That’s the way it looks to me the closer I examine the transaction. Just last month the telco announced that it forged a partnershipwith former News Corp COO Peter Chernin, valued at $500M, to either buy or build a so-called over-the-top (OTT) online video service. That’s now potentially the biggest — and perhaps the only meaningful — new opportunity for AT&T if it completes its $49.5B acquisition of DirecTV. The satellite company’s CEO Michael White told analysts this week that OTT and mobile video could be ”big win-wins not only for us and our customers but also for our programming partners.”
Related: Peter Chernin Teams With AT&T In $500M Effort To Create Online Video Service
It’s more than an opportunity — it’s a necessity for the two companies. DirecTV‘s domestic TV business is mature, and AT&T’s copper wireline phone network is becoming obsolete. The media world is now about broadband, and cable companies led by Comcast have pretty much locked up the part of the business that involves wired connections. About 83% of the 1.2M people who signed up for wired broadband in Q1 went with cable, Leichtman Research Group reports. DirecTV and AT&T can’t beat cable’s ability to transmit gobs of programming and data to home TVs and computers.
Yet AT&T’s wireless spectrum could put it in the pole position to sell video and Internet services for smartphones and tablets — especially when out of the home.
The problem? AT&T and DirecTV were slow to move, which gave their respective chief competitors — Verizon and Dish Network — a head start in the race to develop a national OTT service. Read More »
This is a weird, but intriguing announcement. AT&T and The Chernin Group say today that they formed a venture “to acquire, invest in and launch over-the-top (OTT) video services.” (Jargon alert: OTT is industry-speak for an online service that can take the place of traditional pay TV.) The two have committed more than $500M, but offer no details about how much each has put up, ownership stakes, etc. — although Chernin’s kicking in his majority stake in subscription VOD service Crunchyroll. They plan to invest in ad and subscription VOD channels as well as streaming services. ”A critical part of The Chernin Group’s strategy has been our significant focus on the online video industry, and joining forces with AT&T only further underscores our strategic commitment in this area as operators, investors and programmers,” Chernin says. He adds that AT&T’s “massive reach on those platforms across mobile and broadband and their commitment to the online video space make them the perfect fit for this venture with us.” Chernin was a major supporter of Hulu back when he was Rupert Murdoch’s No. 2 at News Corp. AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Stankey says that the combo “creates the opportunity for us to develop a compelling offering in the OTT space.” AT&T will disclose its Q1 earnings, and talk with analysts, after the market closes today.
EXCLUSIVE: In an aggressive pre-emptive bid, 20th Century Fox has acquired an original pitch by identical twin screenwriters Aaron and Jordan Kandell, for mid-to-high six figures. Chernin Entertainment is producing. I’m hearing that it’s a modern fairy tale with the tone of The Lego Movie. Deal moved quickly after Fox heard the idea. An offer was on the table before the writers had left the lot. Daria Cercek will point for the studio and David Ready and Jenno Topping for Chernin.
This marks the first pitch sale for the Kandell brothers, who have several major projects in development around town. These include their original screenplay Stranded, which has Dolphin Tale director Charles Martin Smith attached to helm for Paramount Pictures; a big-scale project for Warner Bros and Heyday; and the Black List script The Golden Record. The Kandells are represented by Verve Talent Agency, manager Sukee Chew of Hopscotch Pictures and attorney Leslie Abell.
In Hollywood’s latest “you stole my idea” case, a pair of screenwriters have filed a lawsuit claiming the Zooey Deschanel sitcom was based on their work. Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold claim that Fox’s New Girl and their 2006 pilot Square One contain similarities “so numerous and specific that independent creation was obviously impossible.” They name as defendants New Girl exec producer Peter Chernin, creator Elizabeth Meriwether, director Jake Kasdan, WME and Fox parent company 21st Century Fox.
Weighing in at 90-plus pages, the suit filed Thursday in California’s Central District (read it here) claims a laundry list of “similarities between the shows’ themes, structure, setting, overall story and plot arcs, specific plot devices, interpersonal twists, dialogue, sequence of events, tenor, specific scenes and elements of scenes, character identities, character personalities, character relationships, character interaction, character development, character idiosyncrasies, and character names require the conclusion that defendant Meriwether not only knew of Square One, but copied Square One to create New Girl.” The plaintiffs say their show was based on Counts’ personal experience, when she moved into a three-man bachelor pad after a divorce. Read More »
The deal giving The Chernin Group a majority stake in Crunchyroll is a hedged bet on the future of anime — a genre that has a broad fan base but a mixed record for generating profits. Peter Chernin says that he intends to “continue to grow the anime vertical” online. But he adds that his company also will “launch new channels in different genres,” noting that Web video “is growing faster than any other sector within media” and that Crunchyroll provides “a fantastic, anchor platform.” The company has ad-supported and subscription online services targeted to more than 160 countries. It aims to be the destination of choice for anime fans; in addition to videos it offers e-commerce, news, and social media features. The companies didn’t say how much Chernin is spending, but note that Crunchyroll’s senior management “will maintain a significant stake” as will TV TOKYO. Once a haven for pirated anime, in 2009 Crunchyroll dedicated itself to cutting legitimate licensing deals with content owners. But anime providers struggled as DVD sales diminished, and some fans turned their attention to Hollywood blockbusters that feature sci-fi themes and superheroes. That’s taken a toll on companies such as 4Kids Productions, Bandai Entertainment, and Tokyopop. Still, Crunchyroll CEO Kun Gao says that anime remains “at the heart of our company.” The Chernin investment “will allow us to provide an even better experience … Read More »
Forget the speculation that Peter Chernin has lost interest in teaming with AT&T to bid for Hulu ahead of the Friday deadline for final offers. He and the telco will be there, along with a group that’s expected to include DirecTV, Guggenheim Digital, investment firm KKR, Silver Lake Partners with WME, and Time Warner Cable — with Yahoo a question mark. Some people began to wonder about Chernin’s intentions Monday after Fox unveiled a deal to license shows to Netfllix. The arrangement meant that Hulu lost its access to full seasons of the Chernin Entertainment-produced sitcom New Girl. (It will only be able to offer a few episodes at a time.) Yet we’re told that he’s still eager to help AT&T. Company watchers say that the telco’s intrigued by the possibility of turning Hulu into the centerpiece of a new wireless video business that would ask studios to help pay for the costs to transmit video to mobile devices. It was a coup for the company to align with Chernin who’s popular in Hollywood and helped to develop Hulu back when he was No. 2 at News Corp. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The graphic novels about a supernatural Latino superhero haven’t even been published, but Pantelion Films isn’t waiting. The company backed by Lionsgate and Televisa picked up distribution rights to The Mexorcist, about a fallen exorcist called back to duty when his brother is murdered by a Mexican cartel hellbent on bringing about the apocalypse. Peter Block of A Bigger Boat Productions developed the script with Andrew Cosby and Ed Quinn, who created the graphic novel series. Cosby also will make his feature directorial debut on the film, which is eyed to start production this year. Block, Cosby and Quinn will produce with Heather Courtney Quinn. Pantelion Head of Production Ben Odell will shepherd for the studio.
UPDATED 1:46 PM: Star attraction President Obama told some of the Hollywood’s biggest players and his biggest contributors that he understands if they’re feeling “donor fatigue” from all the times he’s hit them up for money. “We don’t have time to be fatigued because we’ve got too much to do,” he addressed the crowd at the two sold-out DNC fundraisers at former News Corp No. 2 and now independent mogul Peter Chernin’s house today. Tickets today range from $10,000 to $32,400. I’ve learned that longtime Obama supporter Disney boss Bob Iger flew back directly from a Fortune mag confab in China to make the lunch. And I’m told Fox Film chief Jim Gianopulos is also there along with Haim Saban as well. StarTrek/Star Wars director JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath and HBO’s Mike Lombardo and his partner Sonny Ward, who held a fundraiser for the Obama/Biden campaign in the their home last year, are also in attendance. White House pool report and press office excerpts below:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) Oh, we’re okay, guys. Sit down. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, to Peter and Meg, I just want to thank them so much. Not only have they been longtime supporters, back when a lot of people couldn’t pronounce my name — (laughter) — but more importantly,
… Read More »
The free-for-all to acquire Hulu might be turning into a tag-team match. Telco titan AT&T is considering a partnership with the Chernin Group, founded and run by ex-News Corp exec Peter Chernin, to make a run at the streaming service, AllThingsD reports. AT&T isn’t among the seven bidders for Hulu that emerged last month, but the Chernin Group is. In fact, Chernin helped create the premium video service with he was at News Corp, which co-owns Hulu with Disney and Comcast. The LA-based Hulu board began seeking the latest round of bidding in March and is expected to make its next move in the next several weeks.
The President isn’t running for office himself but he’s still looking for some cash from Hollywood. Barack Obama will be the main act at a lunch fundraiser at Peter Chernin’s house on June 7, Deadline has confirmed. The President will be in town raising money for the Democratic National Committee’s 2014 midterm election war chest. “Since we do not take money from special interests, corporate lobbyists and political action committees, we must rely on dedicated Democrats like you,” the invite says. And knowing that Hollywood is a good place to raise cash, the DNC is heavily relying on local Dems. Prices for tickets to the event at the former News Corp President and COO’s Santa Monica home go from $10,000 each to $32,400 if you want to be a recognized co-chair. The latter not only get their pic with Obama but get to participate in a semi-private chat with other co-chairs and the President as well. This isn’t the President’s first Western fundraiser since vacuuming up millions for his own reelection last year. Obama was up in San Francisco earlier this spring hitting up the tech crowd for money for the DNC as the party gears up for what all expect to be a rough fight for the House and Senate.
Related: Hulu Starts Sale Process Again – And Peter Chernin … Read More »
UPDATE 6 PM: Deadline has learned that Hulu is back up for sale and the bidding process is quietly underway again. Sources close to Peter Chernin confirm that he has bid $500M for Hulu but is not talking about it. Presumably, The Chernin Group (now with $200M backing from Providence Equity Partners) is bidding on less of Hulu than Dish and Google were back in 2011 when the sellers wanted $2 billion for the whole enchilada. Remember that October 13th, Hulu owners abruptly called off the sale. News Corp, Providence Equity Partners, Walt Disney Company, and the Hulu senior management team issued a joint statement that it would ”work together to continue mapping out its path to even greater success”. What went wrong was one problem particularly difficult to overcome: an inability to agree on the scope of the programming they were willing to offer someone buying Hulu. This was especially true for advertising-supported VOD, the kind of service that Hulu offers now. Hulu simply wasn’t worth much if the sellers wouldn’t throw in exclusive rights to stream popular first-run shows. Disney was more open to offering hit programming than News Corp was. (Comcast had to give up its vote at Hulu to win federal approval for its acquisition of NBCUniversal.) As far as the actual bidding back then, Dish Network was willing to bargain but offered less than the $2B that the … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Fox 2000 has optioned artist and author John Rocco‘s Caldecott-winning picture book Blackout for a live action feature that will be produced by Chernin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping, and producer/manager Rob Weisbach. Will Davies, who wrote How To Train Your Dragon, will pen the script.
Rocco’s bestselling book follows a young New York City family, disconnected from each other by their obsessive everyday use of technology, who are separated during a New York City blackout and must find their way back to each other–literally and figuratively–in order to reconnect as a family.
Rocco and Chernin’s Ivana Schecter-Garcia will be exec producers. It’s a highly relate-able movie concept by an accomplished visual author. Rocco studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design and NYC’s School of Visual Arts and his first job as an illustrator was on Whoopi Goldberg’s children’s book Alice. He has written three other picture books and is the illustrator in all of Rick Riordan’s series Percy Jackson And The Olympians, The Kane Chronicles, and The Heroes Of Olympus. Most recently, Rocco illustrated the fantasy fairy tale The Flint Heart, written by Katherine and John Paterson.
He has also been pre-production art director for DreamWorks on Shrek and for Walt Disney Imagineering, he designed attractions at Disney’s Epcot and was art director for DisneyQuest, the virtual reality theme park in Downtown Disney. He also oversaw production of CGI animation, motion capture and story … Read More »
Peter Chernin has joined the board at Twitter — in news that appropriately surfaced on the micro-blogging service. He tweeted: “I’ve been a long-time user of Twitter for news and information. Happy to be joining board of this very exciting company.” Reports surfaced in September that Chernin, head of Chernin Entertainment and formerly Rupert Murdoch’s No. 2 at News Corp, was being considered for Twitter’s board. Chernin has taken the seat previously held by Flipboard’s Mike McCue.
Related: Chernin Group Invests In YouTube Network Operator Base 79
Peter Chernin’s media company The Chernin Group has acquired a stake in online video business Base 79, the largest YouTube network in the EMEA region. The Financial Times values TCG’s investment at about $10M in return for a 28% stake. (TCG last week secured its own investment of about $100M from Qatar Holding, which followed a nearly $200M investment from Providence Equity Partners earlier this year.) Chernin also has investments in Scopely, Tumblr and Flipboard. Base 79 has over 550 YouTube channels and more than 300 premium content partners including BBC Worldwide, Tiger Aspect and SyCo. The full press release is below:
LONDON — Base79, one of Europe’s leading online video companies and the largest YouTube network in the Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) region, today announced that it has received a strategic equity investment from The Chernin Group (“TCG”), alongside continued participation from existing investor MMC Ventures. Proceeds from the round will be used to accelerate Base79’s expansion across Europe and into other global territories, to build owned-and-operated brands and channels, and to invest in the Company’s products and technology. Founded in 2007, the Company has offices in London, New York and Sydney, and has plans to increase its presence in continental Europe within the next 12 months.
Read More »
The former No. 2 to Twitter fan Rupert Murdoch is one of the top choices among the people being interviewed for the part-time gig, All Things D reports. But the site says it hears from unnamed sources that Twitter management is just beginning its search, and Peter Chernin is still mulling whether he even wants the job. The privately held company — believed to be a prime candidate to go public once it solidifies its business model — has a seat to fill in the board room following the recent departure of Flipboard’s Mike McCue. (He’s said to be concerned that his company might soon compete with Twitter.) Chernin has strong credentials: At News Corp he was one of the architects of Hulu. Since he left, his Chernin Entertainment has been a prolific developer of TV shows (including Fox’ New Girl) and movies (such as Fox’ Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes).
EXCLUSIVE: Kerry Foster has joined Chernin Entertainment as an executive. She will work on the film side of the production company and report to Executive Vice President Jenno Topping. All eyes are on the top slot at Chernin Entertainment, which was vacated recently by Dylan Clark when he veered into producing. I’m told it’s unclear what will happen to that post, but I’ve heard Chernin hopes to lure a big name to steer his feature division.
Foster has spent the past seven years as President of Production of Akiva Goldsmith’s Weed Road. Prior to Weed Road, Foster spent four years at Pandemonium Films as Vice President of Production. She started at Bingham Ray’s October Films. She has most recently been engaged in the Akiva Goldsman-directed Winter’s Tale as well as the Peter Berg-directed Lone Survivor, Fair Game, The Losers and Dark Tower. Chernin is in the middle of Parental Guidance, Oblivion and The Heat.
EXCLUSIVE: Dylan Clark, who three years ago transitioned from an exec veep post at Universal Pictures to become president of the film division of Chernin Entertainment, is in the process of transitioning out of that post to produce films for Peter Chernin’s shingle.
Clark has been in the center of Chernin’s big film productions, including Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and the upcoming sequel, and most recently Oblivion, the Joseph Kosinski-directed science fiction film that Tom Cruise stars in and which has been shooting in Baton Rouge. I’m told that his exit strategy is a work in progress, and that Clark, who wanted to focus on producing, will be likely producing numerous Chernin films going forward. Those pictures might include the untitled Paul Feig-directed comedy with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and the Rise Of The Apes sequel. Chernin will likely bring in another executive to run development before Clark’s contract expires in the fall.