Sony has its eye on television, telling investors that it will become more central to its entertainment strategy. That’s a change from a few years ago, Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko says: The Japanese company couldn’t buy television stations in the U.S. and had “no cohesive global strategy.” But he says Sony has turned that around and now benefits from its freedom to produce TV shows for anyone, and seize opportunities in growing overseas economies. Echoing the theme of the day, Mosko says that his operation “will keep a close eye on controlling costs.” That shouldn’t affect its ability to attract talent: People know that “we will make the success of their show our top prioritiy,” says Zack Van Amburg U.S. programming and production chief. For example, Breaking Bad likely will generate 10 times the revenues originally expected. Production has already begun on a sequel for AMC, Better Call Saul, and “it will be profitable from year one.” Execs also say that The Blacklist is the No. 1 show worldwide, including in Australia, Canada, Latin America, and the UK. To underscore the range of opportunities, the company pointed to direct-to-series orders from Netflix (for a family murder mystery series), Starz (for Outlander, created by Ron Moore), SyFy (Helix, also from Moore), and CBS (Battle Creek from David Shore and Vince Gilligan.
Starz this morning unveiled a photo of Sam Heughan in character for its original series Outlander, adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s international bestselling novels, debuting in 2014. Heughan plays Jamie Fraser, an 18th century Scottish warrior who marries Claire Randall, a combat nurse from 1945 (Caitriona Balfe), when …
Last summer, Scotland got its own Disney heroine in the form of Brave‘s Merida. This summer, Scotland is hot again, and it’s not just a late-breaking heatwave that has the mercury rising. Every August, the capital city of Edinburgh becomes a hub of festival activity from the Edinburgh International Festival to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Television Festival, but this year there’s more reason to consider England’s neighbor to the north (especially as it readies a 2014 referendum on independence from the UK). Attention turned to Edinburgh last week as Kevin Spacey spoke at the TV fest to deliver a timely take on issues facing the business. Meanwhile, four movies partly funded by Scotland are on their way to Toronto, and next month sees the Starz series Outlander settle in for 38 weeks of shooting from a base near Glasgow.
Back in the late 90s when Trainspotting and Braveheart “made Scotland hip” there was “an opportunity to capitalize and lure people” to the territory, Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald tells me. But now might really “be the moment,” he says. Macdonald produced Sunshine On Leith, the Toronto-bound Dexter Fletcher-directed movie based on the stage musical that was inspired by the music of cult Scottish pop-folk band The Proclaimers. (Their 1988 song ‘I’m On My Way’ was featured on the soundtrack of DreamWorks’ Shrek.) The film follows the stories of Davy and Ally after their return home from serving in Afghanistan. Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks star in the DNA Films production. Shooting took place in Edinburgh and the movie received £300,000 in funding from Scotland’s arts body Creative Scotland. Just this month, Focus Features International boarded for worldwide sales. Macdonald is a Scotsman (he’s also the brother of helmer Kevin Macdonald), but director Fletcher is English. This didn’t stop Creative Scotland, which is coming off of a bumpy 2012 that saw a management shake-up, from investing. The org’s Caroline Parkinson, head of creative development, tells me that there is a cultural test to access the £4M pot from which the outfit draws, but the idea is to be “flexible” and not rule out what can be “fantastic films for Scotland.”
The numbers look good, even though they were helped by one-time developments including an increase in the number and performance of films it distributes for The Weinstein Co. Starz reported net income of $66.0M, -5.1% vs last year’s Q2, …
UPDATE, 9:05 AM: After a premature tweet by Starz last week, Sam Heughan was officially set today as the male lead in the upcoming drama series Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels. ”I am UTTERLY delighted to confirm that Sam @Heughan is cast as Jamie Fraser in #Outlander_Starz #Outlander“ Gabaldon said on Twitter today. ”From the very beginning, I knew the part of Jamie Fraser would be difficult to cast. I had no one in mind for the part. I knew that someone would just come into the audition and be Jamie Fraser. And that’s what Sam did,” added executive producer Ron Moore in a statement. The Scotland-born Heughan is repped by UTA and Ruth Young at United Agents. Outlander begins shooting this fall in Scotland and is expected to debut on Starz next spring.
PREVIOUSLY, FRIDAY PM: Turns out Starz says its digital division made a mistake earlier today posting the tweet confirming Sam Heughan as the lead. Starz now has taken down the tweet announcing Heughan as Jamie Fraser in the TV adaptation of the Outlander series. A press rep says the actor is in talks with no deal finalized yet. “I can’t confirm that contract is signed, but saw @heughan audition tapes. #jawdrop,” tweeted Outlander author Diana Gabaldon on Friday after Starz had taken down the initial tweet.
More than three weeks after Starz greenlighted Outlander to series with a 16-episode order, the network is making the pickup official with a press announcement for the project, an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s hugely successful novels from Battlestar Galactica alum Ron Moore and Sony Pictures TV. Here it is:
Beverly Hills, Calif., June 25, 2013 – Starz Chief Executive Officer, Chris Albrecht, announced today that Starz will partner with Sony Pictures Television to greenlight “Outlander,” an original series adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s international bestselling books. The network has ordered 16 episodes of the series which will begin filming in Scotland this fall. It is slated to premiere in 2014.
The series adaptation for “Outlander” will be written by Ronald D. Moore (“Battlestar Galactica”). Ronald D. Moore and Jim Kohlberg are executive producers of “Outlander,” which is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining and Supply Company and Left Bank Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television.
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling fantasy/romance/adventure series of books, is slowly inching to the screen. No greenlight from Starz yet, but I’ve learned that the project has opened a writers room, with Battlestar Galactica developer Ron Moore, who is spearheading the drama series adaptation, hiring four scribes to work with him. The move indicates that Starz is contemplating a potential straight-to-series order for Outlander, a route the pay cable network has taken with most of its original series. Joining Moore on Outlander are two writers who have worked with him before — Battlestar alumna Toni Graphia and Caprica‘s Matt Roberts — along with veteran showruner Ira Behr (Alphas, The 4400) and Anne Kenney (LA Law, Switched At Birth).