EXCLUSIVE: Reveille is entering the first-run syndication arena. The production company owned by News Corp’s Shine Group has tapped syndication executive Eric Pankowski for the newly created position of SVP Creative Affairs. In that role, he will oversee the development …
Sky in late July announced its fall original TV line-up. New comedy shows include Gates, script-edited by Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous); Starlings, executive produced by Steve Coogan; and Spy, starring Brit TV mainstay Robert Lindsay about a father and son who are both secret agents. Fall dramas include the return of Strike Back, the first co-production between Sky and HBO/Cinemax, and a new version of Treasure Island, starring Elijah Wood, Eddie Izzard and Donald Sutherland. Mad Dogs, Sky’s psychological thriller, returns for a second season in January. And Naveen Andrews (Lost) stars in Sinbad, Sky’s biggest original drama commission yet, due to air fall 2012.
These new Sky shows are part of the $951 million annual push into original TV production announced by Jeremy Darroch, CEO of BSkyB. In a TV economy in which cash from other broadcasters is drying up, Sky’s move into home-grown programming is a welcome UK boost. Until now, Sky has mainly relied on movies and sports to drive subscribers. and it has relied on U.S. shows such as The Simpsons, Lost and 24 to attract customers. This is about to change. Original drama hours will more than triple to 60 hours a week by 2014. Sky currently spends $619 million a year on original content. BSkyB has huge financial resources to support its programming ambitions. The company reported a 10% rise in revenue in the year-end to June 2011 to $10.7 billion. Enders Analysis, the London-based research house, predicts BSkyB’s revenues will rise to $13.2 billion in 2015, exceeding the combined revenues of rivals the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. Sophie Turner-Laing, managing director of entertainment and news, tells me that Sky Studios will be at the heart of this programming push. “We so wanted to have entertainment produced on site,” she says.
BSkyB is not just making new shows for its Sky1 general entertainment channel. It is also developing bigger projects for its Sky Atlantic channel to sit alongside U.S. imports Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and Blue Bloods. Three U.S. networks, including at least one cable channel, are vying to buy Hit and Miss, Sky’s first original program for Sky Atlantic. Chloe Sevigny stars as a transsexual hit-woman in Hit and Miss, which is currently filming in Manchester. The show is executive produced by Paul Abbott, who wrote BBC drama State of Play.
Sky is pushing hard into original TV partly because it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract new subscribers. Sky has spent heavily on Hollywood movies and sports to reach its current 10.1 million customers. It wants to add entertainment to attract those who have resisted Sky so far. The move will allow Sky to appear better value to new and existing customers. And, in particular, attract more women, who aren’t so keen on premium sports and movies. Sam Chisholm, a previous Sky CEO, has described BSkyB’s lack of women customers as the “female handbrake” holding it back. Backed up by the $1.8 billion Sky spends on marketing each year – which includes subsidising all its set-top boxes — the broadcaster hopes to release the female handbrake.
David Elstein, former BSkyB director of programmes, says the broadcaster has reached the point where it has to show not just more but better programs as well. “It took HBO 20 years to reach that stage so BSkyB is on track,” he said. “There is a limit to what return you get from spending on sport, there is nothing more to be done on movies, there are no new channels to induce into the Sky package, technology investment has peaked. But Elstein remains bullish on its long-term prospects. ”BSkyB will see itself competing with HBO, AMC and Showtime in terms of drama and perhaps comedy, rather than the BBC and ITV.”
Meanwhile just completed is Sky Studios, the pay-TV behemoth’s new $379 million TV facility that opened in July. What a difference from two decades ago when Rupert Murdoch said his whole Sky TV enterprise was being launched on “a wing and a prayer. His News Corp would eventually craft a $14 billion bid for complete control that is now a very public failed deal.
With independent board members privately rebelling and institutional investors publicly complaining about inadequate corporate governance in the wake of the UK phone-hacking scandal, News Corp’s board of directors is scheduled to meet Tuesday in Los Angeles ahead of the company’s fiscal year-end earnings release the next day. Now the media giant’s Wall Street Journal is reporting that Elisabeth Murdoch and the media giant have shelved plans for her to join the board for now. The 42-year-old daughter of News Corp Chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch was expected to join the board as part of her return to the company through News Corp’s acquisition of the Shine Group, the television-production company she runs. Rupert had even said in a news release in February that he expected her to join the board when the £415 million ($680 million) Shine acquisition was completed in April. News Corp independent director Viet Dinh said in a statement Friday that Elisabeth ”felt it would be inappropriate” to join the company board at its annual meeting later this year and the company’s independent directors agreed.
The last of Ben Silverman’s three musketeers who launched Reveille with him is leaving parent company Shine Group. Chris Grant, who has served as president of sales and distribution arm Shine International since Shine’s 2008 acquisition of Reveille, will depart later this year, along with his top lieutenant, EVP John Pollak. The move is a result of News Corp-owned Shine Group’s decision to relocate the headquarters of its sales and distribution unit to London, where Shine’s main offices are, from Los Angeles. Grant, who has chosen not to relocate, will work through a six-month transitional period and help in the search for a London-based successor. Shine Group President Alex Mahon will be taking oversight of Shine International in the interim. ”At this stage of the company’s growth, Shine International needs its headquarters alongside our teams that manage and exploit group formats, brands and digital rights, with local sales experts in our global production centres of excellence,” Mahon said.
Shine International will keep a presence in LA with a small office. Pollak will continue in his role as Head of Sales until the end of the year, remaining in the US. SVP Business and Operations Martin Rakusen will relocate to the London office. “I am incredibly proud of the substantial growth that Shine International has achieved since we started the company, and particularly in the last few years since joining the Shine Group,” Grant said. “These changes are absolutely right for the business at this point in its development, however, LA is my home, and rather than relocate, it is also a good time for me to allow my colleagues to build on the success we have, together, created.”
In light of the pending exit of Reveille managing director Howard T. Owens, Eden Gaha, a longtime Mark Burnett collaborator and showrunner of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, has been named Reveille president. Reveille’s parent company Shine Group had been looking to tap creative and producer types in the top management positions for the next phase of the company, and Gaha fits the bill. This has become an industry-wide trend over the past year, with several production companies appointing top producers for management posts, especially on the reality side, including Zodiak USA. Gaha is not directly replacing Owens as Owens had been overseeing the entire Reveille slate: unscripted, scripted, digital and brand integration. Gaha will run the reality/digital/brand operations, while Shine Group Americas CEO Emiliano Calemzuk will oversee scripted development and production. Here is the release, which includes several other recent executive appointments at Reveille:
LOS ANGELES, CA (May 6, 2011) – It was announced today that Eden Gaha has been appointed to the position of President, Reveille, LLC. Show runner of the successful Celebrity Apprentice franchise since 2006, Gaha will head Reveille’s unscripted, creative, development, digital and brand integration departments. Starting in June, he joins a series of recent production hires at the Shine Group-owned company, and reports to Shine Group Americas CEO Emiliano Calemzuk, who will continue to oversee the company’s scripted output.
At one point there was a lawsuit in the U.S. that claimed the proposed deal made little sense and that Rupert Murdoch was “paying for nepotism” by buying his daughter Elisabeth’s TV production company. News Corp said the suit was “without merit”
New York, NY (April 5,
Fox TV Studios president Emiliano Calemzuk is leaving the company after 3 years to head Shine Group’s operations in North and South America, including Reveille. He is being named to the newly created position of CEO Shine Group Americas. I hear EVP David Madden, who runs FtvS’s successful cable business and is well liked within News Corp., is in line to succeed him as head of the company. He shepherded the development of such hit FtvS series as USA’s Burn Notice and White Collar.
Liz Murdoch has talked about wanting to beef up comedy at her Shine Group and now she’s done it. Shine has bought UK comedy producer Brown Eyed Boy from Motive Television. This is Shine’s 5th …