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WGA East Charges Reality-TV Producers With Creating “Sweatshop” Conditions For A “Beleaguered And Exhausted Workforce” At NYC Hearing

WGA East Charges Reality-TV Producers With Creating “Sweatshop” Conditions For A “Beleaguered And Exhausted Workforce” At NYC HearingThey may not be under-age moppets toiling in Dickensian work-houses, but like Oliver Twist, writer-producers in New York City’s reality TV industry are saying, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Their collective voices were heard today during testimony before the New York City Council’s Civil Service & Labor Committee, which is investigating allegations of sweatshop conditions at the city’s reality TV production houses. Although invited, executives from those companies opted not to attend.

Image (3) WGAE_logo_20110616205123__140211174509-275x101__140403013618__140408175314.jpg for post 711549Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East, estimated that some 15,000 New Yorkers are currently working in nonfiction television. Approximately 2,200 are writers and producers who “often work 12, 14, 16 hours or more per day,” the WGA East said in The Real Reality: Working Conditions in the Nonfiction and Reality Television Industry in NYC. The a report, presented to the council, recommends codifying reality-TV production practices. “Eight-hour days are rare,” according to the report. The writers “often work weeks or even months without a day off. Five-day weeks are also rare. And 88% of producers and associate producers said they were ‘never’ paid overtime on their current jobs. When coupled with periods of unemployment between jobs, and no paid time off (vacation or sick leave) allowed while on a job, these exhausting work schedules lead to severe burn-out.”

“Today you will hear the tale of two television industries,” Peterson told the committee. “Most of our members work in the part of the industry that provides good benefits, good pay, good middle-class careers. Today you are investigating the other part of the industry – nonfiction or ‘reality’ TV – which is almost entirely nonunion. People in that part of the industry work brutally long hours without overtime pay, without health or pension benefits, without paid time off, without the basic protections they deserve.”

TLCThe guild has been organizing reality show writers and producers in New York for the last five years. So far, it’s only signed contracts with three of the more than 20 companies there that each employ more than 50 writer-producers. It’s been trying to get a contract with ITV Studios, producers of A&E’s The First 48 and TLC’s Four Weddings, for the past four years.

So-called “wage theft” – the non-payment of overtime through the misclassification of employees as freelancers – dominated much of the testimony. Sarah Leberstein, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project, said that this widespread practice “illegally depresses labor costs and cheats workers out of the wages they’ve earned.” City Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who chaired the hearing, noted the city and state are “losing tax revenue” as a consequence of the practice.

Reality TV shows are currently not eligible to receive New York film tax subsidies, although Peterson said that industry executives are currently lobbying to be included in those tax breaks. Miller, a former union president, said he would strongly oppose extending those subsidies to reality TV unless the industry stops mistreating workers. “I find it appalling,” he said, “that the executives of these industries have not shown up to justify their positions nor to justify their asking for millions of dollars of subsidies in taxpayer dollars so they can continue to make a lot of money and exploit workers.”

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UPDATE: Reality Producers ITV Studios & Leftfield On NY City Council “Sweatshop” Hearing List

ITV-Studios-America-new-logoUPDATE, 12:40 PM:  Real Housewives and Pawn Stars producer Leftfield Entertainment and its new owner ITV Studios have been asked to testify at hearings this month before the New York City Council to provide evidence of their employees’ working conditions. The June 25 hearings are dubbed “The Real Reality of Reality TV” and will examine “the prevalence of long work hours, wage theft and overtime violations, the absence of health benefits, the lack of paid time off, and the health and safety concerns of producers and associate producers working under dangerous conditions,” NYC Councilman I. Daneek Miller said in letters to the production companies obtained by Deadline. (Read the letter to ITV here.)

ITV’s deal in May to acquire 80% of Leftfield for $360 million made ITV Studios US Group the largest independent unscripted producer in the States, the company said at the time. In Miller’s letter, he asked ITV to “describe how your recent purchases of other nonfiction production companies in NYC affect the working conditions of your writer-producers and other freelance employees.”

wga-east__120202004540__131121163927The City Council’s agenda for the hearings reads like the litany of accusations the WGA East has already made against ITV, which the guild has been trying to organize for the last four years. The guild has accused ITV of “stealing” an average of $30,000 a year from its writer-producers through what the guild calls “wage theft” — not paying overtime and for all hours worked. “At the hearing we hope to learn more about whether it will be necessary to involve the key players — production companies, networks, employee representatives — in an effort to establish and maintain better standards, perhaps with an industry code of conduct,” Miller said in identical letters to each of the companies. Whether they will get a fair hearing may be a matter of some concern to the companies, as Councilman Corey Johnson recently accused ITV of “working their people to the breaking point and then kicking them to the curb.” Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Icon UK Makes Quartet Of Buys; ‘Autumn Lights’ On In Iceland; ITV Nordic ‘Keeping Denmark Alive’

icon logoThe UK’s revived Icon Film Distribution is adding to its release slate with four pick-ups from Cannes. IFD acquired JC Chandor’s A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain; Equals by Drake Doremus with Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart; The Legend Of Barney Thompson starring Robert Carlyle, Ray Winstone and Emma Thompson; and It Follows, the horror pic from David Robert Mitchell that ran in Critics’ Week. IFD is showing itself a savvy buyer and recently released animated feature Postman Pat: The Movie which has grossed over $4M in its first 10 days. Read More »

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NYC Councilman: ITV Studios Unfair To Labor

By | Monday May 12, 2014 @ 6:11pm PDT

200px-ITV_Studios.svgAccusing ITV Studios of “working their people to the breaking point and then kicking them to the curb,” New York City Councilman Corey Johnson has called on the British-owned company to sign a collective bargaining agreement Writers Guild of America East – a battle the guild has been waging for years. The UK’s biggest production and distribution company also bills itself as “the fastest-growing TV production company” in the U.S., where it produces shows as Kitchen Nightmares for Fox, The Good Witch for the Hallmark Channel and Four Weddings for the Learning Channel. “The creative economy is important to New York City,” Johnson said, “and we need to encourage its growth. But we don’t need to encourage the growth of a business model that takes advantage of a precarious freelance workforce.” The guild said ITV “works its producer-writers – including associate producers, field producers, and post-producers – 50, 60, 70 hours per week and refuses to provide them health benefits, paid time off and other basic protections. ITV employees in Britain would not – and do not – tolerate such treatment.” The company, which last week paid $360 million to acquire 80% of Pawn Stars producer Leftfield Entertainment Group, has not responded to Deadline’s calls for comment.

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ITV Studios Acquires 80% Of ‘Pawn Stars’ Producer Leftfield Entertainment For $360M

By | Tuesday May 6, 2014 @ 11:18pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Pawn Stars - group shotITV Studios continues its rapid expansion with another acquisition — a controlling stake in reality production company Leftfield Entertainment Group, which is behind such series as Pawn Stars and Real Housewives Of New Jersey. ITV will pay $360 million for 80% of Leftfield, with further payments dependent upon Leftfield’s profits. There are put and call options in place to buy the remaining 20% under which a call option can itvstudiosbe exercised from three years after the initial deal and a put and call at the end of year five. The deal makes ITV Studios US Group the largest independent unscripted producer in the U.S., the company says.

The acquisition, brokered by About Corporate Finance, also gives ITV Studios a presence on both the East and West Coasts. Leftfield Entertainment, founded by CEO Brent Montgomery, follows ITV’s acquisition in the last 18 months of Gurney Productions, High Noon Entertainment, Thinkfactory Media and DiGa Vision in the US as well as UK producers So Television, The Garden and Big Talk.

Before being acquired, Leftfield Entertainment Group itself was a buyer — the company was created when Leftfield Pictures acquired Sirens Media last March, followed shortly afterwards by the creation of two joint ventures – Loud Television and Outpost Entertainment. Leftfield Pictures sold its first series in 2008 and the group now produces more than 300 hours of unscripted … Read More »

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ITV Studios UK Hires Discovery Intl Exec Julian Bellamy As Managing Director

200px-ITV_Studios.svgITV Studios UK has moved quickly to fill the Managing Director post that will be vacated by Denise O’Donoghue at the end of 2014. Julian Bellamy, who is currently Discovery Networks International Creative Director and Head of Commissioning, will take over from O’Donoghue later this year, ITV said today. TV veteran O’Donoghue has been MD at ITV Studios UK for four years and will remain on the board of the julian bellamycountry’s largest commercial production company after stepping down. Bellamy has spent three years at Discovery, running production and development across 200 countries, with commissioning teams in five international bases. Prior to DNI, he ran the UK’s Channel 4, managing over 2,000 hours of original programming per year including Undercover Boss, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and One Born Every Minute. He previously held executive posts at the BBC and E4. ITV Studios’ titles include Mr Selfridge, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Breathless and the upcoming Thunderbirds Are Go! The production arm of ITV is one of the biggest growth areas for the group, which has been on a U.S. and UK shopping spree in the past 18 months.

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Denise O’Donoghue Exiting ITV Studios; BBC Three’s Zai Bennett Joining Sky Atlantic

By | Tuesday April 15, 2014 @ 10:00pm PDT

Denise O’Donoghue Exiting As ITV Studios Managing Director
Denise O’Donoghue, a veteran television exec and four-year Managing Director of ITV Studios, is leaving the UK-based producer. She will exit at the end of the year with a successor yet to be named, though she will Denise ODonoghueremain a member of the board. ITV Studios is the largest commercial production company in the UK, with titles including Mr Selfridge, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Breathless and the upcoming Thunderbirds Are Go! The production arm of ITV is one of the biggest growth areas for the group, which has been busy making acquisitions in the UK and U.S. “A key part of our strategy is to build a strong international content business, creating more of our own programs which are successful here in the UK and internationally,” ITV Studios Managing Director Kevin Lygo said. “Denise has played a crucial role in rebuilding the UK production business by bringing in and managing brilliant creative talent, which in turn has resulted in the development of a strong and healthy content pipeline.” Read More »

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Aneurin Barnard Joins ITV Beatles-Era Mini ‘Cilla’ From ‘Philomena’ Scribe Jeff Pope

By | Sunday March 16, 2014 @ 3:30pm PDT

aneurin barnardEXCLUSIVE: Cilla, a biographical drama from ITV penned by BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated Philomena co-scribe Jeff Pope, has added up-and-comer Aneurin Barnard to star opposite Sheridan Smith who is playing the eponymous “Liverpudlian Songbird.” She may be relatively unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, but Cilla Black (née Priscilla Maria Veronica White) is a fixture in the UK, perhaps more so now for her TV hosting gigs, but she was also part of the 1960s Beatles era. The three-part bio-mini from ITV Studios tells the story of her rocky rise to fame. The Liverpool-born star started out working in the typist pool at a local company and ultimately met the two men who came to love her and fight over her: future husband Bobby Willis (Barnard) and original Beatles manager Brian Epstein. The drama explores Cilla’s burgeoning friendship with John, Paul, George and Ringo, the latter of whom helped her to cross paths cillawith Epstein and producer George Martin who launched her career with recording sessions at Abbey Road Studios. Black became known in the UK for No.1 hit singles “Anyone Who Had A Heart” (1964) and “You’re My World” (1964). Ultimately, she had 11 Top 10 hits on the British charts between 1964 and 1971. (“You’re My World” also peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the … Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: China Says Not Raising Film Quota; César Awards To Honor Scarlett Johansson; Taylor Lautner To BBC3

Not So Fast: China Says It Isn’t Increasing Movie Quota
Contrary to reports earlier this week, China is not planning to increase its quota on films imported from Hollywood. Official state news agency Xinhua said Tuesday that the quota will remain unchanged at 34, citing an official with the country’s film governing body, China-And-Hollywood__130605112955-150x150__130925193515SAPPRFT. In February 2012, China and the U.S. signed a pact to increase the number of films approved for theatrical release in China from 20 to 34. The parties also agreed on an increased revenue share of 25%. In the first year the change was implemented, local Chinese films lost market share but since have rebounded strongly with about 58.7% of box office takings in 2013. In a statement on Monday, MPA Asia chief Mike Ellis said the org was unaware of any official plans on changing the quota system but noted that the belief that an open market “best serves filmmakers and audiences alike. … Removing the quota for international films is something we’ve been advocating for some time and would provide the widest possible movie experience for audiences while benefiting the Chinese screen community and our member studios.” Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Get Santa’ Finalizes Cast As Production Begins; The Lab’s ‘Game Of Chefs’ Set For Launch; More

By | Wednesday January 15, 2014 @ 9:45pm PST

Christmas Pic ‘Get Santa’ Adds Cast As Filming Begins
jim-broadbentStephen Graham, Ewen Bremner, Jodie Whittaker, Warwick Davis, Joanna Scanlan and Nonso Anozie have joined the cast of Get Santa. Filming starts Thursday in London and Yorkshire on the Christmas movie starring Jim Broadbent and Rafe Spall. In the days before Christmas, 9-year-old Tom finds Santa (Broadbent) in his garden shed after escaping the wreckage of his sleigh and amid a desperate bid to return to Lapland. He’s ultimately arrested for trying to liberate his reindeer from Battersea Dogs Home as Tom and his father embark on a quest to save Christmas. Christopher Smith-directed film from Scott Free London, the BFI, Screen Yorkshire and Altitude Film Entertainment. Get Santa is produced by Liza Marshall, executive produced by Ridley Scott and Carlo Dusi and co-produced by Andrew Litvin and Jack Arbuthnott for Scott Free London. Natascha Wharton is executive producer on behalf of the BFI and Will Clarke and Andy Mayson exec producers for Altitude. Warner Bros is releasing in the UK. Altitude Film Sales is handling international sales.

The Lab’s Cooking Competition ‘Game Of Chefs’ Launching In Israel
Game-of-Chefs-5154ITV Studios and Reshet joint venture The Lab is launching new primetime competitive cooking series, Game Of Chefs. The 20-part hourlong series, produced in Israel by Constantine, will kick off January 19 in that country on Reshet with international format rights sold by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. Game Of Chefs follows three distinguished cooks who compete to find the country’s finest cooking talent. Pressure is on the mentors to ensure the amateurs are up to scratch, as their reputations are on the line. Contestants who make it through the audition phase have to survive a boot camp in which they must impress the chefs over a series of culinary challenges. The chefs then mentor the aspiring talents and their teams through a series of gastronomic battles in which they will cater for tricky clients in various challenging situations. The guests are the judges who eliminate someone from the losing team each week. The Lab previously developed reality format My Dream Wedding, which ITV Studios America has produced for TLC. Read More »

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Mipcom Briefs: Travel Channel On ‘RV Rampage’; ‘Cambodian Idol’ Tunes Up; ITV ‘Keeping The Nation Alive’; ‘Wentworth’ Sales; MipTV’s Digital Fronts

Travel Channel has ordered 10-episode New Zealand-set series, RV Rampage. The show will be produced by Tuesday’s Child, the UK indie set up by former Shine TV joint MD Karen Smith. RV Rampage sees five couples from around the world travel from one end of the country to the other in a mobile home as they face cultural, physical and mental challenges. Henry Cole and Amanda Byram will host. Smith and Steph Harris are exec producing for Tuesday’s Child.

Cambodia and Myanmar are getting their first-ever global talent formats, via a new deal with FremantleMedia International. Hang Meas Group will produce multiple seasons of Cambodian Idol and Cambodia’s Got Talent for air on Hang Meas HDTV, Fremantle said today. In Myanmar, Forever BEC-Tero has licensed the Got Talent format for Channel 7 and MRTV-4.

ITV Studios acquired UK producer The Garden in April this year and has just announced deals on its medical documentary series Keeping The Nation Alive. ITV Studios Nordic has been commissioned by TV Norge to produce Keeping Norway Alive, a six-part series to air next year, and ITV Studios France will make Keeping France Alive for pubcaster France 2, also for air in 2014. The original BBC Two series has also been sold to BBC Knowledge in Australia. The series provides a behind-the-scenes snapshot of 24-hours in the nation’s healthcare system; from emergencies and cardiac operations to tattoo removals and plastic surgery. Read More »

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Hot TV Teaser: ‘Breathless’

ITV Studios and Masterpiece teamed to co-produce Breathless, the upcoming six-part drama about a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital in the 1960s. Jack Davenport leads an ensemble cast that includes Game Of Thrones‘ Iain Glen, Downton Abbey‘s Zoe Boyle and Natasha Little (Kidnap And Ransom). The series is set in a busy gynecology unit in 1961, a time when abortion was still illegal, the contraceptive pill only just available to married women and moral codes were shifting. Breathless was co-created and written by Paul Unwin (Shameless). Unwin, Rebecca Eaton and Kate Bartlett are exec producers. ITV starts airing it on October 10 and will trot out some of the key players at next week’s Mipcom; no U.S. airdate has been set:

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Rosamund Pike Joins ‘Thunderbirds Are Go!’ Reboot; More Voice Cast Revealed

By | Monday September 30, 2013 @ 7:15am PDT

Rosamund Pike will voice International Rescue agent Lady Penelope in the upcoming re-invention of classic kids series Thunderbirds Are Go! The UK’s ITV Studios is teaming with New Zealand-based Pukeko Pictures and Weta Workshop to co-produce the update of the series that was created by Gerry and Sylivia Anderson in 1965. Pike, who’s starring with Ben Affleck in David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl and coming off roles in The World’s End and Jack Reacher, will be heard alongside original cast member David Graham who is reprising his role as chauffeur and International Rescue agent Parker. The new series of 26 half-hours will debut on ITV in 2015 using a mix of CGI animation and live-action miniature sets. Also joining as the five brave Tracy brothers, who rocket around the world fighting evil-doers, are Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Rasmus Hardiker and David Menkin (the former two are doubling up on roles). Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘The Wind Rises’ No. 1 Again In Japan; Syfy Bringing ‘The Originals’ To UK; More

‘The Wind Rises’ Makes It Eight Straight Weeks At No. 1 In Japan
Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is still No. 1 at the Japanese box office after eight consecutive weekends. The Studio Ghibli release was up 13.6% this weekend after the director made his retirement official at a press conference in Tokyo last week. Per FilmBizAsia, the movie has taken in $97.2M to date. The website says that the last domestic movie to stay atop the box office for more than seven weeks in a row was Bayside Shakedown 2 in 2003. Miyazaki’s Oscar winner Spirited Away was tops for 16 consecutive weeks in 2001. Disney said Wednesday that it will open the film February 21 in North America after an Oscar-qualifying run in November. Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: LoveFilm Brings ‘Copper’ To UK Via Stream; Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi Launch AMBI Pictures; More

By | Monday September 9, 2013 @ 9:55pm PDT

‘Copper’ Will Make UK Debut Streaming On LoveFilm
LoveFilm has acquired UK rights to Cineflix series Copper. The series follows Vikings as the second to debut in the UK exclusively via the streaming service, bypassing traditional broadcasters. Netflix competitor LoveFilm will make the show available for streaming starting Friday. Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid and Anastasia Griffith star in the period police drama co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos. Copper airs on BBC America in the U.S. Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Hrithik Roshan Back To Work After Brain Surgery; David Harewood Joins Cop Drama ‘By Any Means’; More

By | Friday August 16, 2013 @ 10:00pm PDT

Hrithik Roshan Shrugs Off Brain Surgery, Returns To Work
Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan is to go back before the cameras for local Fox feature Bang Bang in mid-November. The actor underwent brain surgery to remove a blood clot last month, putting the film on hiatus, but now says he is “doubly charged and looking forward to resuming” production”. Siddharth Anand is directing the film, which also stars Katrina Kaif. “Hrithik is raring to go and his enthusiasm is infectious,” Anand said according to NDTV. The release of the film has been moved from May to October 2, 2014, to take advantage of the four-day Dussehra weekend holiday. Roshan is one of Bollywood’s hottest stars and next will be seen in Krrish 3, which bows November 4.

David Harewood Passes Up A Dance For ‘By Any Means’
Erstwhile Homeland CIA director David Harewood turned down a slot on BBC series Strictly Come Dancing last month, but he will appear in another show on the network. Life On Mars and Death In Paradise producer Red Planet Pictures is putting the finishing touches on six-part drama series By Any Means and has added a handful of well-known British guest stars for the first season. Along with Harewood, Downton Abbey‘s Amy Nuttall, Mr. Selfridge‘s Nick Moran and legendary Bond Girl Honor Blackman will all appear. The drama revolves around a clandestine police unit living on the edge and playing the criminal elite at their own game. Regular cast includes Warren Brown (Luther), Shelley Conn (Mistresses), Andrew-Lee Potts (Primeval), Gina McKee (The Borgias) and Elliot Knight (Sinbad). Belinda Campbell and Tony Jordan are exec producers for Red Planet, and Polly Hill exec produces for BBC One.

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ITV Orders ‘Lucan’ Drama With Rory Kinnear, Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon

Lucan focuses on the life of Lord Lucan, aka Richard John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan, a suspected murderer who disappeared without trace in 1974. ITV has commissioned the two-part drama which examines the events surrounding the bludgeoning death of Lucan’s children’s nanny Sandra Rivett, after which the Lord escaped a police search. Rory Kinnear (Skyfall) will play Lucan whose whereabouts and eventual fate have remained a mystery for nearly 40 years. The movie will also tell the story of Lucan’s exploits as a member of the Clermont Set, a group of British high-rollers who regularly met in a Mayfair casino. Christopher Eccleston and Michael Gambon also star. Jeff Pope, whose credits include the upcoming Philomena, wrote the screenplay. The drama is produced by ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment. Exec producers are Pope, Francis Hopkinson (Wallander), Quentin Curtis, Richard Foster and Tony Moulsdale. Producer is Chris Clough. Adrian Shergold is directing with shooting to start next month in London.

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ITV Revenues Up 11% To $871M; Boss Downplays Nordic Acquisition Chatter

By | Monday July 29, 2013 @ 11:39pm PDT

UPDATE, TUESDAY AM: ITV has been on a shopping spree this year with its most recent acquisition, Britain’s Big Talk Productions, announced just last Friday. But ITV chief Adam Crozier told reporters on Tuesday morning that, for the moment, the company is “not looking” at further shingles in the Nordic regions where it is also active. That should lay to rest recent speculation that the UK’s leading private broadcaster was mulling a £90M ($134M) takeover of Helsinki-based Nice Entertainment. Crozier’s comments came on an call discussing ITV’s half-year results. The company this morning reported a revenue hike of 11% to £568M ($871M). The increase was primarily driven by in-house producer ITV Studios and the company’s online, pay and interactive divisions. ITV Studios revenues were up 11%, to £395M, with overall EBITDA up 11% to £291M. The company says it is on track for cost savings of £20M as part of Crozier’s five year transformation plan. Net debt was £52M. Net advertising revenue is expected to be broadly flat for the nine months to end September, but the company says it is “confident of delivering double digit revenue growth in Online, Pay & Interactive and ITV Studios over the full year.” Crozier said, “We’re making good progress with our strategy of growing and rebalancing the business as we build new revenue streams and improve margins.” Of the recent acquisitions which also … Read More »

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Shout! Factory & ITV Studios Pact On Home Vid, Digital Distribution

Shout! Factory and ITV Studios Global Entertainment have partnered on a North American distribution deal to release more than 30 films from ITV’s library of films on home entertainment and digital platforms. Titles include such classics as Sophie’s Choice, On Golden Pond, Brief Encounter, The Last Unicorn, The Boys From Brazil. The deal includes films not previously available on DVD or Blu-ray. Some titles will undergo remastering, with bonus content for special editions and double features in the works.

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