Almost a week after Hub Network president and CEO Margaret Loesch announced that she will be stepping down at the end of the year, speculation about the future of the upstart kids cable channel — a co-venture between Discovery Communications and toy maker Hasbro — is growing. At the time of Loesch’s announcement, I was hearing the name of Discovery veteran Tom Cosgrove — CEO of another Discovery co-venture channel, 3D Television Network — as a potential replacement. Cosgrove continues to be rumored for the job. Complicating a potential hire is the fact that 3D is a three-way venture of Discovery, Sony and Imax, but I hear Discovery has been exploring becoming a majority or sole owner of the fledgeling 3D TV channel. There is talk that Hub might be put under the purview of Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel (formerly Military Channel) and Discovery Fit & Health. He only recently added Fit & Health to his portfolio, so oversight of Hub would further expand his turf, with Cosgrove possibly reporting to him.
EXCLUSIVE: Hub Network president and CEO Margaret Loesch will be stepping down at the end of the year. The veteran executive oversaw the 2010 launch of the kids cable network, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro, and has run it ever since. Loesch’s departure raises further questions about the future of the upstart kids cable network, which has been plagued by rumors that it may be shutting down. Hub, which replaced Discovery Kids, is not commenting on its plans for the future, though I’m hearing the name of a Discovery veteran — Tom Cosgrove, CEO of another Discovery co-venture channel, 3D Television Network — as a potential replacement. There is talk that Hub, which reaches nearly 73 million U.S. homes, may be re-branded, with its headquarters, currently based in Burbank, potentially moving to Discovery’s home base in Silver Spring, MD.
“After five years at the Hub Network as its founding President & CEO, I am announcing that I will be leaving at the end of the year when my contract expires,” Loesch said in a statement to Deadline. “I am very proud of the work we have done and the accomplishments we have achieved at the Hub. The network is now in excellent financial shape, its ratings are up year-to-year, our programming has won more than 30 awards, including 12 Daytime Emmys, and the Hub Network has become a TV home for quality programming that kids and their families come together to enjoy. I will be working closely with our parent companies, Discovery and Hasbro, to assist in the leadership transition. I want to thank both companies for the opportunity they extended me and thank my wonderful team at the Hub. I have loved my job and am proud of the achievements we’ve made. While my career has spanned over four decades, I look forward to evaluating future opportunities and writing the next chapter.”
Hasbro, Blumhouse Prods, Scooter Braun Prods and Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) are partnering to bring Hasbro’s 1980s cult classic cartoon series Jem And The Holograms to the big screen. Chu, Jason Blum and Scooter Braun made the announcement today on Tumblr and are asking fans to help in the creative process (see video below). Chu is directing from a script by Ryan Landels with production set to begin this spring. Mixing music, art, technology, and fairytale, Jem And The Holograms reimagines Jem for a whole new generation with themes of being true to who you are in a multitasking, hyperlinked social-media age. When an orphaned teenage girl becomes an online recording sensation, she and her sisters embark on a music-driven scavenger hunt – one that sends them on an adventure across Los Angeles in an attempt to unlock a final message left by her father. Hasbro, Blumhouse and SBP are producing. Chu is repped by WME, Principato-Young and Stone, Meyer, Genow, Smelkinson and Binder; Landels is with WME, Kersey Management and Stone, Meyer, Genow, Smelkinson and Binder and Hasbro is repped by WME. Check out the video:
The moves over who owns the rights to make a Dungeons & Dragons movie and who is actually going to make one have taken another roll of the dice on the legal tabletop with studios Universal and Warner Bros watching on the sidelines. More than half a year after Hasbro filed a copyright and trademark infringement complaint against Sweetpea Entertainment on May 14, the latter is seeking a partial dismissal of the case. Hasbro has a potential D&D deal with Universal and Sweetpea has an agreement with Warner Bros. With a team led by heavyweight entertainment lawyer Patricia Glazer of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, producer Courtney Solomon’s Sweetpea filed a motion for partial summary judgment on December 13 (read it here). “To establish copyright infringement, a plaintiff must show that the defendant has used protectable elements of the plaintiff’s copyrighted works in an infringing work. Here, plaintiffs allege that a script entitled Chainmail infringes copyrights they own. Chainmail, however, was not written by Sweetpea, nor did Sweetpea have a hand in developing the script. “Chainmail was written without any involvement by Sweetpea,” says the 14-page motion filed in LA federal. To put it simply Sweetpea may have looked at script from a studio but they’re not making Chainmail as some sort of D& D derivative. Sweetpea has requested a hearing on its motion for January 24.
Olivia Cooke headlines the cast of Ouija, Universal’s horror film inspired by the Hasbro board game, with Douglas Smith as the male lead. The pic follows a group of teens playing with a Ouija board, making contact with an evil spirit, and desperately trying to close the door they’ve opened before meeting their own fate. Daren Kagasoff also is in the cast. Stiles White directs Ouija and co-wrote the script with Juliet Snowden. Michael Bay, Jason Blum, Brad Fuller, Andrew Form and Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir are producing, and EVP Production Scott Bernstein is overseeing for Universal. Cooke (Bates Motel) is repped by Gersh and manager Lena Roklin; Smith (Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters) is with Paradigm and Medavoy Management.
UPDATE, 5:52 PM: The other player in the battle over who owns the movie rights to Dungeons & Dragons has just made their latest move. Regardless of the copyright and trademark infringement complaint filed today by Hasbro, Sweetpea Entertainment say they intend to move ahead with their D&D film at Warner Bros. “This is nothing but shameless opportunism on the part of Hasbro, an effort to use the Court and the legal process in an attempt to delay the project,” said Sweetpea’s Courtney Solomon in a statement late Tuesday. Having retained powerhouse entertainment lawyer Patricia Glazer of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, the producer says Sweetpea hopes to deal with the legal matter “quickly and firmly and we are confident we will prevail.” Glazer calls Hasbro’s suit “classic Hollywood shenanigans.” Read the full statement from Sweetpea below:
Sweetpea Entertainment has had Dungeons & Dragons motion picture rights since the 1990’s including sequel, prequel and remake rights” said Sweetpea principal Courtney Solomon. “We have made three pictures so far, and we’re going to make more –including the tentpole project that is currently in advanced stages of development with Warner Bros.”
Last week, trades had reported that Warner Bros. was proceeding with the development of the project, working with a script by David Leslie Johnson, to be produced by Roy Lee, Courtney Solomon and Allan Zeman.
“This is nothing but shameless opportunism on
EXCLUSIVE: Yesterday, I broke a story about Warner Bros making big plans on a live-action feature based on the role-playing fantasy game fixture Dungeons & Dragons. Not so fast, says Hasbro, which claims that it owns the rights to D&D, and that the toymaker company has set up the project at Universal to be developed as a directing vehicle by Chris Morgan, the scribe behind the last five films in The Fast And The Furious franchise (including the upcoming Fast 6) and 47 Ronin.
Well, nobody is commenting for the record at Warner Bros, but I can tell you the studio isn’t backing down from its plans to move forward on a project that already has a completed script by Wrath Of The Titans scribe David Leslie Johnson, with Roy Lee producing alongside Courtney Solomon. Solomon actually directed the 2000 feature based on the billion-dollar fantasy game. Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness said that “Hasbro owns the intellectual property rights to Dungeons & Dragons, period, because of Hasbro’s acquisition of Wizards Of The Coast in 1998.” Insiders on the other project maintain this has come up before, and that in a binding arbitration decision, Solomon prevailed and was proven to hold the underlying rights necessary to make the Warner Bros movie possible.
This morning’s earnings release says little about the specific charges in the restructuring, but the overall numbers are largely in line with expectations. The company reported a net loss of $6.7M, up from a $2.6M loss in the period last year, on revenues of $663.7M, +2.3%. The top line beat the $638.8M that analysts anticipated. Without the $28.9M in restructuring charges, Hasbro would have generated 4 cents in earnings per share — matching the Street’s consensus forecast. Entertainment and Licensing accounted for about $1.7M in the restructuring cost leaving the unit with a $5.3M operating profit, -31.2%, on revenues of $20.8M, +5.1%. Hasbro says that the operation, which includes The Hub — its cable partnership with Discovery — “primarily benefited from the sale of television programming.” CEO Brian Goldner says that the company is “creating innovative consumer experiences across our brand blueprint globally while improving efficiencies and focus throughout our business.”
Discovery Communications and Hasbro have poached Disney Channel/Disney XD executive Nikki Reed as head of programming for their joint venture, rival children’s cable network The Hub, which is looking to expand into live-action programming. Reed, named SVP Programming & Development for The Hub, replaces Donna Ebbs, who served as the first programming chief for The Hub since its October 2010 launch. Ebbs is now transitioning to a consultant and executive producer role. “Our goal is to utilize my relationships with writers, producers and talent to grow The Hub’s existing slate of programming and enhance it with more live-action series,” said Reed, who reports to The Hub president and CEO Margaret Loesch. Hub’s current lineup is dominated by animated shows, while Reed’s background is in primarily live-action programing. For the past three years, she was VP Original Series, overseeing live-action development for Disney Channel and Disney XD where she developed Jessie, Austin And Ally, Dog With A Blog, Lab Rats, and Crash & Bernstein.
Like other toy companies, Hasbro appears to be struggling to keep its core audience of kids from defecting to video games in a quarter where it didn’t enjoy a jolt of cash from movie licensing as it did last year with its tie-ins to Paramount’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. The company says this morning that its Q3 net earnings were $164.9M, -3.6% vs the period last year, on revenues of $1.35B, -2.2%. Analysts expected revenues to come in slightly higher at $1.38B. Earnings per share, at $1.24, beat expectations for $1.20 — and would have been better if foreign exchange rates were more favorable. In Entertainment and Licensing, revenues fell 6.9% to $43.1M while operating profits dropped 30.1% to $10.7M. The company doesn’t break out results for The Hub, its cable channel joint venture with Discovery. But Hasbro says that the entertainment unit benefited from TV programming sales in the U.S. and abroad, and the operation fell due to “lower movie-related revenues.” In its core businesses, revenues in merchandise for Boys fell 12% to $471.1M, while sales for Girls were -17% to $302.3M. Toys for pre-schoolers fell 5% to $206.0M. Games were virtually flat, at $365.7M. “We are entering the holiday season with exciting, innovative products, including some of the hottest toys in the market and a tremendously successful Marvel line,” CFO Deborah Thomas says.
Emmett/Furla Films will finance and co-produce three films based on Hasbro properties in the next two years. The deal was announced today by co-founders Randall Emmett & George Furla and Hasbro’s Senior Vice President and head of Hasbro Films, Bennett Schneir. Emmett/Furla and Hasbro will co-produce with Brandon Grimes; Envision Entertainment’s Stepan Martisoyan and Remington Chase and Emmett/Furla will co-finance. First up will be Monopoly, which they hope to get into production next year. Hasbro’s last overall deal was at Universal, which made Battleship with them. The studio scrapped plans to do several other Hasbro films, some of which have been set up elsewhere.
The toy company provides little commentary in its Q2 earnings report this morning, including on its progress with kids channel The Hub (which it co-owns with Discovery) or movie licensing efforts. Hasbro delivered net earnings of $43.4M, -25.2% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $811.5M, -10.7%.The revenue figure fell short of the $830.1M that analysts expected. But earnings at 33 cents a share were well ahead of the forecasts for 23 cents. Last year’s Q2 was helped by sales of toys tied to Paramount’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. Without that boost, sales to boys — the biggest product category — dropped 16% to $389.1M. Still, revenues at the Entertainment and Licensing operation which includes The Hub were up 59% to $43.2M with an operating profit of $8.2M, up from $0.6M. Hasbro’s television programming efforts are “creating demand for our toys and games in global markets,” CEO Brian Goldner says. The company urged investors to look ahead to its plans to sell games in the holiday season.
Is this an offer you can’t refuse? Just remember: You don’t have to wipe everybody out. Just your enemies.
CARLSBAD, Calif., June 14, 2012 — It’s not personal, it’s business as you systematically eliminate your opponents to reign supreme in this classic MONOPOLY game with a Godfather twist. Produced by USAOPOLY, under license from Hasbro and Paramount Licensing, this collector’s game celebrates the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the most seminal films of our time.
Sony Pictures has jumped aboard the Hasbro bandwagon that Universal jumped off of. Sony is developing the animated film Tonka, based on the 65-year-old kiddie car brand. The studio announced the arrangement in a press release, with Sony Pictures Animation and Happy Madison Productions producing the movie with Hasbro. Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo’s Happy Madison is also producing a movie version of Hasbro’s Candy Land for Sony, and the studio is separately developing Hasbro’s Risk.
Conspicuously absent from the press release is Hasbro’s most recent credit, Battleship, the Universal Pictures summer tentpole wannabe that bore little resemblance to the board game and sank loudly at the box office. Universal has put the majority of Hasbro properties into turnaround — including the priority project Stretch Armstrong as well as Clue; Monopoly; and Magic, The Gathering – a disappointing result for a strategic alliance between the studio and the toymaker’s film production arm made when brands were considered big for studios. It has been hit or miss for Hasbro in Hollywood. While Battleship was a failure, the Hasbro toy line Transformers turned into a billion-dollar franchise by sticking close to the core appeal of the toy and then creating something very watchable onscreen.
Can Sony succeed in the Hasbro brand game where Universal failed? The studio must be getting a better deal than the rich first dollar gross pact that Hasbro got paid by Universal (the film Ouija was dropped by Universal over its $100 million budget, and then was brought back at the studio when it was reconfigured at a $5 million budget). Paramount is going through some turmoil on the other major Hasbro property, G.I. Joe, which had its release date pushed as the studio tries to solve problems on the film. All this means that playing the branding game is perilous for studios, unless there is a definite loyalty to that brand, and a filmmaker like Michael Bay who really knows how to make the movie equivalent of a theme-park ride with the spectacle and the humor. Peter Berg is just not that director. Here’s Sony’s release:
LA-based Hasbro Studios has reached a multiyear deal across several platforms with Netflix for 10 television franchises Transformers Prime, My Little Pony, Pound Puppies, G.I. Joe: Renegades and The Adventures of Chuck & Friends are now available to instantly watch on Netflix. JEM & The Holograms, Transformers: Generation 1, G.I. Joe: Real American Heroes, Transformers: Beast Wars and Transformers: Rescue Bots will follow later in this year. Hasbro programming will be included in the Just For Kids section of Netflix — content specifically selected for children 12 and under.
BREAKING: Universal Pictures, which jettisoned its Hasbro-branded project Ouija over budget, has brought in a reconfigured version of the film. The old version, which McG was to direct, had a budget north of $100 million. The new one will cost around $5 million, I hear. Get used to this kind of budget for studio genre films, particularly after the recent successes of Chronicle and last weekend’s Project X, a film which cost $12 million and grossed $21 million. Though it’s produced by Silver Pictures and Todd Phillips’ Green Hat, the picture has no recognizable actors and still crushed it at the box office.
Ouija will be produced by Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir, Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, and Blumhouse Productions. The latter addition explains a lot. Blumhouse is Jason Blum, the Paranormal Activity producer who signed a first look deal at Universal, and has brought it back in line with the kind of budgets he worked on with his films Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Now, Platinum Dunes has made low-cost/high-gross horror remakes like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror, but in today’s Hollywood economy, a $100 million for Ouija is just out of touch. To put it in perspective, when Universal made a gargantuan deal with Hasbro several years ago, $5 million was the penalty payment due Hasbro if the studio didn’t meet certain deadlines. That …
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS) announced today it has entered into agreement with CBS Consumer Products to manufacture and globally market a variety of products based on the STAR TREK property beginning in 2013. The toy line will launch in support of the STAR TREK movie sequel from Paramount Pictures, which will open May 17, 2013.
SAN FRANCISCO & PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS) and Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA) announced today a comprehensive partnership that grants Hasbro the rights to develop a wide range of toy and gaming experiences based across Zynga’s popular social games and brands. As the world’s largest social game developer with more than 227 million monthly active users, Zynga has created some of the world’s most popular social game brands including FarmVille, CityVille and Words With Friends.
Through this agreement, Hasbro has obtained the license to develop and distribute wide ranging product lines based on Zynga’s game brands in a number of toy and game categories. This deal also creates an array of opportunities for co-branded merchandise featuring a combination of both Hasbro and Zynga brands.
Shares are down about 5.5% in pre-market trading after the company behind Transformers and cable’s The Hub kids’ channel reported soft results for the last three months of 2011. Hasbro generated net earnings of $139.1M, down 6.3% vs the period last year, on revenues of $1.33B, up about 4%. Analysts expected revenues to come in slightly higher, at $1.34B. Earnings, at $1.06 a share, were a penny ahead of forecasts. Hasbro’s entertainment and licensing unit more than held its own: Its operating profit grew 44% to $21.5M on revenues of $64.1M, up 20%. The company says the operation thrived from sales of TV shows overseas, as well as from movie and merchandise revenues from Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. But that didn’t seem to help the games and puzzles category where revenues fell 11% to $370.6M. “Despite the challenges we encountered in 2011, we grew our business, effectively managed our capital structure and maintained a healthy balance sheet,” CEO Brian Goldner says.