Nearly 5,000 people applied to participate in Fox’s reality series Utopia, Fox’s reality TV guru Simon Andreae told TV critics this afternoon. Showrunners have whittled that prodigious list down to about 40, and are now selecting the 15 who will get to go live in some isolated made-for-TV makeshift community in southern California for a year while trying to forge a new society that believes in filming its citizens 24/7 for broadcast on TV and on the Internet.
Utopia, from reality vet John de Mol, is a reality series featuring a group of everyday people whisked to an isolated location for an entire year and challenged to create their own civilization. The show builds dramatic tension from the provision that any of the “colonists” can be replaced at any time by someone from the show’s audience. It’s based on a Dutch show that’s been running since January. The show premieres Sept. 7.
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Talpa Media Group has tapped veteran unscripted producer Jay Bienstock as new CEO for Talpa Media USA. The top position at Talpa Media’s U.S. outpost had been vacant since the departure of CEO Simon Jones last year. Bienstock comes from A. Smith & Co., where he most recently served as Managing Director. At Talpa Media USA, he will oversee the company’s current slate, which includes the Emmy-winning NBC series The Voice and Fox’s upcoming Utopia. Both series were created by John de Mol, owner of Talpa Media Group. “We have been looking for a talented creative executive but also one with the business acumen of Jay to join Talpa and lead our U.S. division,” said de Mol. “We are excited to have Jay on board and look forward to the success we believe Jay will bring us within the Hollywood community.” Read More »
Utopia, the way-out-there Fox reality show from John de Mol that would send “pioneers” to settle an uninhabited part of Earth together and figure out how to run it, has posted a teaser trailer featuring bits of interviews with some of those would-be colonists. Fifteen pioneers will be chosen for the experiment, then recorded around the clock, with video on the Internet as well as on TV. The catch, a pioneer can be replaced at any time by one of the show’s audience. It’s based on a Dutch show that’s been running since January. The show premieres for three nights in a single week this fall, beginning Sept. 7. Here’s the teaser:
Dutch media entrepreneur John De Mol‘s Talpa Media Holdings has established new joint ventures in the UK, Italy and the Nordic region. The moves give Talpa the ability to produce local versions of formats from its own catalogue for TV channels in the respective markets, an increasing trend among players. Warner Bros‘ Shed Media Group has partnered with Talpa for Talpa UK. The partners are already in business on The Voice UK; De Mol co-created the format which is produced by Shed’s Wall to Wall. The new deal gives Shed exclusive access to the Talpa catalogue, including new reality show Utopia, which was picked up by Fox in the U.S. in January. Along with Wall to Wall, Shed houses six other UK production companies including Ricochet and Twenty Twenty. De Mol initially said he was looking to establish a UK-based company in 2012. In Italy, Talpa has teamed with Toro TV for Talpa Italia and in Northern Europe it will work with Nordisk Film TV in Scandinavia together with Banijay Finland in Finland via Talpa Nordic. Pim Schmitz, CEO of Talpa Holding, says, “In producing our formats, we’re used to working as co-producers together with local parties all over the world. What we’re now doing in the UK, Italy and the Northern European countries goes a step further. Talpa will now produce under its own brand, and for us … Read More »
After two years of power play, private equity firm Apollo Global Management appears poised to take control of Big Brother producer Endemol. The Dutch production company inherited billions of dollars in debt following the 2007 buyout, believed to have ballooned to $4.1 billion in 2011 before it was restructured. After the restructuring, Apollo ended up with the largest portion of Endemol debt, giving it a stake of about 30% in the company. Endemol’s owners also include the company’s co-founder John de Mol through the investment company Dasym Investment Strategies, which handles some of his money. Both Apollo and de Mol had reportedly been looking to take control of Endemol. Now it seems Apollo is succeeding. I hear there is no signed deal yet, but such an outcome appears very likely, sparking a lot of market chatter. Read More »
UPDATED: In a competitive situation, Fox has picked up Utopia, a new social experiment reality series from Big Brother creator John de Mol and his Talpa Media US. The project is based on a format by de Mol that successfully launched in the Netherlands earlier this month, sparking a lot of interest among U.S. networks. It marks the first series greenlighted by Fox’s new head of alternative Simon Andreae. The show is eyed for a summer launch but that has not been set in stone and will depend on how quickly the network and de Mol select a location and a cast.
Utopia will feature a group of 15 everyday people whisked to an isolated, undeveloped location in the U.S. – for an entire year – and challenges them to create their own civilization. Like the original, the series is envisioned to last a year but its length will depend on what happens in Utopia. “One of the key things we liked about the idea is that is very bold and open,” Andreae said. “They have the opportunity to create a society, and we don’t know to what degree they will succeed — will it be harmonious, or will there be a revolution or another event that will put an end to it?” Like on Big Brother, there will be eliminations. As the Utopians build the new society, each contestant must try to become indispensable to the group or risk being exiled to their regular lives and replaced by potential newcomers. (The original series has new participants joining at part of the elimination process, but it has not been determined whether the Fox version will feature that.) Cameras will follow the pioneers 24/7, with their efforts chronicled weekly on Fox and also online (and possibly on cable). The online component of the original series has been very successful, something the producers will try to replicate in the U.S.
Related: John De Mol’s Social Experiment ‘Utopia’ Off To Strong Start In Holland, Heads To U.S. Read More »
With the talent competition arena pretty saturated by Fox’s American Idol and The X Factor, NBC’s The Voice and America’s Got Talent, soon to be joined by ABC’s Rising Star, and the cooking broadcast market cornered by Gordon Ramsay, reality industry insiders have been tipping social experiments as the next hot unscripted genre. Now the man behind the most successful social experiment format to date, Big Brother creator John de Mol, is throwing his hat into the ring with his latest series, Utopia, in which 15 people set up their own new society. Like he does with most of his formats, which include global hit The Voice and Deal Or No Deal, de Mol launched Utopia in his native Holland, where the show premiered Monday night on SBS 6, part of SBS Broadcasting’s Dutch operations, in which de Mol’s Talpa Media has a 33% stake. The debut exceeded expectations, ranking as SBS 6′s highest-rated nonscripted premiere in six years. It won its time slot and pulled a 25.2% share in adults 18-49, improving the network’s market share in the time period by 500%, and drew almost 1.6 million overall viewers compared to SBS’ average viewership in the slot of 300,000. I hear at least one US network already has reached out to the Utopia producers, with Talpa Media USA’s chief creative officer Stijn Bakkers, executive producer of The Voice, and SVP Sadoux Kim expected to begin meeting with American broadcasters early next week about an U.S. version.
Social experiments formats have been heating up, with former Fox reality topper Mike Darnell also said to be shopping a series in that arena with Shed’s Twenty Twenty. In Utopia, 15 contestants leave their current lives to create their own ideal mini-society while being followed by hundreds of cameras. (Watch a trailer in Dutch below.) Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Dutch media entrepreneur John de Mol‘s company Talpa already has established a presence in the US with NBC’s reality hit The Voice, co-created and executive produced by de Mol. Now de Mol is taking that presence to the next level, turning Talpa Media USA into a full-fledged independent production company and hiring Simon Jones to run it. Jones joins Talpa Media USA as CEO after a six-year stint at Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment. For the last two years, Jones served as COO of Syco Television USA, overseeing all of Syco’s TV operations in the US and helping establish the company’s US operations. Jones, a 20-year TV veteran, started off in his native Britain before crossing the pond. He served as Controller of Business Affairs at ITV, Executive Producer of American Idol for FremantleMedia and SVP Operations for the The X Factor and Got Talent franchises at Syco. He also ran the successful X Factor UK arena tour and a live stage version of America’s Got Talent in Las Vegas. “At a moment like this, people are used to say that they have found the right man for the job. So sorry for the cliche, but Simon is exactly that!,” said Talpa Holding CEO Pim Schmitz. “Simon’s appointment with Talpa Media USA fits in Talpa’s strategy to have our own production companies in the key markets of the world. Other territories will follow, but of course the US is number one when it comes to that strategy.”
In addition to The Voice, Talpa Media USA’s credits include NBC’s upcoming singing game show The Winner Is… and the 2009 ABC series Dating In The Dark, all three based on worldwide Talpa formats. All three have been done as co-productions, with another company handling the actual production. While Talpa Media USA will continue to partner up with other companies when needed, it is looking to transition to producing more and more of its own shows and to grow its portfolio of broadcast and cable reality series. Talpa’s US plans are reminiscent of the way de Mol built a strong U.S. production arm of his previous global media company, Endemol. “This is a fantastic opportunity to work at such a dynamic and ambitious company headed by the – almost legendary – John de Mol,” Jones said. Read More »
NBC has greenlighted The Winner Is, a singing game show from John de Mol’s Talpa Media USA, which co-produces NBC’s singing competition series The Voice. The Winner Is, which features a $1 million grand prize, combines vocal and bargaining abilities. It is open to singers of all ages – soloists and groups that include adults, kids, teens, seniors, families and professionals - all of whom will compete in head-to-head singing duels.
The contestants will be judged by an in-studio panel led by a celebrity judge. After every singing duel round, each contestant will have the chance to negotiate a deal before hearing their fate. If they have doubts about how they have measured up against their opponent, they can leave the show — in exchange for the instant cash that round is worth. But if they’re confident they performed better than their opponent, they can await the jury results to see if they’ve made it to the next round. The amount of money each duel is worth increases with every round.
In the finale, eight singers will duel and negotiate until just two singing contestants remain. After their performance, they each get the chance to walk away with $100,000 — or await the jury vote and the votes from the viewers for the chance to win the $1 million prize. John de Mol, co-creator of The Voice and creator of Big Brother, is the executive producer. “We are thrilled to be working with John de Mol, the creator and one of the producers of … Read More »
2ND UPDATE: A key insider at Endemol explains to me, “I think there were issues in the way he ran the company and the decsions he made, and he lost the support of many of the employees. Like when you have a coach of a soccer team the players don’t buy into the way he’s managing the team.” Not only unpopular, Ynon Kreiz exits as Endemol is facing a 900 million euro write-off of loans to the Dutch-based company which produces Big Brother among many other unscripted shows around the world. Endemol also said this month it’s exploring options to restructure its debt as widening losses will cause it to breach covenants on 2.8 billion euros of loans, including 325 million euros of mezzanine debt used to fund its 2007 buyout. Reports are circulating of buyout interest from ITV, Time Warner, and News Corp. “Clearly there are debt issues and we’re going through a financial restructuring. There also was unhappiness with a huge payout to Kreiz, which didn’t sit well,” the key insider tells me. “But from a standpoint of creativity and new shows and long-running franchises and diversification of the company, we’re on solid ground.”
The announcement of a shakeup at the top was made today by Endemol’s shareholder board (different from the usual board of directors) and first published by the Financial Times. The mogul’s exit follows a three-year period of massive dealmaking and restructuring by Kreiz, who has been chairman/CEO of the Dutch-based global leader in entertainment programming and the world’s largest independent television and digital production company since June 1, 2008. Kreiz follows out the door the Endemol chief commercial officer Tom Toumazis, who exited a few weeks ago. (“Believe me, I didn’t send him a fruit basket either,” an insider snarks.) But lest anyone doubt it, Endemol is still alive and well as the unscripted giant produces content and partners with more than 400 broadcasters and cross-media platforms worldwide as part of a global network of more than 80 companies in 26 countries employing about 6,500 people. Read More »
So I hear that NBC’s heavily hyped upcoming warble show The Voice from John de Mol, Mark Burnett, and Warner Horizon Television is costing a whopping $1.4 million per episode. Given that this is a U.S. adaptation of The Voice of Holland, and that the set for the April 26th premiere looks like a cheap Las Vegas lounge with a coupla chairs, a microphone, and hardly any production values, and that judges on these talent shows aren’t paid that extravagantly, then where the hell is the money going? I’m told that, when the show was first pitched, NBCU’s previous boss Jeff Zucker et al was duped into believing that another network was making “a big offer” when in actuality there was no rival bid. Oops. And to think Zucker led us all to believe that scripted programming was too expensive…
Maybe Charlie Sheen was unavailable? NBC just announced that another celebrity who has been going through personal problems, Christina Aguilera, has been tapped as a musician coach on NBC’s new musical competition series The Voice, which will premiere on April 26. Grammy winner Aguilera joins previously announced coaches Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine, with the last fourth coach expected to be named shortly. In their choices, NBC and producers Mark Burnett and John de Mol are clearly going for younger, contemporary artists to star on the show hosted by Carson Daly.
Aguilera had been in talks for the Voice gig for months and was one of the first artists approached. In fact, word is her name was at the top of NBC’s wish list for the panel. “Christina has a once in a generation talent — her voice is phenomenally distinctive and instantly recognizable,” NBC’s head of alternative Paul Telegdy said today. “Her journey as an artist, who started so young in the music business, will be an inspiration to the talent she coaches on the show.”
Aguilera could also serve as a cautionary tale about the trappings of fame and celebrity. The pop star has been a tabloid fixture over the past few weeks over the flubbed national anthem lyrics at the Super Bowl and her public intoxication arrest this week. Landing Aguilera is certain to draw a lot of attention to The Voice, which must cut through … Read More »
NBC’s new singing competition series The Voice, a rival to Fox’s American Idol, will premiere on Apr. 26 and will air in Idol’s previous signature Tuesday 8 PM slot. The network has signed the first 2 musician coaches for the show produced by John de Mol and Mark Burnett: Grammy Award winners Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine (Maroon 5).
After two airings from 9-11 PM on Tuesday on April 26 and May 3, the show will move to its regular Tuesday 8 PM slot on May 10. The Voice is expected to get a boost in its launch airing behind NBC’s strongest reality series, The Biggest Loser. “Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine represent the essence of The Voice,” NBC’s head of alternative programming Paul Telegdy said. “They are two of the hottest music artists right now and their voices are instantly recognizable.”
Carson Daly will host The Voice, which is produced by Warner Horizon. The show, in which contestants vie for a recording contract, is modeled after the Dutch Voice of Holland, which is the country’s #1 talent competition show. It features four celebrity artists who each forms a team of singers that they coach throughout the competition. Contestants will be eliminated until each coach only has one team member left who will compete in the finals to be named The Voice in a live finale.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC’s late-night host Carson Daly is in negotiations to host NBC’s ambitious new singing competition series (and American Idol rival) The Voice, from top reality producers John de Mol (Big Brother) and Mark Burnett (Survivor) and Warner Horizon Television. The show, in which contestants vie for a recording contract, is modeled after the Dutch Voice of Holland, which is the country’s #1 talent competition show. It features four celebrity artists who each forms a team of singers that they will coach and mentor throughout the competition. Contestants will be eliminated until each coach only has one team member left who will compete in the finals to be named The Voice in a live finale. Casting of the four celebrities is still under way, with NBC targeting the series for a spring launch, going head-to-head with Fox’s juggernaut American Idol. Carson Daly has a strong music series background, having come out of MTV’s signature show Total Request Live. He also regularly features music acts on his late-night NBC show Last Call with Carson Daly. This will mark the primetime debut for Daly, who recently returned as host of NBC’s New Year’s Eve special. Daly shares the same radio background with Idol host Ryan Seacrest who both started off as DJs on Los Angeles radio stations and now have LA morning drive shows.
I’m told that Römer has increasingly found himself a fish out of water at Endemol. Römer developed Big Brother with company founder John De Mol and, as exec producer, steered the show through its Netherlands launch and the US after that. He was only appointed Chief Creative Officer in 2009. Römer is being replaced by a creative board that includes company president Marco Bassetti; Tim Hincks, CEO of Endemol UK; and David Goldberg, chairman of Endemol North America. The board will oversee and direct new TV formats, such as 101 Ways To Leave a Gameshow, which has been playing during the key Saturday night slot here on BBC1. Fox in the US has commissioned a broadcast pilot, while Germany, Brazil and Turkey are making their own versions of the show, where contestants are violently ejected from the quiz.
Warner Bros has signed an exclusive deal with John de Mol’s Talpa Media to produce British versions of the Dutch company’s TV shows. The deal is the latest piece in the jigsaw of Warner’s plan to establish worldwide production subsidiaries developing local versions of hit shows. Talpa’s best-known formats are Dating in the Dark, which has been sold to 20 territories already, and Divided, picked up by 13 territories. Both Dating in the Dark and Divided have already been sold to the UK. The Dutch company has set up co-production deals with other partners in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Ronald Goes, the head of Warner Bros’ international TV production arm, used to be CEO of Talpa prior to joining the studio in summer 2010.
The studio’s TV business is buying Brit TV production company Shed Media, maker of such programmes as Supernanny and The Choir, for around £100 million ($159 million) to boost its presence in this key market. That deal is expected to complete in October.
That’s the only option open to shareholders Mediaset, Goldman Sachs and Cyrte, one media analyst tells me. Whether Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi or TV magnate John De Mol, the man behind Cyrte, will be happy doing so is another question. I’m told De Mol in particular would be reluctant. There’s been speculation here that the super-producer will breach its debt covenants as soon as August. Endemol assures me this is not the case. “Given our current outlook, and taking into account the resources already available to the company and its shareholders, we strongly expect to continue to fully comply with our debt covenants for the foreseeable future,” Endemol says.
The company is €2.4 billion ($3 billion) in debt after a 2007 buyout. Combined with the cancellation of Big Brother on Channel 4 and NBC scrapping Deal Or No Deal in the US, it’s argued that the producer’s future is looking pretty bleak.
On the other hand, BBC1 just started an eight-part primetime summer run of the producer’s format 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow. Fox in the US has commissioned a broadcast pilot of the show. Germany, Brazil and Turkey are making their own versions of the show, where contestants are violently ejected from the quiz.
One option not there anymore is buying back its own debt cheaply and marking it as operating profit. Endemol was rapped on the knuckles for doing that earlier this year, although it was perfectly allowable. Hedge funds representing … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The European TV producer Endemol will not be among those bidding for the UK’s fifth terrestrial channel. ITV has also walked away from the auction, as has BSkyB and Time Warner. Endemol’s founder John De Mol is bidding, as is Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers. Endemol may still try and get its Big Brother TV show on Five though. RTL wants up to $234 million for the loss-making TV channel. This is beginning to resemble a game of musical chairs. Every time the music stops, another would-be bidder walks off. Endemol was unavailable for comment.