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Reality Check: Mark Burnett On ‘Survivor’, ‘American Idol’, ‘Shark Tank’ & Anchoring Values

By | Monday June 9, 2014 @ 1:43pm PDT

Reality Check is a Deadline feature series covering the players, programs and trends in reality television.

Since Survivor firstmarkburnett1 debuted on CBS in the summer of 2000, Mark Burnett has been and remains one of the leading impresarios of the Reality TV genre that he in many ways created Stateside. Sure Burnett’s had flame-outs like the short lived Stars Earn Stripes, but he’s also currently holding a deck that includes the still strong Survivor 28 seasons in and growing NBC’s The Voice and ABC’s entrepreneurial series Shark Tank. In a genre where longevity and legacy are still being created, Burnett reflects on the state and shifting fortunes of Reality TV, why American Idol has stumbled and how he literally anchors his shows to success.

DEADLINE: Let’s cut to the chase, Mark. What’s the state of unscripted TV in 2014?
MARK BURNETT: The state of unscripted TV is very good, as long as it’s good. That’s the only thing you have to worry about. I always try to think that if you’re given an hour or two of primetime American network TV, you better treat that as if someone’s just given you a $100 million movie to run. No difference, and there’s no free pass. If it’s great, and if it has an emotional connection, for whatever reason, to the viewers, it stays. Particularly, for me, I’m very, very fortunate that The Voice, and Survivor, and Shark Tank all have a clear emotional connection through the TV screen into peoples’ homes. Read More »

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History’s ‘Vikings’ Carves Out 3.6 Million Viewers In Second Season Debut

By | Friday February 28, 2014 @ 12:26pm PST

Vikings-History-Channel-__130405181019-275x212History‘s Vikings returned for its second season at 10 PM last night, capturing 3.6 million viewers — including 1.7 million  adults 18-49, of whom 1.1 million were guys,  and 1.8 million adults 25-54, of whom 1.2 million were men. Vikings’  first season launch had clocked a whopping 6.2 million viewers — 2.5 million adults 18-49 and 2.7 million adults 25-54 –  but, as History points out, the lead-in for its series launch last year was rating behemoth The Bible. Armed with that Mark Burnett-produced miniseries as its lead-in, Vikings averaged 4.3 million total viewers, with 2 million 25-54 and 1.8 million 18-49 in its first season — a marauding success for History, with the historical drama emerging as the No. 1 new cable series of the year and scoring three Emmy noms.
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Super Bowl Ad: Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’

By | Wednesday January 29, 2014 @ 5:12pm PST

Russell Crowe stars as the biblical hero in Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah, which will make an appearance during the Super Bowl nearly two months before it hits theaters. Word is the pic from the Black Swan helmer isn’t your grandpa’s kind of Bible study (or even Mark Burnett’s) but a dark, existential take on the Ark saga. Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and Ray Winstone co-star. Paramount releases the epic on March 28. Check out the 30-second Super Bowl spot:

Related: Super Bowl Ad: Summit’s ‘Draft Day’

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Year-End: Biggest TV Controversies Of 2013

By | Monday December 30, 2013 @ 2:27pm PST

TV Controversies 2013

TYear End 2013he year 2013 was so jam-packed with TV controversies that, after Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson this month left A&E looking more or less like the spot marked with chalk where the accident had occurred, exhausted Reporters Who Cover Television slumped over in a surfeited sort of coma.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger dust-ups: Read More »

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‘The Bible’ Sequel ‘A.D.’ Gets 12-Episode Order From NBC

By | Tuesday December 17, 2013 @ 12:01pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

mark burnettNBC has given a formal green light to 12-hour miniseries A.D., Mark Burnett and Roma Downey‘s follow-up to their highly rated miniseries The Bible that aired on History earlier this year. The project, produced by LightWorkers Media with Burnett, Downey and Richard Bedser serving as executive producers, is eyeing a premiere in spring 2015. bible“Last year when Mark Burnett was launching The Bible on cable, I told him, without hesitation, that if he wanted to tell more of the story, we’d love to do it at NBC,” said NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt. “We are firmly in the ‘event’ business and nothing has more event potential than A.D. as it continues immediately after the The Bible ended.” The order for A.D., which will be written by BAFTA nominee Simon Block (The Shooting Of Thomas Hurndall), comes a week after NBC greenlighted its first miniseries under the network’s current longfprm push – the four-hour Rosemary’s Baby. This also marks the second miniseries order for Burnett and Downey in the past week after CBS picked up The Dovekeepers, which also has religious overtones.

Related: NBC Turns To Christ In Snagging ‘The Bible’ Follow-Up

Read More »

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‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Bags 7.4 Million Viewers On Night 2

By | Tuesday December 10, 2013 @ 11:03am PST

The miniseries’ second night viewership across A+E NetworksHistory, A&E and Lifetime, was down 24% from Night One. Of the 7.4 million viewers, 3.1 million fell into the 25-54 age bracketfirst-photos-of-bonnie-and-clyde-miniseries-01. On History, the miniseries, starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger in the title roles,  logged 2.8 million viewers overall; Lifetime and A&E networks each averaged 2.3 million.

Related: ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Miniseries Draws 9.8 Million Viewers Across Three Networks

Overall, the two-part miniseries averaged 8.6 million viewers — 3.6 million in that age bracket. That secures Bonnie & Clyde‘s status as basic cable’s third most watched miniseries since ’06, behind History’s mega hits Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible. Bonnie & Clyde had grossed 9.8 million viewers and 4.2 million demo viewers during its world premiere on Sunday. History also led the simulcast that night,  with 3.7 million viewers, followed by Lifetime (3.1 million) and A&E (3 million).

The project, which also starred Holly Hunter and William Hurt, marked A+E Networks’ first-ever simulcast across the three networks. Sony Pictures Television produced the mini, from executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, based on  the script byJohn Rice and Joe Batteer, directed by Bruce Beresford.

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CBS Jumps Back Into Miniseries Biz With ‘The Dovekeepers’ From Mark Burnett And Roma Downey

By | Monday December 9, 2013 @ 10:05am PST

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey — the new It Couple of TV Miniseries/Event Series — have landed CBSDovekeepers_bookfirst announced project from its new limited series and event programming unit. And yes, it’s an historical series with religious overtones. The Dovekeepers is a four-hour miniseries based in Alice Hoffman’s historical novel about the Siege of Masada, and it will air on CBS in 2015. The mini will focus on “four extraordinary women whose cbs-logo__120711164808__121116195436__130108233101__130716162250__130926192712lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada,” the network said. Masada is the mountaintop fortress near the Dead Sea where the Romans found the last pocket of resistance after they conquered Jerusalem in 70 CE.

CBS, in its announcement, noted The Dovekeepers hails from the team behind the Emmy-nominated 10-hour miniseries The Bible, which scored big ratings for History in March, ranking as the top cable entertainment telecast of the year to date and helping make History the No. 1-ranked cable network for that month. The Bible opened with 13 million tuned in — which, CBS execs no doubt noted at the time, is about as many people as watched the opening of their Stephen King project Under The Dome (before factoring in DVR viewing on subsequent days) last summer. In its first week of home video release, The Bible was the top-selling miniseries of all time and the No. 1 ranked TV series on DVD and Blu-ray over the past five years — surpassing 1 million units sold in the past three months. It also spawned a feature film version to be released by Fox in February (check out that trailer here). In addition to its broadcast on CBS, The Dovekeepers will be distributed to countries around the world by CBS Studios International. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: Fox’s ‘Son Of God’

By | Wednesday November 27, 2013 @ 10:15am PST

The next phase of Mark Burnett‘s The Bible-will-conquer-the-world plan is 20th Century Fox‘s feature-length film cut of the 10-part History Channel miniseries. The studio acquired rights to Son Of God in September and will release it February 28, 2014. At the Produced By Conference in June, Burnett said: “Just on the scripted side, I could spend the next 10 years just distributing the Bible series and the movie. I believe that in the next 15 years more people on the planet will have seen our Bible series that haven’t seen it.” Fox, which also has home video rights to The Bible, certainly hopes so. Here’s the first trailer — featuring new footage — that dropped this week:

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Mark Burnett’s ‘The Bible’ Feature Film Gets February 2014 Release Date

By | Tuesday October 15, 2013 @ 12:34pm PDT

If we weren’t sure of the target audience for the Mark Burnett minseries-turned-movie Son Of God, today’s release date announcement comes complete with testimonials not from movie critics but from some of the nation’s most recognizable men of faith including Rick Warren and Bishop TD Jakes. (Warren proclaims: “I’ve seen most of the films about Jesus produced in the past 50 years. Son Of God stands alone, in a class by itself. It is a powerful and poignant movie, the best Jesus movie I have ever seen.”) 20th Century Fox picked up feature film rights to the theatrical version of History’s miniseries last month, and the movie now set for a February 28, 2014 release includes footage not seen in the miniseries and has a 5.1 surround sound mix. But Fox doesn’t want the recut 2 hour, 15 minute feature version to be too different: The 10-part mini was a big hit in the spring, averaging 11.4 million total viewers during its five-week run on History; it earned three Emmy noms. Fox released the DVD in April and it quickly became the top-selling mini ever across Blu-ray, DVD and DigitalHD selling 525,000 in its first week alone. A sequel project to the mini, A.D: Beyond The Bible, has already been sold to NBC.

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Fox Lands ‘Bible’ Feature Film Cut From Mark Burnett-Roma Downey Miniseries

By | Thursday September 12, 2013 @ 10:23am PDT

History’s 10-part miniseries The Bible was a big hit in the spring, averaging 11.4 million total viewers during its five-week run and garnering three Emmy noms, and partnering with 20th Century Fox on the feature film version makes sense. The studio already has a partnership with executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey for worldwide home vid rights, and the parties have been in the planning stages of an international launch around Christmas. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released The Bible on home video in April, and it has become the top-selling mini ever across Blu-ray, DVD and DigitalHD after selling 525,000 copies its first week on the street. As for the feature, details on release dates and overseas distribution are still being worked out. Burnett said in June that he had just completed editing the 2 hour and 15 minute feature version of the series focusing on the life of Jesus and was looking for a buyer. “Just on the scripted side, I could spend the next 10 years just distributing the Bible series and the movie”, he said of the project he and wife Downey produced with Hearst Entertainment & Syndication. Burnett and Downey have already sold a sequel to the mini, A.D: Beyond The Bible, to NBC.

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EMMYS: Movie/Miniseries Overview

By | Wednesday August 21, 2013 @ 2:50pm PDT

Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

The movie/mini grouping is a diverse collection that has a bit of an apples-and-oranges feel. That’s certainly been the case since the TV Academy voted to combine the made-for-TV movie and miniseries categories into one two years ago. It resulted in wins for PBS’ Downton Abbey two years ago and the HBO docudrama Game Change in 2012. This time, only two actual movies made the nomination cut: The HBO biopics Behind The Candelabra and Phil Spector. The other four are miniseries, including FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum along with Sundance Channel’s Top Of The Lake, History’s entry The Bible and USA Network’s soapy Political Animals. The Liberace pic Candelabra has to be seen as the overwhelming favorite.


If any project stands a chance to derail Behind The Candelabra, it’s this one, due in large part to its graphic horror presentation, eye-popping effects and acting work that resulted in four performers getting nominated. People who work in television also tend to relate to tales of insane asylums.

There remains some question over whether American Horror Story should even be in this category, seeming more like a regular series than a true mini. And horror remains a niche that rarely wins a top prize. Read More »

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EMMYS: ‘The Bible’ Writes New Chapter With Nominations

By | Thursday July 18, 2013 @ 1:22pm PDT

Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage

History‘s 10-part miniseries The Bible continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, landing three Emmy nominations this morning including one for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie (as well as for sound editing and sound mixing). The noms further burnished the credentials of the series’ married exec producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey and come at a time when the project has taken on a successful life of its own: Burnett sold a sequel this month to NBC (tentatively titled AD: Beyond The Bible) and has seen the original mini emulate the massive ratings success it had on History overseas (it bowed to huge ratings this week in Australia). The series was No. 1 in its time period for all of TV when it aired in March and averaged 11.4 million total viewers during its five-week run. At the end of June it passed the 1 million mark in DVD sales, making it one of the best-selling DVDs based on a TV series of all time.

Related: Produced By: Mark Burnett On ‘Bible’ Follow-Up Read More »

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EMMYS: Basic Cable Miniseries Take Aim At HBO’s Star-Driven Movies

Pete Hammond

Miniseries, the format long thought dead or dying, dominates the combined Outstanding Movie or Miniseries category on this morning’s Emmy nomination list. Basic cable shows from the likes of FX, History, USA and Sundance Channel are using “miniseries” projects to make a strong showing against the perennial strength of HBO, which scored big as usual with its one-off , movie star-laden films Behind The Candelabra and Phil Spector which received an impressive total of 26 nominations between them. There is also a particularly strong group of past Oscar winners competing for Emmy gold in this year’s group.

Related: EMMYS: 2013 Nominations By Series

But leading the pack again, with the same number of nominations — 17 — it received last year is FX’s franchise American Horror Story: Asylum. In fact Asylum leads ALL shows in any category. Although widely thought to have been launched as a regular series after its pilot was picked up on FX in the 2011-2012 season, creator Ryan Murphy successfully lobbied the TV Academy and got its board to approve its Miniseries designation. It gives the show — in which the cast changes characters and stories each season — a much better chance at Emmy success than it would have had competing in the super-competitive Drama Series category, where many thought it belonged (the vote was very close in approving this switch ). American Horror Story picked up two Emmys out of those 17 nods last year and obviously hopes to up the ante on the second go-round. This is obviously the “miniseries” that keeps on giving to FX, far outshadowing the network’s criminally under Emmy-appreciated series Justified, Sons Of Anarchy and critically acclaimed newbie The Americans just to name three. Sometimes the line between Miniseries and Drama Series is a thin one. Downton Abbey won the Movie/Mini category two years ago but now competes in Drama Series where it lost to Homeland last year.

Related: EMMYS SNUBS: Weiner, McCarthy, Margulies, Broadcast TV, More Read More »

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‘The Bible’ Bows To Heavenly Ratings On Australia’s Channel 9; Encore Planned

By | Thursday July 18, 2013 @ 4:06am PDT

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett‘s The Bible debuted Down Under on Tuesday with a faithful following that gave Channel 9 top ratings for the night. The first episode of the 10-part miniseries was No. 1 during its two-hour slot with 21% of the audience and the top score amongst all key demos. Network 9 led the night with an overall 32.5% share (however, Ten’s Under The Dome was seen by about 20,000 more viewers, besting The Bible in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth). The Bible‘s performance spurred Channel 9 to schedule a repeat showing for this Saturday night. In the U.S., the mini ranked as the top cable entertainment telecast of the year to date and helped make History the No. 1-ranked cable network for the month of March. Downey and Burnett, along with NBC, are working on a sequel tentatively titled AD: Beyond The Bible.

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UPDATE: NBC Turns To Christ For Ratings Help In Snagging Follow-Up To ‘The Bible’

By | Monday July 1, 2013 @ 10:38am PDT

UPDATE: 10:38 AM: NBC: turning to Christ to deliver it from its ratings hole. The network announced this morning it had bought the sequel to History’s hit miniseries The Bible from Mark Burnett — who also exec produces the broadcast network’s The Voice and Celebrity Apprentice. At the recent Produced By Conference, Burnett said he was working on a sequel to the 10-part miniseries that ranked as the top cable entertainment telecast of the year to date and helped make History the No. 1-ranked cable network for the month of March. “I could spend the next 10 years just distributing the Bible series” and the movie version he’s adapted, Burnett quipped happily at that confab. In this morning’s announcement, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said he followed closely the development of The Bible “and knew that the story was far from over after Christ’s Crucifixion. In fact, what happened in the aftermath — which is essentially the beginning of Christianity — is utterly fascinating.” Greenblatt said he’d told Burnett after seeing The Bible’s opening numbers that NBC was “on board with no hesitation for the follow-up miniseries.”

The Bible opened with 13 million tuned in — about as many people as watched the opening of CBS’ Stephen King project Under The Dome — before factoring in DVR viewing on subsequent days. For No. 1-rated CBS, that is a big number – for ratings-starved NBC, it’s manna from heaven. Only two shows on NBC clocked a bigger crowd than that during the recently concluded TV season: Sunday Night Football and both nights of The Voice. In its first week of home video release, The Bible was the top-selling miniseries of all time and the No. 1 ranked TV series on DVD and Blu-ray over the past five years — surpassing 1 million units sold in the past three months. Read More »

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Holy Smokes! Miniseries ‘The Bible’ Passes Million Mark In Vid Sales

By | Thursday June 27, 2013 @ 7:39am PDT
Mike Fleming

This might give a shot of confidence to all of those Biblical-themed features, from the Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah with Russell Crowe to the upcoming Fox film Exodus, with Ridley Scott directing and Christian Bale playing Moses. Beyond the high ratings received when Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s The Bible ran on History Channel, the 10-parter has become the top-selling mini ever across Blu-ray, DVD and DigitalHD.

LOS ANGELES, CA, June 27, 2013 – THE BIBLE reached a new milestone today with 1 million units sold across Blu-ray, DVD and DigitalHD™. The epic 10-part miniseries from co-executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey continues to dominate records everywhere with its unprecedented sales performance. During its run, THE BIBLE propelled HISTORY® to number one in all of television from 8-10PM on Sunday nights with over 100 million viewers. THE BIBLE series will air internationally later this year, followed by its international home entertainment release.

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EMMYS: Movies-Miniseries Overview

By | Tuesday June 11, 2013 @ 7:31pm PDT
Pete Hammond

There is probably no group of Emmy categories that has been more battered and bruised over the years than those of movies and miniseries. In addition to being combined into a single category in 2011, movies and miniseries almost lost their separate supporting categories earlier this year, but the TV Academy jettisoned the rule change before it ever went into effect. And some anti-movie/mini TV Academy execs have even proposed eliminating movie/minis from the Primetime Emmy telecast, creating a separate show that could be sold to HBO or another cable channel with a vested interest in the format. Nevertheless, the movie/mini category has seen both ratings and production increase in the last two years, which is fortunate for one simple reason: Movies and minis give the Emmy show true star power. Past winners include prestigious performers like Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Jessica Lange and, last year, Kevin Costner and Julianne Moore. Plus, the contenders change every year, as opposed to regular programming categories like comedy and drama, which often honor the same shows and performers year after year. So now that movies and minis are back in full force, who are the likely frontrunners to triumph this year?

Related: EMMYS Q&A: Michael Douglas

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Produced By Conference: Mark Burnett On ‘Bible’ Follow Up, Feature Version Of History Series Finished Editing

By | Sunday June 9, 2013 @ 3:30pm PDT

Mark Burnett is cooking up a sequel of a sort to The Bible series, but he’s keeping details of his next faith-based project to himself. “A lot of things have come our way since the Bible, that’s how the business works. Roma [Downey] and I will do a follow up to The Bible, no question to that, something big,” said Burnett today at the Produced By conference. No word if this next project on Christianity would be on the History Channel as The Bible was. The producer however did reveal that he has just finished editing a 2 hour and 15 minute feature version of the successful series focusing on the life of Jesus. He is now looking to sell it. “Just on the scripted side, I could spend the next 10 years just distributing the Bible series and the movie. I believe that in the next 15 years more people on the planet will have seen our Bible series that haven’t seen it,” added Burnett of the project he and wife Roma Downey produced with Hearst Entertainment & Syndication. Read More »

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Mark Burnett Prepping ‘The Bible’ Miniseries For Theatrical Release

By | Monday April 22, 2013 @ 6:53pm PDT

Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

Mark Burnett said today that his mega-rated History Channel miniseries The Bible is being recut into a single three-hour edition for theatrical release. Burnett revealed the news tonight following an NBC Summer Press Day closing panel promoting The Voice, which he exec produces. Burnett said that it has no studio affiliation or distribution agreement yet but that he has “many offers” for getting the revised version into theaters on a global scale. One option would be to distribute it himself, with a target goal of this fall. “We’re in the position where it’s just a matter of choosing” the right venue and situation, Burnett emphasized. “We could put it into arenas. There are a lot of possible choices we could go with.” He hinted that going the unconventional route is his likely first choice, a scenario reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s with his feature The Passion Of The Christ back in 2004. “We kind of operate outside the business, we do our own thing,” Burnett said. “It’s a good position to be in.” Burnett exulted that The Bible was viewed in the United States alone by some 100 million people and tens of millions more internationally. “All of those people who rolled their eyes three years ago and said nobody’s going to watch The Bible on TV, well, they were wrong,” he said. “But I wasn’t surprised. I knew it would work like it did.” How did he know? “God,” Burnett replied. “It was Read More »

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