Britain’s ITV has been on a shopping spree in the past 18 months, acquiring controlling interests in production compaines in the U.S., the UK and the Nordics. Today, the UK’s leading private broadcaster announced its full-year results for the year ended December 31, 2013. Pre-tax profits are up 30% to £435M ($725.6M). External revenue was up 9% to £2.39B ($3.8B) and non-advertising revenue, a key indicator, grew to £1.21B, an increase of £175M. The home of Downton Abbey and The X Factor (to which Simon Cowell is returning later this year) had its best year-on-year performance in a decade with viewer share up 4%. Its production arm, ITV Studios, had 20% growth with operating profit up 24% to £133M. The division makes such shows as Mr Selfridge, expected to return for a third season, and last year’s Breathless. The company, which is nearing the home-stretch of a five-year transformation plan, will continue to look at acquisitions. A cost savings of £28M was delivered in 2013 with a target of a further £10M in 2014. The board is proposing an ordinary dividend of 2.4 pence to give a full-year dividend of 3.5 pence, up 35% — and a special dividend of 4 pence in line with last year. Non-advertising revenue is expected to be up 5% to 6% in the four months through April 2014. ITV CEO Adam …
An average of 8.5 million viewers tuned in for Downton Abbey‘s fourth season finale last night. That’s a personal finale best for the period drama on PBS. The Season 3 finale drew 8.2 million viewers on February 17 last year, a 50% surge from the Season 2 ender in 2012.
This season opened on January 5 with 10.2 million tuned in – up 22% compared to the Season 3 debut of 7.9 million which, in turn had been a leap from the series Season 2 launch crowd of 4.2 mil. Even before this latest cycle started, Downton Abbey has been the highest-rated drama in PBS history.
In yet another acquisition of a U.S. production company, the UK’s ITV has taken a controlling stake in DiGa Vision. The New York-based indie produces reality and scripted programming including MTV’s Teen Wolf. ITV is paying cash for 51% of the company with a put and call option to acquire the remainder in three to six years. In keeping with its typical acquisition strategy, ITV would pay an amount linked to the performance of DiGa over the period. ITV did not provide detailed financials. DiGa was launched in 2011 by former MTV executives Tony DiSanto and Liz Gateley. Along with Teen Wolf, the slate includes MTV’s Girl Get Your Mind Right and Ke$ha: Crazy Beautiful Life. Auction-based format Celebrity Home Raiders will air on Lifetime in March. Paul Buccieri, president and CEO, ITV Studios U.S. Group, said, “Tony and Liz have an excellent track record in creating original, engaging and compelling reality and scripted programming with an impressive content pipeline which feeds into numerous networks. They’re a true creative force and will be a great addition to the ITV Studios US Group of companies. In the last 18 months, ITV has acquired controlling stakes in Gurney Productions, High Noon Entertainment and Thinkfactory Media in the U.S. as well as UK producers The Garden and Big Talk.
Carnival Films and ITV have set a handful of new names to join the cast of Downton Abbey as it heads into its 5th season. Richard E. Grant will play Simon Bricker who visits the estate as a guest of the Granthams. Anna Chancellor (The Hour), fresh off a West End production of Private Lives, is also coming aboard in the guest role of Lady Anstruther. Rade Sherbedgia (Snatch, Taken 2) will play Russian refugee, Kuragin, who has fled the Russian revolution after World War I. Downton executive producer Gareth Neame said, “We are delighted to welcome these talented actors to the world of Downton. The characters they play are set to bring yet more excitement and intrigue to the show.” Returning guest cast member Dame Harriet Walter will also reprise her role as Lady Shackleton, and Peter Egan will return as Lord Flintshire. Last season, the series added a host of actors in key roles, including bringing Paul Giamatti on for the Christmas movie.
Season 4 of Downton saw the period drama’s strongest ever launch in the UK, with 12M viewers and a 40% share. It averaged 11.8M viewers across the run. In the U.S., its January bow hit a record high of 15M viewers. Season 5 will run for the usual eight episodes and a two-hour Christmas special. Returning …
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Vice’ Attracts Berlin Buyers; Umedia Takes ‘Six Dance Lessons’; ITV To Launch New Channel
Proving yet again the affinity global distributors have for Bruce Willis, K5 International has enjoyed a strong sales run at Berlin with Vice. The Willis-starrer has nearly sold out with more than 37 territories biting. The Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films picture, produced by Randall Emmett, George Furla and Adam Goldworm, was picked up across Scandinavia, Russia, Benelux, Japan, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Israel, Portugal, Russia, Czechoslovakia and France. The film had previously sold to Germany, Poland, ex-Yugoslavia, Latin America, the Middle East, Turkey, Greece, and India. Shooting starts in Alabama next month on the movie that’s set in a resort where the rich live out their most perverse fantasies via synthetic humanoids. When one becomes self-aware and breaks out, she seeks her revenge. Willis plays the resort’s owner and Ambyr Childers is the renegade android. Thomas Jane is also in the cast. Brian A. Miller is directing from a script by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore.
Creator Simon Cowell will lead the judging panel when the UK singing competition show returns to ITV for its 11th cycle later this year, the network confirmed today after weeks of speculation. It will be his first season back on the flagship The X Factor after spending the last three years getting the U.S. version up and running on Fox while the ratings for the U.K. original have been going down. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to The X Factor UK,” said Cowell, whose Syco banner co-produces that show with FremantleMedia UK. “It’s been three years since I last judged the competition and I’m excited to find a global superstar again.” Cowell’s return of course raises further questions about the future of the U.S. version of the show as the two run concurrently. Fox has not yet renewed X Factor here after dismal ratings for the recent third cycle. Despite Cowell’s announcement last month that X Factor will be returning for fourth season, Fox boss Kevin Reilly said during TCA that no decision has been made — though he hinted the show will continue in some form. “The show definitely underperformed this year, ratings are not what we wanted, but X Factor still is one of the most successful brands in the world, and the No. 1 and No. …
Global Showbiz Briefs: ITV Orders Quiz Show ‘The 21st Question’; Eyeworks’ ‘Beat The Blondes’ Format Adapted For China
ITV Orders Quiz Show ‘The 21st Question’
ITV has ordered The 21st Question, a new tactical quiz show from Chocolate Media. In the game, one power player faces 10 challengers through a series of tense “winner stays on” rounds designed to test strategy and wits of all players. Only one of the players will successfully fend off all the competition, and whoever is left standing faces a chance to win big — provided they can answer the 21st Question. The 10-episode hourlong show will be executive produced by David Mortimer and Alan Brown and air on ITV1 later this year.
Eyeworks’ ‘Beat The Blondes’ Format Adapted For China
Eyeworks’ Beat The Blondes format is headed to China. 3C Media will adapt the show for the market and produce 13 episodes in the spring for a selection of regional free TV channels in Jiangxi, Henan, Chongqing, Shanxi, Qingdao TV and Hubei. The adapted local version will have one male contestant competing with 50 long-haired beauties in two rounds of general-knowledge battles. Said 3C Media President and CEO Xichen Liu, “We are using long-haired girls instead of blondes due to the traditional Chinese saying, ‘Women’s wit does not match their long hair, thus women are short-sighted.’” Eyeworks’ Celebrity Splash format launched in China last year.
Britain’s ITV is launching its first new channel in eight years. Pay channel ITV Encore will debut later in 2014 on Sky‘s platforms and will be dedicated to the best of the broadcaster’s British drama. ITV’s flagship station, ITV1, is home to Downton Abbey, Broadchurch and Mr Selfridge, among others. I understand the play for Encore is to air series like murder mystery Lucan and Brenda Blethyn detective show Vera, both of which are produced by ITV Studios. From 2015, ITV Encore will act as a further outlet for original British drama with high-end series to be commissioned for the channel with big talent attached, ITV promises. The channel bow is part of a wider four-year partnership with the 21st Century Fox-controlled pay-TV operator, Sky. Under that agreement, ITV content will be made available through Sky’s various range of connected platforms including Sky+HD, Sky Go, NOW TV and Sky Store. ITV CEO Adam Crozier, deep into a five-year transformation plan at the broadcaster which has reduced debt and resulted in several company acquisitions, said today, “A key part of our strategy is to become the most watched, most loved and most talked about family of free and pay channels for every household and every advertiser in the UK.”
Horror/game show hybrid Release The Hounds debuted as a Halloween special on the UK’s ITV2 last year. The one-off episode received positive notices for the premise, and an outpouring of interest on Twitter. ITV has now commissioned a six-episode series to be produced by Sony Pictures Television‘s UK production joint venture Gogglebox. Production starts on the hourlong show this spring. It will be fronted by UK TV personality Reggie Yates. Release The Hounds mixes two genres by sending unsuspecting contestants into a forest at dusk as they seek out chests full of prize money. In order to win big after a series of challenges, they must outrun a pack of hounds trained to guard the cash. Gogglebox created the series with Sony Pictures Television distributing the format internationally; it’s currently in discussions with other territories. Executive producers are Gogglebox founders Adam Wood and Mat Steiner.
‘Mr Selfridge’ Down In UK Return; ‘Call The Midwife’ Sets Record; Strong Bow For ‘The Musketeers’: Video
Sunday night was a big one for new and returning British dramas in the UK. The Season 2 premiere of Jeremy Piven-starrer Mr Selfridge on ITV had an average 5.27M viewers for a 20.5% share, according to the overnights. That’s about 2M less than last year’s Season 1 bow of the department store period series. Season 2 kicks off in the States on PBS on March 30, the same day that Season 3 of Call The Midwife starts. That hit period medical drama returned to BBC One on Sunday night with a record 9.61M viewers and a 36.1% share. It was the most-watched program of the weekend in the UK and also the highest-rated episode ever of the show’s career. Midwife provided a strong lead-in for new BBC One series The Musketeers in its debut, which was up against Mr Selfridge. The updated spin on the classic tales of Alexandre Dumas stars new Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, as the shadowy Cardinal Richelieu along with Luke Pasqualiano, Santiago Cabrera, Tom Burke, Howard Charles and Hugo Speer (watch a trailer below). The 10-part drama received strong notices from British critics and logged 7.41M viewers for a 28.9% share. The BBC America co-production from My Week With Marilyn scribe Adrian Hodges is due to air in the U.S. …
The BBC‘s Doctor Who Christmas special, The Time Of The Doctor, was the most-watched drama, and the second most-watched program, in Britain yesterday. The show, which saw Matt Smith’s departure as the 11th Doctor, and Peter Capaldi’s entrance as the new Time Lord, was seen by 8.29M people for a 30.7% share according to the overnights. It also had the highest peak audience with 10.2M viewers at 8:25 PM, the last few minutes of the broadcast. Despite battering storms that left thousands without power on Wednesday, the figures are higher than last year’s festive ep which was seen by 7.59M people. After the show, the exiting Smith tweeted: “To the Whoniverse, thanks a million. You’re the best. I’ll miss you. And I’ll miss the madness.” On ITV, the Downton Abbey Christmas special, which aired in the 8:30-10:30 PM slot, picked up a 27% share with an average 7.01M viewers tuning in to see the Crawleys on a trip to London. The episode brought back Shirley MacLaine as Cora’s mother Martha Levinson, and introduced Paul Giamatti as her brother Harold. It was off last year’s Christmas special, which included the shocking death of Matthew Crawley, and was seen by 7.32M. Season Four is now officially over in the UK, but it starts Stateside on January 5th on Masterpiece …
Earlier this year, ITV and PBS both ordered a second season of the Jeremy Piven-starring department store drama Mr Selfridge. The promo below for the much-anticipated new 10-episode series has aired on British TV in the past few weeks, but had somehow flown under the online radar until ITV gave it a little nudge today. The show is based on the life of flamboyant American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge (Piven) who founded the London shopping mecca Selfridges in 1909. Season 2 picks up in 1914 as the store celebrates its fifth anniversary. With talk of war in Europe, Selfridge prepares his staff for challenging times ahead. The store must play its own part in the war effort and help keep morale high on the home front. Mr Selfridge is produced by ITV Studios for ITV. A debut date has yet to be set on either side of the Atlantic.
Global Showbiz Briefs: U.S. Filmmakers Support Iceland Film Biz; MTV Has ‘Ex On The Beach’ For UK; More
U.S. Filmmakers Lend Support To Iceland’s Film Industry
In early November, Iceland’s government announced plans to cut funding to the Icelandic Film Centre by about 40%. The news was met with upset within the industry, especially given that film production turnover has grown 248% since 2010, according to industry reports. That was driven by a number of Hollywood pics that shot locally including Oblivion, Prometheus and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and HBO’s Games Of Thrones. Film trade orgs have said the effect of the cuts would hurt the local economy and result in 200 job losses. The country’s film bodies have now received a statement of support signed by filmmakers including Clint Eastwood, Darren Aronofsky and Terrence Malick. “We, the undersigned, have had the great pleasure of working on one or more film projects in Iceland,” the statement reads. “In our view, the Icelandic film professionals we’ve worked with are of the highest standard. The expertise that they bring to the table – not only as filmmakers but as invaluable advisors on Icelandic practices, customs and locations – has brought immeasurable benefits to the work that we do. We stand with them, and with the entire film community in Iceland, in their efforts to maintain the current levels of government support for filmmaking, and thus we urge the Icelandic government to reconsider their current plans to cut the budget of the Icelandic Film Fund.”
MTV Preps ‘Ex On The Beach’ For Spring UK Bow
MTV has commissioned reality series Ex On The Beach, which is set to premiere in the UK in the spring. It then will roll out across MTV’s international network, excluding the U.S. The series is produced for MTV UK by Whizz Kid Entertainment and was shot on location in southern Europe. It sees eight single men and women invited to enjoy a luxury vacation in the belief they are being set up for a holiday romance. Instead, as MTV cameras watch, ex-boyfriends and girlfriends of cast members arrive unexpectedly. Each ex will have a different motive for appearing, from winning their partner back to exacting revenge after a breakup. Ex On The Beach is exec produced by Steve Regan, Lisa Chapman and Suzanne Readwin.
Mild Spoiler Alert…
Although Downton Abbey‘s fourth season doesn’t begin airing in the U.S. for another few weeks, the regular UK season wrapped last month and the Christmas special is now nearly here. As is custom, the episode will air over two hours on Britain’s ITV on December 25th. It will air Stateside at the end of S4′s Masterpiece run which begins January 5th. The teaser below offers a glimpse of Shirley MacLaine in her return as Cora’s mother Martha Levinson, and of Paul Giamatti as Cora’s brother Harold. While not terribly spoilerish, those who’ve seen nothing of the fourth season may want to think twice before clicking play.
Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about whether China’s boffo box office can sustain its remarkable growth rates of recent years; a potentially important Sino-British trade accord on film and TV production and what that might mean for U.S. film and TV production; the very warm welcome in South Africa for epic biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom; and whether a U.S. legal settlement for singer Cheryl Cole might pave the way for her return as a judge on the UK version of The X Factor or even on ITV’s newest music competition, Rising Star.
ITV and Keshet International have made it official as the British network has acquired hot interactive talent competition format Rising Star. I reported earlier this month that a deal was pending and the partners now say a UK version of the show will be co-produced by ITV Studios and Keshet International UK. The deal adds to ITV’s high-profile competition franchises that include Simon Cowell’s The X Factor UK and Britain’s Got Talent. ITV’s Dancing On Ice is bowing out in 2014 and it’s expected that Rising Star will occupy its slot beginning January 2015. ABC recently landed the format for the U.S. with a 10-episode order for air in summer 2014. The UK acquisition follows other local deals in Hungary (TV2), Italy (Toro), France (M6 Group), Russia (Rossiya1), Germany (RTL) and the Nordics (Nordisk).
NBC News this morning named ITV News’ international editor Bill Neely as its new Chief Global Correspondent, based in London. The hire reunites Neely with NBC News president Deborah Turness, who was formerly editor of ITV News from ’04-13. You’ve already seen Neely appear with some regularity on NBC News, through the news division’s partnership with ITN. Neely, who has spent more than two decades with ITV, will cover major international news and events for all of NBC News’ broadcasts and digital platforms. Neely previously served as ITV News Washington Correspondent for six years, covering five of the last six presidential elections, as well as the Oklahoma City bombings, the Atlanta Olympics, and superstorm Sandy.
Deadline’s international editor talks with host David Bloom about The Rocket, the best film to come out of Laos in perhaps ever, and why the Laotian government is banning it; Keshet’s Rising Star continues to rise in the U.S. and U.K.; so-past-rising star Simon Cowell’s newest three-year deal with ITV; what new EU film-support rules may mean for getting more films made there; and a French film debut that may redeem a poor year at the box office for local productions.
Foyle’s War has been greenlit for an eighth season, scheduled for release in 2015. Acorn Productions, ITV, and Eleventh Hour Films this morning announced another three-episode season, starring Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks, and written by screenwriter Anthony Horowitz. No word from PBS as to whether it will pick up the new season of 3 X 120 episodes, on which filming is scheduled to begin in January. PBS ran the most recent three-episode season in September, as part of its Masterpiece Mystery franchise.
In 2010, Silver Spring, Md.-based Acorn, a company best known for its DVD releases of British crunchy-gravel dramas, announced it had bought the British franchise Foyle’s War from UK production indie Greenlit Rights, which had gone into so-called “administration.” It marked the first time Acorn had bought ownership rights to one of its British series. Foyle’s War had been one of Acorn’s top-selling franchises on DVD for many years, and had last aired on PBS in May of ’10. The original series was set during WWII in Hastings, on the south coast of England — starring Kitchen as methodical Det. Christopher Foyle, a widower who, assisted by his driver Samantha, catches criminals by taking advantage of the confusion created by the war.