Warner Bros isn’t talking, but Dutch media is reporting today that the company is in talks to acquire Netherlands-based TV producer Eyeworks, Reuters said. Warner Bros International Television Production already has a majority stake in UK production group Shed Media and in BlazHoffski Holdingan, an indie producer that operates in The Netherlands and Belgium. Eyeworks produces and distributes unscripted programs in 16 countries including many in Europe as well as the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Latin America. Among its shows are Celebrity Splash, Extreme Weight Loss, Test The Nation and I Know What You Did Last Friday. European production companies have been increasingly attractive acquisitions targets in general over the last year, with ITV taking majority stakes in the UK’s Big Talk, The Garden and So Television while Modern Times Group bought Nordic outfit Nice Entertainment and FremantleMedia took controlling interest in Denmark’s Miso Film. Also, NBCUniversal owns Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films.
It looks like no renewal deal is coming today for Fox’s veteran medical drama House. Or Bones. The network’s two longest-running and strongest drama series are in a similar position: both have been the subject of complex, drawn-out renewal negotiations as neither has a deal for next season. In both cases, the studios (Universal Media Studios for House and 20th Century Fox TV for Bones) have been looking for two-season pickups and have been looking to resolve things sooner rather than later as they also have to make deals with the series’ creators/executive producers, David Shore and Hart Hanson, respectively. (UMS also has to deal with re-signing the original supporting cast on House whose contracts are up, though star Hugh Laurie is locked in for next season.) And in both cases, the holdup has been haggling with the network over license fees.
Because of the rare cross-pollination of NBC’s studio producing for competitor Fox, the House negotiations have garnered a lot more attention. Since talks had stalled/moved extremely slowly, a deadline was set, originally for last week, then pushed to end of day today, as a way to help speed things up. But after making progress at the beginning of the week, mostly on the length of the pickup, the two sides couldn’t bridge the gap as Fox wouldn’t budge on its request for reducing the license fee for the show, …
EXCLUSIVE: Ed Decter and John Strauss, creators/executive producers of Sony Pictures TV’s hourlong pilot for A&E Big Mike, have signed a two-year overall deal with Sony. Outside of the deal, which starts in June, the co-writers of There’s Something About Mary serve as executive producers on In Plain Sight. They joined the USA Network/Universal Cable Prods. drama series at the start of Season 4, which begins airing May 1, and are set to continue at the helm of the show for one more season. (IPS was given a two-year pickup after Season 3.) Decter and Strauss’ services on the USA series will not interfere with their duties under the Sony deal, including on Big Mike, whose pilot is currently filming in Florida. The project, co-produced by Happy Madison, stars Greg Grunberg as the title character, a plus-sized detective and a force of nature in the San Diego PD. WME-repped Decter and Strauss’ writing credits also include the two Santa Claus sequels and the 2007 NBC pilot The Watch.
EXCLUSIVE: As HBO prepares to unveil its epic-sized series adaptation of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones this Sunday, the payweb has begun talks to acquire the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods to be developed into another fantasy series. The project was brought to HBO by Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and it was brought to them by Robert Richardson. The plan is for Richardson and Gaiman to write the pilot together.
Richardson is the renowned cinematographer who just completed Hugo Cabret and whose recent credits include Shutter Island, Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill. He is a regular collaborator with directors that include Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone and has won Oscars for The Aviator and JFK. It is his first significant scripting effort. He’ll do it in collaboration with Gaiman, a fanboy god for works like The Sandman, whose script work includes Beowulf. His novels Stardust and Coraline have been turned into films, and Neil Jordan is directing an adaption of Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.
American Gods, the 2002 book that won both the Stoker and Hugo Award among other prizes, lays out a battle between two sets of gods. One consists of the traditional gods and mythological creatures who got their power because people throughout history believed in them. They are losing steam as people’s beliefs wane and are in danger of being supplanted by a new set of gods who reflect America’s preoccupation with technological …
EXCLUSIVE: Adult Swim has picked up a second season of the live-action comedy Eagleheart, starring Chris Elliott. The quarter-hour series, a parody of butt-kicking crime dramas like Walker, Texas Ranger, hails from Conan O’Brien’s Conaco Prods. It was set up while O’Brien and Conaco were still based at NBC but now represents nice synergy between Time Warner entities. Elliott is set to return as U.S. Marshal Chris Monsanto, who blindly kicks, punches and shoots his way to what may or may not be a legitimate solution to his case, along with co-stars Brett Gelman and Maria Thayer as his sidekicks Brett and Susie. Eagleheart, which premiered Feb. 3 at midnight, was No. 1 in its time slot among adults/men 18-34 and 18-49, and it ranked as basic cable’s No. 1 sitcom in the men 18-34 and men 18-49 demos. The series was created by former Late Night With Conan O’Brien writers Michael Koman and Andrew Weinberg, who are executive producing with O’Brien, Jason Woliner, Troy Miller, Tracey Baird, David Kissinger and Jeff Ross as well as the network’s Matt Harrigan. “I’ve never seen so many executive producers on one 15-minute show,” Adult Swim head Mike Lazzo quipped.
EXCLUSIVE: Nickelodeon has greenlit a fifth season of its flagship live-action series iCarly. After locking in star Miranda Cosgrove with a new deal, the network has ordered 13 new episodes of the comedy, which will begin production in 2012 for a premiere later that year. The renewal comes on the heels of the most recent episode of iCarly, iOMG, drawing a massive audience of 7.4 million last Saturday. The episode was the most watched basic cable program last week and ranks as basic cable’s top kids’ telecast this year in total viewers. iCarly is in the midst of a two-year pickup. Season 3 is currently airing, with production on Season 4 slated to begin in May.
Created and executive produced by Dan Schneider, iCarly has been a runaway hit for Nickelodeon since the sitcom’s 2007 launch, ranking as Nickelodeon’s top-rated live-action series in total viewers and all key kids and tween demos and spawning ratings record-breaking specials like iGot a Hot Room and iSaved Your Life. “Our audience will be psyched to get more of what they love – new episodes of their favorite show, iCarly,” said Marjorie Cohn, Nickelodeon’s president of original programming and development. A show within a show, iCarly follows Carly Shay (Cosgrove) and her best friends, Sam (Jennette McCurdy), Freddie (Nathan Kress) and Gibby (Noah Munck), as they create a webcast for and about kids their age while grappling with everyday tween problems and adventures. Carly lives …
EXCLUSIVE: TV, film and comic book writer Mark Verheiden has been tapped to co-write with Akiva Goldsman the NBC TV series The Dark Tower. The project is part of a massive joint deal Universal Pictures and NBC Universal TV Entertainment signed back in September to turn Stephen King’s opus of best-selling novels — which have sold more than 30 million copies — into into a feature film trilogy and a TV series, both of them creatively steered by the Oscar-winning team behind A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code.
Verheiden will executive produce the The Dark Tower series along with Goldsman and his Weed Road Pictures for Universal Media Studios. As previously announced, Ron Howard will direct the series, which is envisioned as a bridge between the first and second movie in the trilogy. This marks Verheiden’s return to NBC and UMS following his turn as a supervising producer on Heroes. He also was a writer/co-exec producer on the NBCU series Battlestar Galactica, which ran on Syfy. He most recently served as a co-executive producer of TNT’s upcoming sci-fi series Falling Skies, from DreamWorks TV. Verheiden, repped by CAA, Untitled and attorney Peter Nelson, is also in business with DreamWorks on the feature side, developing Quatermain for the studio, as well as Ark for Sony Pictures for producers Neal Moritz and Mike Richardson. He has written nearly 125 comic …
TruTV, which has been on a ratings upswing, got an additional boost last month when it launched its first high-profile sports franchise, sharing with TNT, TBS and CBS the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship coverage. At its second annual upfront today, the network announced a slew of series renewals and projects in development. The network has renewed Hardcore Pawn and Black Gold for a fourth season, Full Throttle Saloon for a third season and has ordered additional episodes from freshman Lizard Lick Towing, a spinoff of All Worked Up. Additionally, truTV has picked off-network rights to ABC’s reality series Wipeout to start airing in the fall. Here is a list of TruTV’s projects in development, including shows from NFL Films and producers Tony and Ridley Scott and Jennifer Lopez:
Comedy writer-producer Mike Sikowitz, executive producer on the CBS comedy Rules of Engagement, has inked a two-year overall deal with the series’ producer Sony Pictures Television. Under the seven-figure pact, which starts in June, Sikowitz will continue as an exec producer on Rules if the sitcom returns for a sixth season. He will also develop his own projects for the studio. Sikowitz, repped by ICM and attorney Michael Gendler, joined Rules in Season 3 as a co-executive producer and was promoted to executive producer in Season 4. His credits also include CBS’ The Class, Fox’s Grounded for Life and NBC’s Friends.
The Style Network today held its first upfront presentation since the channel was put under the purview of NBCU’s Lauren Zalaznick following the NBCU-Comcast merger. Style announced it has picked up Big Rich Texas with a 10-episode order. The docu-series, set to premiere in July, explores the ultra-exclusive world at the top of the Dallas social scene. It is produced by Fly on the Wall, with Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan exec producing. Two years ago, the network shot a similar series, Divas and Daughters, about Dallas socialite mothers and daughters. Also announced today are How Do I Look?, a search for the country’s worst fashion offenders hosted by Jeannie Mai, which will premiere in September; and makeover series Glam Fairy, a spinoff of Style’s flagship series Jerseylicious. The Endemol USA show, which follows New Jersey makeup artist Alexa Prisco, will premiere in October. Style also announced a development slate of 10 unscripted series. Here are the descriptions:
EXCLUSIVE: Six Feet Under alum Alan Poul is back at HBO with an overall deal. As part of it, the producer-director is set to executive produce Aaron Sorkin’s HBO pilot. Tentatively titled More As This Story Develops, the project centers on cable news anchor Will McCallister (Jeff Daniels), who has his own show, as well as the show’s female executive producer and staff. Poul will executive produce the pilot with Sorkin and Scott Rudin and is set to direct multiple episodes if it goes to series. (The pilot is being directed by Greg Mottola.) Since signing with WME six months ago, Poul has booked two pilot-directing gigs. He helmed TNT’s Perception, the only one from TNT’s recent batch of completed pilots to receive a series order. Poul also just finished directing ABC’s dramedy Good Christian Bitches. In addition to his stint on Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under, on which he served as co-executive producer/executive producer and director for the entire five-season run, Poul directed the pilot for CBS’ Swingtown and served as an exec producer on the series.
EXCLUSIVE: After months of negotiations, I hear the four stars of ABC’s Desperate Housewives– Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Eva Longoria — are finalizing deals to return to the dramedy series next fall. The deals are for one year, with an option for a second. With the quartet on board, ABC will renew the show for an eighth season, though it is unclear whether that will happen right away or closer to the May upfronts.
As for Hatcher, Huffman, Cross and Longoria, I hear their new base salary would be around $325,000 per episode, up from about $275,000 under their most recent deals. (Reports have erroneously pegged their previous salaries at $400,000.) With additional compensation, including back-end and bonuses, the actresses’ paychecks are expected to go up as high as $375,000 per episode. If their options for Season 9 are exercised, their base salary is slated to go up to around $350,000, plus other incentives. If Desperate Housewives goes to nine seasons, which has been creator Marc Cherry’s vision for the show, the four leading ladies’ entire compensation package for the next two seasons is valued at close to $18 million for each.
Comedy Central has signed up-and-coming comedians Adam Nee and Ryan Judd to develop, write, direct and star in a half-hour project. Titled Geniuses, it is based on a spec pilot Nee and Judd did last year and took to the cable network. It centers on two hapless friends, Johnny (Nee) and Sterling (Judd), who have been blissfully skating through life from job to job and vying for their neighbor Margot’s attention. Realizing that life may be passing them by, they decide to grow up and become responsible adults. Armed with their own naiveté and little knowledge about how the real world works, Johnny and Sterling set out on their misguided adventures to impress Margot and achieve grown-up success. Nee and Judd have been getting attention for their Funny or Die web series Clark Kent Has a Dream. Below is the latest, fourth webisode — featuring Criminal Mindsco-star Matthew Gray Gubler as Green Lantern — which has just been posted:
Warren Leight is returning to the Law & Order franchise as executive producer and showrunner of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Leight is finalizing a deal to succeed Neal Baer, who, after 11 year at the helm of SVU, is leaving the crime drama at the end of the season to segue into a rich three-year overall deal with CBS TV Studios. With an experienced showrunner like Leight in place, NBC and Dick Wolf have solved one of the two issues SVU faces in its quest for a 13th season. The other is re-signing stars Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni, whose deals are up at the end of the season. The two have just started talks with the network, with the pace of the negotiations expected to pick up during the next couple of weeks.
HBO’s new authenticated online video services, HBO GO and MAX GO, will be available to DirecTV customers beginning tomorrow, April 12, free for HBO subscribers. The services, which offer more than 1400 programs online (current and library titles), have been expanding their reach and will soon be available on iPad, iPhone and other Mac-based platforms.
EXCLUSIVE: They may be preparing to say goodbye as co-hosts of Live with Regis and Kelly, but Kelly Ripa and Regis Philbin are planning a new collaboration beyond the syndicated daily talk show. I hear Ripa and her husband Mark Consuelos are developing a TV special through their Milojo Prods. to star Philbin. Details about the project are sketchy, but it is said to showcase Philbin’s abilities as a storyteller. Molojo has already met with several prominent directors for the special. Contrary to a Page Six report that Ripa was pissed at Philbin for exploring other projects, it seems like she might be part of them. In January, Philbin announced that he would leave Live after 25 years, the last 10 with Ripa as co-host.
After trying for find a buyer for his Mark Burnett Prods. for the past several years, Mark Burnett has formed a “long-term media, production and events-based joint venture” with Hearst Corp., the two sides announced this morning. Under the deal, Hearst has acquired a 50% interest in Burnett’s company. Burnett will lead the new venture’s board of directors along with Scott Sassa, president of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication and former president of NBC West Coast.
Burnett has been looking to sell his company for the past five years, at one point even bringing in the now-defunct Bear Stearns to help facilitate a deal. After exploratory talks with the likes of Endemol and FremantleMedia, the closest Burnett came to a sale was in the summer of 2008, when IMG, under Chris Albrecht, was ready to shell out $250 million-$500 million for the company. The deal fell through as IMG changed directions, Albrecht left and Burnett became the target of a $70 million lawsuit by former business partner Conrad Riggs. The litigation, along with Burnett’s high asking price, had been keeping potential buyers away. Additionally, while constantly working (he has produced some 1,100 hours of programming), Burnett has not being able to land hits of the size of his early series, Survivor and The Apprentice. Those series will not be part of the new venture, which will share ownership on future Burnett projects only. “Survivor is to nonfiction what I Love Lucy …
EXCLUSIVE: Adult Swim has ordered Regal Productions, a live-action comedy pilot created, directed, produced and starring Bob Odenkirk. Odenkirk developed the project with Brian Jarvis and Jim Freeman, who will co-star in the pilot with him. The comedy, executive produced by management/production company Odenkirk/Provissiero, revolves around Regal Productions, which, in a strip mall in North Hollywood, churns out wedding videos, Internet ads, low-budget infomercials and even feature films for “ancillary” markets. Former Saturday Night Live writer Odenkirk, co-creator/star of HBO’s Mr. Show with Bob and David, recently recurred on How I Met Your Mother and Breaking Bad.