A huge slug of option awards propelled the Starz CEO to a compensation package that’s close to what Jeff Bewkes made at Time Warner, a much bigger company. Chris Albrecht benefited from a new contract that coincided with the premium cable channel company’s spinoff from Liberty Media in January 2013, according to the company proxy just filed at the SEC. His package: $1.3M salary, $27.9M option awards, $1.3M non equity incentives, and $16,134 in other compensation. Not much commentary in the proxy about Albrecht’s achievements, but Starz shares basically doubled in value in 2013 following the spin off. His compensation accounted for 71% of the pie for the company’s five top execs, up from 63% in 2012. Corporate governance watchdogs also would consider it way out of whack for the company. Albrecht’s pay was 9.9 times the median for his closest lieutenants, up from 6.7 times in 2012. Many governance specialists flash a warning sign about a CEO’s power when he or she makes more than three times the median for other execs.
Joey King (The Conjuring, Oz The Great And Powerful) has been cast in Lifetime’s original movie Outlaw Prophet from Sony Pictures Television. It focuses on the true story of Warren Jeffs, the leader of a Fundamentalist Mormon polygamist sect who spent more than a year on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, eluded authorities and was ultimately caught by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper. Based on Stephen Singular’s book When Men Become Gods, the movie chronicles Jeffs’ rise to power after the death of his father, Rulon Jeffs (Martin Landau). King will play Elissa Wall, the battered young woman who brings Jeffs (Tony Goldwyn) to justice. King, repped by Dan Spilo at Industry Entertainment and Meredith Fine at Coast to Coast Talent Group, will next be seen in FX’s Fargo and Zach Braff’s indie Wish I Was Here.
Fourteen years after he greenlighted Project Greenlight at HBO, Chris Albrecht has picked up a followup as Starz‘s first original unscripted series. The pay cable network will air the 10-episode The Chair, created by Project Greenlight executive producer Chris Moore. The competition documentary series follows two directors through the process of bringing their first feature to the screen. The up-and-coming directors, Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, are provided with an identical screenplay How Soon Is Now, which they must craft as their own film using the same budget and filming in the same city. The series documents the creation, marketing and theatrical release of both adaptations, which will also air on Starz.
Starz‘s new original series Power will debut at 9 PM Saturday, June 7. The pay cable network made the announcement in conjunction with the release of “Big Rich Town”, a new music video by Power executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. The single was created specifically for the show and will serve as the main title theme. It features never-before-seen footage from the New York-based crime drama from writer Courtney Kemp Agboh, which is set in two different worlds, the glamorous New York club scene and the brutal drug trade. “For me, the musical component of Power is so important,” Jackson said. “I wanted to let the music speak to the viewers as they are watching the show and being able to create the theme song, ‘Big Rich Town’, was crucial as it sets the tone of the show.” Power centers on James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), the owner of an up-and-coming new nightclub in New York with plans to build an empire who also is a drug kingpin. Watch the video here.
EXCLUSIVE: Mike Epps is adding a seasoned presence to Starz’s scripted comedy series Survivor’s Remorse, joining a cast of mostly 20-something up-and-comers as a regular. Additionally, Epps has booked a recurring role on the second season of the BET drama Being Mary Jane. Survivor’s Remorse, executive produced by NBA star LeBron James and Mike O’Malley, is set in the world of professional basketball. It follows Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), a basketball phenom in his early 20s who is thrust into the limelight after signing a multimillion-dollar contract with a pro team.
Jessie T. Usher (Level Up), Ronreaco Lee (Glory, Let’s Stay Together), Erica Ash (Scary Movie 5, The Real Husbands Of Hollywood), Tichina Arnold (Martin, Everybody Hates Chris) and Teyonah Parris (Mad Men, They Came Together) have signed on to Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse, a half-hour scripted comedy series executive produced by NBA star LeBron James, Mike O’Malley, Tom Werner, James’ manager Maverick Carter and Paul Wachter. Survivors Remorse is set in the world of professional basketball and explores the comedy and drama of what truly happens when you make it out. Story follows Cam Calloway (Usher), a basketball phenom in his early 20s who is thrust into the limelight after signing a multimillion-dollar contract with a pro team. Cam, along with his cousin and confidant Reggie Vaughn (Lee), move to Georgia to start Cam’s journey to success. The two confront the challenges of carrying opportunistic family members and their strong ties to the impoverished community that they come from. Ash, repped by DBA and Principato-Young, will play M-Chuck, Cam Calloway’s sister. Arnold, with APA and Zenay R. Arnold, will play Cassie, Cam’s mother; and Parris, with APA and Vanguard Management, will play Reggie’s wife Missy. Usher is repped by Paradigm and Williams Unlimited; Lee by APA, Principato-Young Entertainment …
Josh Helman (X Men, Fury Road) and Damon Herriman (Justified) have landed roles in Starz‘s ballet drama Flesh And Bone from executive producers Lawrence Bender, Kevin Brown and John Melfi and creator/exec producer Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad). Described as a dark and gritty exploration of the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world, Flesh And Bone follows Claire (Sarah Hay), a young dancer with has a distinctly troubled past, as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. Helman, repped by Gersh, Harrison Stokes, and Jackoway Tyreman, will play Bryan, who just returned home with a bad case of PTSD after serving in combat overseas. Herriman, with APA, Art/Work Entertainment and Australia’s Lisa Mann, will play Romeo, a strange and engaging homeless guy who lives on the roof of Claire and Mia’s Lower East side building. He was recently tapped as a recurring on CBS’ Battle Creek.
Ben Daniels (House of Cards, Law & Order: UK) has been tapped to star in Starz’s ballet drama Flesh And Bone from executive producers Lawrence Bender, Kevin Brown and John Melfi and creator/exec producer Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad). Described as a dark and gritty exploration of the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world, Flesh And Bone follows Claire (Sarah Hay), a young dancer with has a distinctly troubled past, as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. Daniels, repped by Elizabeth Wiederseim, who recently moved from Don Buchwald and Associates to Gersh, and by Hamilton Hodell in the UK, will star as the volatile and brilliant artistic director Paul Grayson. Flesh And Bone is set to debut on Starz in 2015.
Related: Primetime Pilot Panic
Saturday Night Live alum Nora Dunn is set as a series regular in Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero’s CW drama pilot iZombie, from Warner Bros TV. iZombie is a supernatural crime procedural that centers on a med student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity. But with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. Dunn, repped by Pakula King & Associates and Lighthouse Entertainment, will play Eva Moore, a hospital administrator and mother to the lead character Olivia, which has yet to be …
CBS, Disney, Fox, and Time Warner are the easy answers — and the ones that many financial types believe are eyeing the independent programming network companies following Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger takes the conversation a step further today with an intriguing report that suggests several less obvious potential buyers for AMC Networks, Scripps or Starz. Distributors including DirecTV, Dish Network, Charter, AT&T and Verizon might want to take a page from Comcast’s playbook when it bought NBCUniversal. DirecTV doesn’t offer broadband, so it has “additional motivation to take some action to future-proof the business,” possibly by offering exclusive access to certain networks, Juenger says. Charter and Dish are long shots: Charter probably could only afford AMC. And Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen seems intent on acquiring airwave spectrum, although “nobody really knows Mr. Ergen’s potential plans, and they could change.” AT&T and Verizon’s corporate cultures are “a step (or three) further removed from the content business.” Yet here, too, they might take a leap since “their historical core businesses are not exactly growing, and they could amass the financial resources.”
Starz has partnered with the BBC on the British broadcaster’s eight-episode limited drama series The Missing. Starz will co-produce the project, starring James Nesbitt (The Hobbit trilogy), which has begun filming in Brussels. Written by Harry and Jack Williams and directed by Tom Shankland, the thriller will air on BBC One in the UK and Starz in the U.S. in fall 2014. It is produced by New Pictures and Company Pictures in association with Two Brothers Pictures and Colin Callender’s Playground. All3media International has funded development of The Missing and retains all U.S. rights not obtained by Starz. Missing reunites the auspices behind The White Queen limited series, which was a success for Starz; it also hailed from BBC One, Company Pictures, Playground and all3media.
Like any change to a well-established model, the networks’ efforts to break away from the traditional development cycle is undergoing growing pains. There have been issues for studios who don’t have a pilot to show to international buyers at the May screenings because production has been shifted to off-season or because projects have received what Fox refers to “an off-cycle commitment for further investment towards series production,” meaning an order for backup scripts and a bible but no tape. Then there is the issue for writers hired on the projects that have no formal green light.
This is not a new phenomenon — Starz, for example, assembles a writers room and gets scripts ready as part of its development process because it only orders projects straight to series. But more and more broadcast networks are now embracing the off-cycle and straight to series models and, hedging their bets, invest in small writers rooms (an average of 3 people) working for 4-10 weeks to produce multiple scripts and a bible that network brass evaluate before making an episodic commitment. Fox and NBC have been the most active in the field, with the others also exploring the idea. The model has raised concerns for writers as it allows the studio to hire scribes at scale (minimum pay) per WGA article 14 (“writers in additional capacity”) and not adhere to writers’ “quotes,” which is the per-episode fee to which they are entitled based on experience. It also allows studios to ask for lengthy holds of up to 6-8 months on the writers after they finish work while the network makes a decision on the series.
Australian filmmaker David Michôd (Animal Kingdom) will direct the first episode of Starz‘s new drama series Flesh And Bone, created/executive produced by Breaking Bad‘s Moira Walley-Beckett and executive produced by Lawrence Bender, Kevin Brown and John Melfi. The series follows a young ballet dancer, Claire (Sarah Hay), who has a distinctly troubled past, as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. The dark and gritty series will unflinchingly explore the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world. Michôd made his feature debut as a writer and director of Sundance winner Animal Kingdom. His follow-up, The Rover, stars Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. “I’m entirely enamored of the visual, visceral, artful way David tells story,” said Walley-Beckett. “His style and sensibility is very much in alignment with my vision of my show.” This is Michôd’s second TV directing gig and his first pilot. He previously helmed an episode of Mike White’s HBO comedy Enlightened.
Does the Time Warner CEO need a refresher in the difference between TV “viewers” and “ratings”? It couldn’t hurt after he mistakenly confused the two in a comment to analysts on Wednesday that Starz challenged. Jeff Bewkes wanted to demonstrate that Cinemax — usually overshadowed by HBO — is an “underappreciated asset.” To drive home the point he added: “In 2013, we actually had more viewing at Cinemax than at Starz and basically, the same viewing at Cinemax as at Showtime.” The problem? “He meant ‘ratings,’ not ‘viewership’,” a company spokesman tells me. The error is meaningful: Starz is in more households than Cinemax, and usually handily beats the Time Warner channel in the number of eyeballs it attracts. For example, Starz averaged 232,000 live-plus-same-day viewers last year vs. 158,000 for Cinemax, according to Nielsen data supplied by Starz. Bewkes’ initial “viewership” claim “is not substantiated when examined through the lens of all accepted audience measurement standards,” Starz says. Nielsen data show that “Starz bested Cinemax in households and in total viewers P2+ for total day, in prime time, in live-only viewing, and in every live+DVR measure, both for the flagship Starz network and the multiplex channels.” Easy to see why Time Warner prefers to look instead at ratings, the percentage of potential audience that tunes in. The Cinemax-brand channels collectively had a 1.0 total day rating in …
Starz has given an official series pickup to Survivor’s Remorse, a half-hour scripted comedy series executive produced by NBA star LeBron James, Mike O’Malley, Tom Werner, James’ manager Maverick Carter and Paul Wachter. I hear the order is for 6 episodes. The project, written by O’Malley, had been on fast-track development and considered a front-runner for the Q4 slot that became open in December when Starz pulled out of its commitment to Sky Atlantic’s upcoming drama series Fortitude. Survivor’s Remorse, which had assembled a small writers room and had started preliminary casting for the two leads in anticipation of a series pickup, will debut next fall. Its green light comes on the heels of Starz ordering ballet drama Flesh And Bone for 2015.
Starz has picked its next original series, giving a series order to drama Flesh and Bone, created/executive produced by Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad) and executive produced by Lawrence Bender, Kevin Brown and John Melfi. The green light comes after an extensive nationwide search involving thousands of hopefuls resulted in the casting of dancer Sarah Hay (Black Swan) in the lead role. Flesh And Bone follows a young ballet dancer, Claire (Hay), who has a distinctly troubled past, as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. The dark and gritty series will unflinchingly explore the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world. “From the beginning, we all agreed this project could not go forward unless we found a world class dancer who had the ability to convey the widest range of emotions that Moira has written,” sais Starz CEO Chris Albrecht. “This is one of the most challenging and dynamic characters I have even seen and am thrilled to say we found our Claire in Ms. Hay.” Added Moira Walley-Beckett, “Sarah Hay embodies the role of Claire just as I dreamt her.”
Flesh and Bone had been on the fast track, picking up speed in November when the project locked in four accomplished dancers for supporting roles,
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Ellen’ Is First U.S. Daytime Talk Show In China; Starz’s ‘Power’ To Premiere At MIP-TV; More
China’s First Daily U.S. Talker? ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’
The Ellen DeGeneres Show has become the first U.S. daily talk show to be carried in China with the current 11th season now available on-demand via online video service provider Sohu Video. Episodes of the Warner Bros International Television Distribution property will be subtitled in Chinese and delivered within 48 hours of the original U.S. broadcast. Ellen is the top-rated daytime talk show in the U.S. with women 25-54. The talker seems well-suited to the Chinese audience with its brand of family-friendly humor and big stars. Here’s a clip of DeGeneres welcoming her new audience:
Starz’s ‘Power’ To Premiere At MIP-TV
Power, the Starz original series exec produced by Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) will have its world premiere at this April’s MIP-TV market in Cannes. MIP-TV and sister market Mipcom have been increasingly drawing big-ticket premieres and talent to the Riviera in recent editions. In October, Mipcom hosted the world premiere of The Tunnel, the Franco-British adaptation of The Bridge. The eight-episode first season of Power was created by showrunner Courtney Kemp Agboh. Jackson also stars in the story of a wealthy New York City nightclub owner (Omari Hardwick) who caters to the city’s elite. He’s also living a double life as the kingpin of the most lucrative drug network in New York. His marriage, family and business all become unknowingly threatened as he is tempted to leave his criminal life behind and become the rags-to-riches businessman he has always dreamed. Mark Canton, Randall Emmett and David Knoller also serve as executive producers. The screening will be held April 7.
Kevin Kasha is moving up from his current role as EVP Worldwide Acquisitions at Anchor Bay Entertainment to the newly created position of Head of Acquisitions at Starz, the parent company of Anchor Bay. In his new role, Kasha will oversee film, television series, and digital acquisitions for all of Starz’s businesses, including Starz Networks, Starz Worldwide Distribution, Starz Digital Media, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. The promotion was announced today by Michael Thornton, Chief Revenue Officer at Starz. Kasha joined Anchor Bay Films in 2008 as SVP Acquisitions. He was promoted to EVP Worldwide Acquisitions & Co-Productions in the spring of 2010. During his five-year tenure, Kasha acquired more than 100 films, according to Starz, including Andy Garcia-starrer City Island and Solitary Man, starring Michael Douglas. Kasha also acquired the home entertainment and digital rights to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Recent acquisitions include Rob Zombie’s The Lords Of Salem, Kill The Irishman, Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car and the cult hit Battle Royale. Upcoming releases include At Middleton as well as a new joint venture with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for the release of Gina Carano’s In The Blood.