The Motion Picture Academy‘s new, and wide-ranging, weekly series of short videos talks about filmmaking of many kinds. Already, shorts posted on the two-month-old YouTube channel feature notables such as Mike White, Seth Rogen and Dustin Lance Black, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Jurassic Park and a video portrait of inner-city filmmakers.
“It’s an opportunity to really further inspire people about filmmaking and viewing film,” said Josh Spector, the Academy’s Managing Director of Digital Media and Marketing. “We really look at movies from a broad spectrum. We’re not locked in, we’re not sponsored, there are no ads. That frees you from conventional wisdom about what videos can be. People refer to them more as short films or mini-docs.”
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There’s an Achilles Heel for the upcoming so-called over-the-top online pay TV services — including a low priced, entry level one Dish Network plans with help from Disney — DirecTV chief Michael White told an investor audience this morning. “If you make it too good you’re going to cannibalize the [conventional pay TV] business,” he said at the first MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit. ”It’s in the content companies’ interest to not make it too good.” It’s a problem because Big Media companies still control TV programming. If an online provider could offer “AMC and FX, and not have to pay for Nickelodeon and all the other stuff [then] you might get there,” White says. “My bet is that everyone including Disney will try to bundle more stuff” in an online service, driving up the price. ”It’s a slippery slope…Can you unbundle good enough stuff?” DirecTV research shows a “sharp fall off” of consumer interest in a video service once the price exceeds $12 a month.
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At first glance the compensation for Michael White listed in DirecTV‘s new proxy statement looks like a big pay cut. But it may simply reflect an accounting fluke: The satellite company gave him $12M in option awards in 2012 that were recorded in his tally for that year, even though they vest over three years. In any event, he ends up with a tidy $12.5M for 2013 including $1.7M salary, $4.5M in stock awards, $1.6M in option awards, $4.3M in non equity incentives, $211,247 change in pension value, and $333,193 in other compensation. That last category includes $64,491 for his personal use of the company plans as well as $20,000 to match his charitable contributions. DirecTV shares appreciated 37.7% last year. White’s package is 2.7 times the median for his four top lieutenants, which is slightly below the threshold of 3X that many corporate governance experts say suggests a CEO’s pay is out of whack. The proxy shows that 6.9% of DirecTV shares are owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the company controlled by billionaire investor Warren Buffett who takes a dim view of bloated executive pay. DirecTV’s annual meeting will be held in New York on April 29.
Pay TV is “a pretty imperfect market. It isn’t like anything sold at Walmart, I can tell you that,” DirecTV CEO Michael White said as he outlined his initiatives to an investor group. By mid-year he plans to “simplify our offer structure” and also provide his satellite customers with “a two-page bill that you can actually understand.” The change is partly an outgrowth of his view that the pay TV industry is “not very good….There’s a lot of ways to do things better.” That’s important because, now that the industry’s mature, “it’s harder and harder for things not to devolve into price competition….We’ve all made our business more complicated than the average consumer understands and that creates challenges for the bill down the road.” White reiterated his view that consumers are getting squeezed as programming prices rise. “In an economy where consumer incomes for the bottom 60% are flat and content costs are growing double digits….consumers wouldn’t sign up for that if they had a choice. But they don’t have a choice.” White pointedly noted that mergers of distributors — including DirecTV and Dish Network — “would create a new balance of power.” Still, he isn’t confident that federal regulators would allow the satellite companies to combine, which would reduce the number of pay TV choices from three to two for about 40% of the population.
While Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time … Read More »
While he hasn’t decided whether to oppose the deal in Washington, DirecTV CEO Mike White says Comcast’s $42.5B pact to buy Time Warner Cable would result in “unprecedented media concentration in one company.” The No. 1 satellite service provider is “still assessing some of the competitive implications” but White wants to “ensure it’s appropriately scrutinized” — especially the “effective broadband monopoly they might have in two-thirds of the country.” The owner of NBCUniversal also would have a lot of power to raise content prices. That “creates some significant changes in the competitive landscape that we have to think hard about.” Couldn’t Comcast use its clout, with 30M subs after a merger, to slow the rate of increase in programming costs? Perhaps, but “it’s a complicated dynamic because that leverage may not flow through to its competitors.”
White says he’ll continue to resist high programming costs.”None of our customers have an income like those of us on the call here.” He wouldn’t comment on the state of the carriage negotiations with The Weather Channel, which went dark on DirecTV in January, but says that his company “may have lost a few thousand customers in the first quarter” due to the dispute. “Fundamentally I continue to believe if your viewership goes down ….that should be reflected in the price.” Read More »
The No. 1 satellite company will look at set-top box data to “determine cost/value tradeoffs” different channels offer — and then “prune/drop less popular channels when necessary” — it said today in an Investor Day gathering. ”Programming costs is the biggest issue affecting our industry,” DirecTV CFO Pat Doyle says. He hopes to hold the annual growth in U.S. programming costs to between 7% and 9% a year through 2016, roughly even with this year’s 9%. Execs are eager to persuade the Street that the company’s annual U.S. revenues will grow by “mid-single digit” rates through 2016 — possibly ahead of the consensus estimate of 4.4%. They also forecast “high single digits” annual cash flow growth, beating expectations for 6.6%. New businesses could add $1B to the top line in a few years — and one could be an Internet video service. “We’re going to be opportunistic in looking at that space,” CEO Mike White says. It probably would be less ambitious than, say, Intel’s attempt to offer a full-fledged pay TV service on the Web. That “wouldn’t make sense” as broadband providers move to usage based pricing. Noting that a niche service might work, White added “we’ll have more to say about that later in the year.” Meanwhile, he has little interest in integrating Netflix into DirecTV’s set top box. Although it’s “not that hard to do,” it wouldn’t be in his interest to “undermine our pay-per-view movie business.” About 30% of DirecTV subs currently also subscribe to Netflix. Read More »
Girls co-executive producer Murray Miller has closed a two-year overall deal with HBO. Under the pact, he will be bumped up to executive producer on Lena Dunham’s comedy series. Additionally, he has teamed with Enlightened creator Mike White for Mr. Romance, a half-hour project based on the article The Only Muscle I Can’t Control: In Search Of The Next Romance Novel Cover Man, written by Joshuah Bearman and first published in McSweeney’s in 2010. (you can read it here.) Murray will co-write the pilot with Casper Christensen, writer and star of the Danish film Klown. White and David Bernad will executive produce via their Rip Cord Prods banner along with Josh Bearman. Miller, repped by UTA and attorneys Don Walerstein and Matt Walerstein, previously worked on Fox’s American Dad and King Of The Hill. White and Bernad are with UTA and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern.; Bearman with UTA, Circle of Confusion and Linda Lichter; Christensen with CAA and Douglas Entertainment.
EXCLUSIVE: A quarter century after Doogie Howser, another teen prodigy is looking to headline a comedy series. Enlightened creator/exec producer Mike White has teamed with Joe Port and Joe Wiseman for an untitled single-camera comedy, which has gone to NBC with a put pilot commitment. Written by Port and Wiseman, the ensemble workplace comedy centers on a driven but naive 16-year-old prodigy chef who gets a job working in the kitchen for his idol, a temperamental and unpredictable celebrity chef. It was inspired by Flynn McGarry, a 14-year-old Los Angeles chef who has been making national headlines. McGarry will serve as a producer on the series, from White’s RipCord Prods and 20th Century Fox TV where Port and Wiseman are under an overall deal. White, Port and Wiseman executive produce with RipCord’s David Bernad (Enlightened). Enlightened, which ended its two-season run on HBO, was nominated for two Emmys this year, including for lead Laura Dern. This marks Port and Wiseman’s return to NBC where they wrote and exec produced another comedy through 20th TV last year, Joe Joe And Jane, which went to pilot. Read More »
Investors are becoming so obsessed with the idea of a DirecTV-Dish Network merger that it seems to be just a matter of time before the companies succumb. Questions about the possibility kept popping up in Dish Network’s quarterly earnings call yesterday. Company watchers “seem to be fixated” on the subject, Brean Capital’s Todd Mitchell says. And execs don’t seem to mind. Last week DirecTV CEO Michael White said he’d “never say never.” And Evercore Partners’ Bryan Kraft says he has “never heard [Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen] speak as openly and positively regarding the possibility of a combination with DirecTV” as he did yesterday. The FCC blocked a satellite TV merger in 2002 on the grounds that it would leave many rural subscribers, who don’t have cable, with just one pay TV provider. But Ergen says that the business is “materially different” than it was then. Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse serve many markets. “And then of course, you have almost an unlimited number of people now on digital Internet getting into the business, whether it be from Netflix to Hulu to Amazon to everything else that you can do on the Internet,” Ergen says. “And that’s only going to grow.” Later he added that “there’s not any question that putting Dish and DirecTV together makes a lot of sense…. If you just wanted to create short-term value, that would be probably your No. 1 option.” Read More »
That may raise some eyebrows among DirecTV shareholders who will also vote on whether to require the company to split the chairman and CEO jobs — Michael White currently holds both titles — when they meet on May 2 in New York. White’s big raise came in a year when DirecTV shares appreciated 17.3%. His package includes $1.6M in salary, $12.0M in option awards, $4.0M in non-equity incentives, $163,421 in deferred compensation, and $323,957 in other compensation. The $18M award is about 3.1 times the median compensation for DirecTV’s four other top execs. That’s just over the threshold that corporate governance watchdogs say raises alarms that the chief has too much power. It also is a big change from last year when White’s compensation was just 1.2 times bigger than the rest of the pack, well within the comfort zone. The AFL-CIO Reserve Fund submitted this year’s proposal to require that DirecTV pick an independent director to be chairman, saying that when the CEO has the job it “may hinder the ability of the Board to monitor the CEO’s performance and to provide the CEO with objective feedback and guidance.” DirecTV urges shareholders to reject the change saying that the current arrangement “promotes decisive leadership, ensures clear accountability and enhances the Company’s ability to communicate with a single and consistent voice to all stakeholders.”
Traditional methods of getting a project made and finding an audience are evolving rapidly toward smaller screens, a panel of directors and producers agreed today at the Sundance Film Festival “Every time I’ve had a movie I couldn’t get financing for recently, the next question is always ‘could this be a TV series?’ It’s a business model. It’s boring but it’s real,” said Richard Linklater. “It does feel like great quality is going to TV and online… because the studios make tentpoles and not adult dramas,” added Fast Five director Justin Lin, who also co-created the YOMYOMF YouTube channel. Linklater and Lin were appearing on the Power of Story: Independence Unleashed panel along with Enlightened co-creator Mike White and director Jane Campion. Linklater is back at Sundance this year to premiere his Before Midnight, the second sequel to 1995’s Before Sunrise. Campion also returns to the Festival with her seven-part crime mystery BBC/Sundance Channel TV series Top of the Lake starring Holly Hunter and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss. White is at the Festival as one of the producers of Writer/director Sebastián Silva’s Magic Magic. Lin is a Sundance alumni, having had his directorial debut Better Luck Tomorrow premiere here back in 2002.
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DirecTV CEO Mike White is no stranger to taking a stand against rising programming costs, pulling 16 Viacom channels off his service during the summer for 10 days before reaching a carriage deal. Now his company and Dish Network are the lone pay TV providers serving Southern California who don’t have an agreement to carry the LA Lakers’ newly created TV homes: Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes. The satellite companies are balking at the $3.95-per-sub-per-month price that TWC reportedly wants. (Verizon, AT&T, Charter and, as of today, Cox Communications have made deals and are carrying the channels.) DirecTV, with about 1.2 million subs in SoCal, also is holding out on making a deal for a third rookie regional sports net, the Pac-12 Networks. It says that costs are out of control. (A fine Sports Business Journal report on the LA mess calculates providers must pony up about $10 per sub per month to carry all the RSNs in town). White was, well, direct during his company’s earnings call yesterday when asked about negotiations. Sounds like the Lakers, who play their fifth game of the season tonight in Utah, won’t be on DirecTV anytime soon:
In terms of Los Angeles, I think it’s another example of how broken this system is. People take the same content, package it up, bid it up for 3 times the national average on a per-game basis and then try and stick it back to the other distributors in the geography. And I think that’s very unfortunate. We have a system of very carefully tracking churn by day to look at kind of what we think our customers will be most interested in. We are continuing to have active discussions about the Lakers network. We hope to have a deal on that content. But all of these new channels that – everybody here wants a new channel and they want to stick it into the bundle, is not right. I mean we are taxing most of our customers who wouldn’t be willing to pay for that content. And I’ve said before, I think the regional sports network structure in the industry is broken. And it is. But I’m probably not going be able to change that overnight. But adding other stuff to the bundle that the average consumer can’t pay for without allowing it to be sold to those that want to pay for it is just not right. So we’ll continue to stand strong for our customers.
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EXCLUSIVE: Enlightened creator/executive producer Mike White has signed an overall deal with HBO for his production company RipCord Prods. Under the pact, White, along with producing partner David Bernad, will create and develop new projects for the pay cable network.
RipCord recently wrapped filming the second season of White’s dark HBO comedy Enlightened, which will premiere in January. The series, starring Laura Dern and Luke Wilson, received Golden Globe nominations for best comedy series and best comedy series actress, winning for Dern’s performance. RipCord has several projects in development at HBO, where the company had a first-look deal, including an untitled comedy from writer Steve Conrad. RipCord also produced digital series The Boring Life Of Jacqueline, created by Sebastian Silva, which launched in August on HBO GO. Read More »
Shares are up in pre-market trading as the satellite company performed well in Q4, with a lot of help from Latin America. DirecTV had net income of $718M in the year-end quarter, up 16.2% vs the period in 2010, on revenues of $7.5B, up 12,7%. The revenue figure slightly beat the $7.4B that the Street anticipated. Earnings at $1.02 a share were well ahead of the 92 cents forecast. At the main business, the U.S. satellite service, revenues were up 9% to $6B as rate increases and higher sales of NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions outweighed the growing number of discounts DirecTV offered to new customers. The company ended the year with 19.9M domestic subscribers, up 3% vs the end of 2010. The net addition of 125,000 customers in the quarter represents a sharp retreat from the period last year when DirecTV added 289,000 U.S. subscribers. Read More »
Golden Globes TV: ‘Homeland’, ‘New Girl’, ‘Enlightened’, ‘Boss’ & ‘AHS’ Bring In Fresh Blood; Pay Cable Hot
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. went for an extreme makeover on the TV series side, snubbing a lot of long-time favorites for first-time nominees. Seven of the 10 best series nominees are freshman shows: dramas Homeland (Showtime), Boss (Starz), Game Of Thrones (HBO) and American Horror Story (FX) and comedies Enlightened (HBO), New Girl (Fox) and Episodes (Showtime). Five of them hail from pay cable where audience reach is limited. Earlier today, Deadline contributor Ray Richmond spoke with the showrunners of some of the first-time best series nominees, Mike White, Farhad Safinia, Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk and Liz Meriwether, about the nominations and their impact on the rookie shows:
Mike White, creator of HBO’s Enlightened, nominated for best comedy series and best actress, Laura Dern:
“Getting Golden Globe attention could really make a difference for Enlightened. That’s what makes it so cool. I mean, shows like Glee and Modern Family, I can’t see how the Globes are going to get them new viewers. They’re already part of the landscape. But for a show like ours, it could really have an impact. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but it could be a perception changer and game-changer. Because we’re struggling to find a bigger audience, and we’re still waiting to hear about getting renewed for season two. So this really puts the spotlight on us a little bit. HBO could be deciding our fate even as we speak, and they sounded really stoked about this today. We’re still kind of in the gray. Something like this gives you validation, gives you more ammunition to convince them that this is a show they should be proud to have and want to keep making.”
“We were hoping that maybe Laura (Dern) would get nominated. But we didn’t dream much beyond that…It’s so weird. I had this dream the other night where I was looking online to see if we were nominated, and there was a show called Enlightened on the list. But it was like in the children’s category. So I have to say I’m glad we weren’t accidentally categorized as a kids show.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Craig Gillespie is exiting Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, becoming the latest filmmaker to walk away from the Lionsgate project. The screen adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel mixes the 1813 Jane Austen classic with a legion of bloodthirsty zombies. So far, the film hasn’t had much luck with directors, or casting for that matter. Gillespie, who directed the critically acclaimed art house film Lars And The Real Girl and followed with Fright Night, came on to the film after Mike White left. White had replaced David O. Russell, who wrote the script. The split here was amicable but had to do with things like who to cast in the film. Casting has been tough on this one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lionsgate doesn’t look for not only a director but a package from an agency that includes cast as well.
Lionsgate has made it official. Craig Gillespie has been set to direct Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the movie adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel that mixes the 1813 Jane Austen classic with a legion of bloodthirsty zombies. Gillespie, who directed the critically acclaimed art house film Lars and the Real Girl, most recently directed the Fright Night remake that stars Colin Farrell. Deadline told you that Gillespie was the front-runner in early February and that he would be getting the gig earlier this month. This has been one of the hotter genre titles around, and the hope here is that this takes care of the film’s commitment issues and that Lionsgate has found the filmmaker who’ll make the movie. David O. Russell had been attached to the project, and turned in a script that everybody likes before dropping out. He was replaced by Mike White, who dropped out in January, citing commitments to an HBO pilot. Natalie Portman is producing through her handsomecharlie shingle with Annette Savitch, who arranged for Darko Entertainment to acquire screen rights from Quirk Books. Darko’s Richard Kelly, Sean McKittrick and Ted Hamm will also produce. UTA reps Gillespie.
“We are so excited to have Craig Gillespie on board this film,” said Alli Shearmur, Lionsgate president of Motion Picture Production. “His sensibility spans from genre-bending horror to elegant character-driven comedy, which is perfect for this movie.”
Craig Gillespie will soon be set as director of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, Lionsgate’s adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel that enhanced the Jane Austen classic with a smattering of flesh-eating walking corpses. Now, Gillespie has been a frontrunner on the Lionsgate project since Mike White dropped out. But several other candidates were considered, including the author and his partner, David Katzenberg. I’m told that the other aspirants have been informed that Gillespie will be getting the gig and that he’ll begin negotiating soon. Gillespie, who helmed Lars and the Real Girl, most recently wrapped the remake Fright Night for DreamWorks, with Colin Farrell in the bloodsucker role.
Fright Night director Craig Gillespie is front runner to direct Pride And Prejudice and Zombies, the Lionsgate adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel. No deal yet, Lionsgate says. Mike White had the job but dropped out because of a scheduling conflict. Before that, David O Russell was the director, but before he left, he wrote a killer script that’s had other directors circling.