with flags, a sleeping bag and an umbrella. But when Prince William slides the wedding ring on Kate Middleton’s finger on April 29, will there really be an expected global audience of 2 billion watching? NBC keeps saying ”it’s completely false” that it has cut back on the number of pre-taped segments because U.S. networks may have overestimated America’s appetite for all things House of Windsor compared to 1981, when William’s father Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer. This time, around 140 million U.S. viewers are expected to watch. Worldwide, when 800 million watched the Charles-Di nuptials, this time Tim Santhouse, operational manager at AP Television News Global Media Services tells me ”the volume of broadcasters coming to London, and the number of camera set-ups involved, is unprecedented in terms of interest from overseas broadcasters and the proliferation of news outlets.” AP will be providing camera set-ups and satellite uplinks for around 60 networks doing direct-to-camera pieces including Canada’s CTV, Australia’s Channel 9, and Arab news channel Al-Jazeera. The 62 broadcaster members of the European Broadcast Union -– which include ARD in Germany, France 2 and RAI in Italy –- will be getting their clean feed directly from the BBC. Sam Dubberly, who is in charge of forwarding BBC coverage, tells me, ”the closer we get to the wedding, the more requests we’ve been getting from members.” But NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster, won’t only out of respect for its still-grieving population in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami disaster.
Talk about a high-tech event: one estimate has 8,000 TV and radio reporters and support staff traveling from around the world into London to cover the nuptials, which start at 3 AM PT. Around 140 outside broadcast trucks with satellite uplinks will be parked in nearby Green Park, with every major world broadcaster lining up cameras along the procession route. The BBC will be using 21 cameras inside the scene of the wedding itself, Westminster Abbey, some of them wireless and remote-controlled. But Prince Charles’ office stopped Rupert Murdoch from shooting the wedding in 3D, saying there just wasn’t enough room for his extra equipment in the Abbey.
Here’s who’s trying to cash in on Friday’s wedding day:
That’s what CEO Dawn Airey told senior managers at a group meeting this morning. Richard Desmond, Five’s new owner, told Sky News that he’s planning to invest £50-100 million ($77-155 million) in Five’s schedule. He can afford it. The Sunday Times Rich List has estimated his personal fortune to be just under £1 billion.
But before Hollywood executives start popping the California champagne, they should know Desmond plans to renegotiate some of Five’s studio deals. This is because many of Five’s current studio deals are loss-making. It has to pay out every time it screens a movie, rarely making enough ad revenue back to cover the cost.
Desmond has underlined his desire to keep US shows such as CSI though as well as Australian soap Home and Away. Indeed, he doesn’t have an option with Home and Away. Five is tied into a lifetime deal for the soap.
Other programming ideas mooted include reviving BBC pop chart show Top of the Pops and taking Big Brother over from Channel 4, splitting revenue with Endemol. Desmond’s papers have a strong relationship with the reality show. Forget Afghanistan or the economic crisis: the front page of tabloid Daily Star always splashes with what’s going on inside the Big Brother house.
Airey told senior managers this morning that Desmond’s team from his company Northern & Shell are going to spend several weeks getting to know the business before making any decisions about the channel’s future direction.
However, Airey …
The UK newspaper baron is apparently thinking of transforming Five into a UK version of E! Entertainment, the US channel which broadcasts a stream of celebrity news and profiles. Apart from owning the tabloid Daily Express, Richard Desmond also owns weekly OK! — a downmarket version of Spain’s ¡Hola! – which seems to come from a Bizarro alternate universe of celebrities such as former topless model Jordan and various other reality TV stars. The Five deal marks the first time a private individual has ever owned a UK public-service network.
Kip Meek has been appointed non-executive chairman of Project Canvas, the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk and Arqiva to create on-demand TV. Meek will step down from his consulting job at Ingenious Media. There’s been talk that Orange, the French mobile phone company, may join Project Canvas. Five dropped out earlier this month because of budget restraints.
Set to be called YouView, Canvas could transform the way we watch TV here in Britain. Canvas will convert your TV into an on-demand portal, where you can watch the output of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five whenever you want. I’m very excited about the implications of Project Canvas. In a few years’ time, I suspect the whole notion of watching linear TV channels is going to seem very quaint.
The newspaper tycoon is in pole position to win control of Five, reports the Sunday Times. Deadline predicted Desmond would take over the channel three weeks ago. Desmond will honour long-term US programming contracts for shows include CSI and Law & Order, but will bring in more reality TV and chat-shows. Endemol is interested in bringing its Big Brother over to Five even though it decided not to bid for the channel. Desmond will also maintain Five’s public-service commitments – i.e. regular news bulletins – in order to keep that valuable high ranking on pay-TV electronic programme guides. But staff members are braced for redundancies.
Kip Meek, head of Ingenious Media’s consulting arm, is set to be named chairman of Project Canvas later this week, according to the Guardian. Project Canvas is the groundbreaking TV service that’s being launched by the UK’s terrestrial broadcasters. Canvas declined to comment.
Meek is seen as a good choice, having been senior policy partner at communications regulator Ofcom. He also has strong ties to the government, having sat with Liz Murdoch on the Conservatives’ creative industries review panel, chaired by ex-BBC boss Greg Dyke.
“He’s a very capable bloke, especially in areas such as broadband,” one media analyst tells me.
Canvas has been rocked by Five dropping out of the project – although its programmes will still available when the service launches early 2011. Five has left the other partners – BBC, ITV and Channel 4 plus telcos BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva – to shoulder its share of the £116 million cost. Five was expected to contribute £16 million a year to help pay for Canvas. But now it’s being fattened up for sale. It may be that Five’s new owner doesn’t want to be saddled with that kind of financial commitment.
Set to be called YouView, Canvas could transform the way we watch TV here in Britain. Canvas will convert your TV into an on-demand portal, where you can watch the output of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five whenever you want. The idea of having linear TV channels could disappear completely.