Kate Bulkley is covering MIPTV at Cannes for Deadline
Charlie Sheen — international reality star? Endemol’s Big Brother will be back on UK screens this summer with a celebrity version that could include the troubled US actor, according to UK press reports. Endemol executives, including CEO Ynon Kreiz, celebrated at MIPTV last night after finally signing a new deal with UK Channel Five, now under the ownership of Richard Desmond, a UK press baron.
The new deal is reckoned to be worth £200 million over two years and will see a celebrity version in August and then a return to a traditional 13-week run in September. Desmond’s Daily Star newspaper reports that for the celebrity version there is a “top of the wanted list” including Mohamed al-Fayed, Charlie Sheen as well as Amy Childs from popular UK TV program The Only Way is Essex and Prince Harry’s “on-off girlfriend” Chelsy Davy. Desmond’s Northern Shell company bought Channel 5 last summer for £103.5 million from RTL Group after the European TV group failed to increase the ratings. Desmond has drastically cut costs at the broadcaster but is expected to put money into programs that he can cross-promote with his UK newspapers. Endemol has spent the last nine months negotiating with Desmond to get Big Brother back on UK TV after Channel 4 dropped the show last year.
Today sees huge changes in the British media landscape. Jeremy Hunt, the UK culture secretary, has approved Rupert Murdoch’s controversial bid to buy the 61% of pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB he does not already own. Hunt has decided not to refer News Corp’s £7.5 billion bid to UK antitrust regulator the Competition Commission. News Corp has offered to spin off news channel Sky News into a separate company. Rival news organisations have complained that News Corp would control too many news outlets if it owns Sky News and newspapers. Murdoch has offered to keep the loss-making news channel going for another 7-10 years. Sky News loses around £20 million ($33 million) each year. This approval is quite a milestone in seeing Rupert Murdoch becoming even more powerful. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Studio Lambert, the reality TV production company behind CBS’ Undercover Boss, has formed a production partnership deal with Nutopia, the production company launched by former Discovery Channel President and BBC Two controller Jane Root. All American versions of Nutopia’s U.K.-created formats will be produced in the the U.S. in conjunction with Studio Lambert.
Nutopia, which was created 2 years ago, has established itself as producer of ‘mega docs’; large scale factual series. The company’s first such series was the 12-hour America: The Story of US for History, which was introduced by President Barack Obama and became the network’s most watched special ever. Additionally, Nutopia creates and produces formatted programming for U.K., including celebrity biography show The House That Made Me, which recently premiered on Channel 4. Founded by Stephen Lambert, Studio Lambert set up its American operations in L.A. about two years ago with Project Runway creator Eli Holzman at the helm. Its U.S. slate includes Boss, Mel B: It’s a Scary World on Style, and The Fairy Jobmother on Lifetime.
The £415 million price tag is on the low end of what analysts had expected News Corporation to pay for the Brit independent TV company. The deal had been valued at anything up to £700 million ($1.1 billion). News Corp has bought Liz Murdoch’s company on a multiple of 8 times its estimated 2011 profits of £50 million. Liz Murdoch, who owns 53% of the company, is poised to make a personal fortune from the deal, worth up to £220 million. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corp, says he expects his daughter to join the News Corp board once the deal goes through. The Shine deal will now intensify the palace intrigue behind Rupert’s Big Media giant. Bringing Liz back inside the tent puts her back at the heart of decision making in News Corp. Though James Murdoch is the heir apparent, Rupe controls the company through a 37% voting interest and keeps saying he wants a family member, or even more than one, to run it when he’s gone. It’s not thought that Liz wants to replace James as her father’s heir apparent though.
Analysts say News Corp wanted to buy Shine — the 6th-largest independent TV production company in Britain, according to Televisual magazine — to boost its pipeline of programming for cable TV stations such as Sky in Europe and Fox in America. Shine produces hit shows such as The Tudors and Life On Mars. However … Read More »
Broadcast For Royal Wedding Could Be 3D As Well As High-Def
Lifetime Readies Prince William-Kate Middleton Movie
Planning for Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton is still at an early stage – despite the wedding taking place on April 29th. The BBC is expected to lead TV coverage of the event, which may well be the most watched in TV history with an estimated 2.5 billion viewers expected to tune in globally. (Over 750 million tuned in to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.) The BBC will definitely be filming next April’s wedding in high-definition. Now the Beeb has started thinking about filming the Royal Wedding in 3D as well as BSkyB. All broadcasters, including U.S. networks, will be jostling each other out of the way for best advantage along the route. Middleton will travel from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in a glass coach. But it’s inside the Abbey, where space is at a premium, that the BBC will feed footage to other networks. “In order to avoid a bun-fight, you have one production crew which produces the event for TV and then everybody draws on the feed,” says one insider.
It is unclear yet whether Royal Wedding footage will be made freely available. The assumption is that U.S. broadcasters will be charged for pool footage from inside Westminster Abbey. That’s what happened with Prince William and Kate’s engagement interview on November 16. ITN filmed it and sold it internationally with revenue going to Prince William and Prince Harry’s charitable foundation. Overseas broadcasters were charged $2,350 for each minute of footage. Other countries charge for TV footage to state events. U.S. networks paid more than $5 million for the rights to show events surrounding President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. HBO paid $2.5 million, ABC $2 million and MTV over $500,000 to cover inauguration balls live. French TV broadcaster France 2 has exclusive TV rights to this summer’s July 2 wedding of Monaco’s Prince Albert – although it paid less than the 400,000 euros ($545,000) Monaco had been asking for.
UK cinema chains including Vue and Cineworld are keen to show the event live. Screening it in 3D would be even better. Tim Richards, CEO of Vue, tells me he’s waiting to hear which broadcaster will be leading coverage. Vue has nearly 700 movie screens. Richards says: “From all the research we’ve done, there’s huge pent-up demand to see the Royal Wedding live on 3D. The quality of the transmission means that it really does feel as if you’re there. Obviously nothing beats having front row seats in Westminster Abbey, but this would be the next best thing.” The idea is that watching the Royal Wedding live with around 300 other people will pack an emotional punch that watching it on TV at home just won’t have. Read More »
Company Pictures, the Brit production company which makes Skins for MTV, is “extremely surprised” by the show’s U.S. furor. Especially as the first three seasons of the raunchier Brit version aired on BBC America virtually without controversy — albeit with nudity pixillated and swearing dipped. The Brit version has just started its 5th season. The UK original has also been freely available on the Internet. Execs has been scratching their heads because the first U.S. episode of Skins was almost a shot-for-shot remake of the UK original – but with the bad language and drugs references toned down from the British version which was far stronger in its depiction of drugs, sex, abortion, and self-harm. The show has never been that controversial here. A psychiatric charity complained about the depiction of a counsellor beating one teenager to death with a baseball bat. But Channel 4 only received 11 complaints. Not the show itself but the promos for the show have caused a little consternation. The UK broadcaster showed a pub brawl in a promo that sparked criticism. And the advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Authority banned a poster promoting the show, showing teenagers taking part in an orgy. The ASA said the image “could cause serious or widespread offence” and shouldn’t be seen by children. Read More »
UPDATE: That’s the word from UK news media. It’s just one of a number of options being considered by Shine, one of the UK’s and America’s biggest independent production companies — it bought Ben Silverman’s Reveille — and thought to be worth between $980 million and $1.3 billion. Elizabeth Murdoch has appointed JP Morgan to advise on strategic options for her company, which is being courted by other TV companies as well as her Dad’s News Corp, according to The Guardian. JP Morgan is also advising Shine on potential acquisitions. It is understood that talks with News Corp have been “progressing well” but any deal is “not yet inevitable.” BSkyB, Murdoch’s pay-TV platform in the UK, already owns 13% of Shine. Liz owns 63% of Shine and another big backer is Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has 21% and announced back in 2009 that it wanted to sell its stake but nothing has happened since. As to why News Corp would want to buy Shine, I’m told it’s part of BSkyB’s ongoing push into upmarket original programming and that this would be the next logical step. Shine earned £265 million ($420 million) last year. And BSkyB has just built an enormous space-age TV building out in West London’s Isleworth – nicknamed “Skyberia” – to centralise operations. Shine’s sales tag does sound on the high side, given that it made EBITDA of $45 million in 2009.
But the question is: why has Liz Murdoch decided now might be the right time to … Read More »
Channel 4 Boss Talks Film
David Abraham, CEO of Channel 4, will speak about his channel’s filmmaking for the first time at the British Screen Advisory Council (BSAC) Film Conference on March 3. Ed Vaizey, the UK arts minister, will be giving the other keynote speech.
James Corden Starts BBC Comedy Pilot
The comedian and actor, who co-created hit BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey, is filming The Wrong Mans, a single-camera half-hour pilot for the Beeb. Corden has written the show with co-star Matthew Baynton, who was also in Gavin & Stacey. The director is Jim Field Smith (She’s Out of My League), who’s just come off Hugh Jackman-starrer Butter for The Weinstein Company.
U.S. Broadcasters Sniffing Round ‘Misfits’
It looks set to be the next Channel 4 drama out of the UK to be adapted for US TV. Murray Ferguson, who produces the show for youth channel E4, tells me there’s been considerable interest in a possible US remake from both US networks and cable channels. Ferguson, CEO of prod co Clerkenwell Films, says nothing’s been decided yet. Showtime is slated to premiere the US version of Shameless January 9. And MTV is developing another Channel 4 teen drama, Skins.
Pathe/Film4 Take On Brit Thriller ‘Sister’
Corinna Faith, a TV director making her feature debut, is attached to write and direct. The producer is Lisa Williams of Free Range Films, and the executive producer is Kevin Loader (Wuthering Heights), who tells me shooting could … Read More »
City and media analysts agree that it’s almost certain News Corp will now get approval to buy the 61% of BSkyB it doesn’t own. The deal would cement Rupert Murdoch’s position as the most powerful media magnate in the world. Investec Securities, the investment bank, says it’s now 90% certain the deal will go ahead. Credit Suisse puts the likelihood even higher at 95%. BSkyB’s share price rose by 2% today in the wake of UK business secretary Vince Cable, the man who was supposed to have final veto over the deal, being stripped of his media powers. Brit TV and radio news bulletins have been about little else. Investment bank Nomura says Cable’s removal represents a “big step forward” for News Corp. Cable told 2 undercover reporters from the Daily Telegraph newspaper that he had “declared war” on Murdoch. Cable was supposed to be impartial when weighing evidence from media regulator Ofcom as to whether to refer the deal. News Corp’s bid will now be vetted by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, a man known to be sympathetic to BSkyB. “It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already, so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is a substantive change,” Hunt said in June. Now that he’s got the quasi-judicial role, Hunt will want to be seen as impartial, media analyst Claire Enders tells me. “Jeremy will be at pains to … Read More »
Jeremy Hunt, the UK culture secretary – and a man known to be sympathetic to the Murdoch media empire – will now decide whether News Corp’s £7.8 billion ($12.5 billion) takeover of BSkyB gets referred to the Competition Commission. Business secretary Vince Cable disqualified himself from the role this afternoon after telling 2 undercover newspaper reporters that he had “declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win”. Prime minister David Cameron called Cable’s views on Rupert Murdoch “completely unacceptable”. The BBC has been leaked the full transcript of Cable’s secret taped conversation with the Daily Telegraph reporters. Ofcom is investigating the bid on the grounds of protecting a diversity of voices. It’s not meant to be political. Cable went on: “His whole empire is now under attack… So there are things like that we do in government, that we can’t do… all we can do in opposition is protest.” Robert Peston, the Beeb’s business editor, has been leaked the transcript by a whistleblower unhappy that the Daily Telegraph omitted this part of Cable’s interview in today’s front page splash. News Corp says: “News Corporation is shocked and dismayed by reports of Mr Cable’s comments. They raise serious questions about fairness and due process.” Claire Enders of Enders Analysis, the media analyst who wrote to Cable outlining how the deal would harm media diversity, tells me: “This was a huge mistake on his part. It … Read More »
Here’s the game-changer: BSkyB is thinking about broadcasting the April 29th Royal Wedding in 3D. TV experts wonder if Prince Williams’ wedding to commoner Kate Middleton might be the technology boost that the Queen’s 1953 Coronation was when many England’ers bought their first TV sets to watch that royal spectacle. And it may be that people worldwide do the same thing for this wedding and 3D. Sales of 3D TV sets in the U.S. have been modest so far. (Screen Digest predicts there will be only 4.7 million 3D TV sets installed in the U.S. by the end of 2011.) If Sky does go ahead with 3D then it will feed those signals to its international news affiliates. But BBC Vision boss Jana Bennett sounds pretty unenthused about the prospect of the BBC filming in 3D though — “although I can see an archive argument,” she tells me.
The Beeb will definitely be filming next April’s wedding in high-definition. TV technology consultant Chris Forrester thinks that broadcasters will use the Royal Wedding to promote HD to those who haven’t yet upgraded to HDTV sets/receivers.
UK broadcasters will be hoping for record viewing figures in what could be the most watched TV event in history. A total of 28.4 million British viewers tuned in to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. Over 750 million tuned in worldwide to see that wedding dress trail up the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Media outlets … Read More »
News Corp has balked at selling off Sky News to satisfy Brussels. Despite that nose-thumbing, the European Commission has extended from December 8 to December 22 the deadline for the first phase of its competition investigation of Rupert Murdoch’s £12 billion ($19 billion) takeover of BSkyB. What Brussels is worried about is a 100% News Corp-owned BSkyB deal as the cornerstone of a global pay-TV empire. The European probe is separate from the investigation by British regulator Ofcom which will report on December 31 and still could derail the deal.
As expected, BBC Vision director Jana Bennett, the woman in charge of all the BBC’s TV channels, is moving to the Beeb’s commercial arm. Bennett, who’s an adroit politician, will join BBC Worldwide in February 2011. She will control all of BBC Worldwide’s wholly-owned BBC channels, such as pre-school channel CBeebies. I’m hearing that Bennett may not be directly replaced as BBC director general Mark Thompson needs to cut the number of highly-paid executives. Bennett has been earning £517,000 ($805,172) a year in her current role.
The ex-president of the CBS Network Television Group who’s now a CBS Inc consultant has become a non-executive director of the UK’s largest group of independent production companies. Tellem joins All3Media at an interesting time. The company is the last big independent UK TV producer left on the market. It’s expected to be sold next year to either a Hollywood studio anxious to get more into global TV production — such as Time Warner or Sony – or Brit broadcaster ITV, which needs to beef up its in-house production. Financiers I’ve spoken to expect the price tag to be around £500 million ($788 million). All3Media produces Undercover Boss for CBS and Skins for MTV.
Endemol today announced it has entered an exclusive development deal with UK production company Hotsauce TV, owned by one of the UK’s most well known entertainers and talk show hosts, Jonathan Ross. The deal will see Hotsauce TV working exclusively with Endemol in jointly creating and producing entertainment ideas for the UK and international markets. Endemol will also globally distribute programmes and formats that are developed as part of the deal. Ross is also coming back to the BBC. A keen amateur astronomer, he’s taking part in the astronomy show Stargazing Live for BBC2 airing in January, BBC TV boss Jana Bennett tells me. Ross was the BBC’s star chat show host until he resigned in January but “the door’s never been shut for Jonathan,” Bennett says. Ross will continue to separately work on his ITV chat show and a number of other presenting projects. Read More »
James Murdoch has warned the UK government that News Corp could move overseas if the regulator blocks its £7.8 billion ($12.5 billion) bid for BSkyB. News Corp’s European and Asian boss made the veiled threat talking to investment bank analysts in Barcelona. The government must decide whether it wants to risk “jeopardising an £8 billion investment in the UK” with a prolonged investigation, Murdoch said, noting that News Corp could relocate some of its most innovative projects to more “welcoming” countries if the UK blocks its bid for BSkyB. “From India to Italy and to Germany, countries are becoming more welcoming of investment and more welcoming of what we can bring,” Murdoch said. Read More »
It’s no surprise. Wright has been putting out feelers for new jobs outside the Beeb’s filmmaking arm for months. She’s known to have become increasingly constricted at BBC Films, where she’s been for the past 15 years. Wright tells me she’s got several job opportunities lined up, but she felt she had to step down and take stock before deciding what to do next. “I’m the type of person who really needs to step away before they find something new,” she tells me. Wright became managing director of BBC Films in 2009. Christine Langan was appointed last year to run the creative side of BBC Films, with Wright taking responsibility for the day-to-day operations and co-producing financing. At a time of deep BBC spending cuts, Wright’s job is not being filled.
“We’re hearing from Chinese TV stations that maybe they shouldn’t be doing business with us,” one BBC source tells me. “In the past this has happened with our news output but it’s very unusual for drama – it is fiction, after all.” It’s thought Chinese officials are feeling particularly sensitive about Sino-Anglo relations in a week that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has led a trade delegation to the country. The Beijing government is unhappy with the way the 9th series of Spooks (aka as MI5) has portrayed Chinese secret agents as either nefariously plotting to blow up London or hacking into US-Anglo cyber-security. One insider at Kudos, the independent TV producer which makes the show, tells me he’s surprised by China’s reaction. “There is no country that Spooks has not portrayed in an unflattering light — including our own,” he says. China represents a huge market for BBC Worldwide Read More »