Paramount Pictures and sister company Spike TV are joining forces to turn the cable channel’s series Deadliest Warrior into a feature film. Shawn Levy and Dan Levine will produce through his 21 Laps banner. Levy might direct. The show pits the great warriors of history against one another to see who would prevail. Past combatants have included spartans vs ninjas, yakuza vs mafia. Levy right now is directing the robot mano a mano pic Real Steel for DreamWorks. Unscripted cable is suddenly very cool fodder for film content: Fox is separately working with John Moore on a feature adaptation of cable TV’s Ice Road Truckers.
I hear top unscripted producer Tom Forman, CEO of RelativityReal, is taking out a reality series project based on this year’s hit Sundance documentary Catfish, which is being distributed by Relativity Media’s Rogue Pictures. There is significant interest in the unscripted format, a segmented doc series revolving around relationships that have started online.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s documentary Catfish chronicles a 24-year old photographer’s search for the truth after he starts a cyber romance with the sister of a youth who takes an interest in his work but soon becomes suspicious that his online friends may not be who they say they are. The docu was a big crowd pleaser at Sundance and sparked a bidding war before getting snagged by Relativity. The company reportedly payed close to $1.5 million for an U.S. and UK rights to Catfish, which is eyeing a release later this year through Universal.
Everyone has been wondering where the next big reality format idea would come from. Funny or Die video is throwing its hat into the ring, generating a lot of buzz in the unscripted marketplace with a viral video starring singer Jewel.
Titled Undercover Karaoke with Jewel, it was posted on the comedy site on Wednesday and generated 2.5 million views in its first 3 days. It features Jewel disguised as a mousy-looking, mild-mannered businesswoman who has a Susan Boyle moment when she performs some of her signature songs to a dumbfounded audience at a local karaoke bar. I hear the Funny or Die team, including the video’s creator Eric Appel, are out there with a concept for a reality show based on the hit video, which would feature music stars from the past 4 decades going undercover to places where comedic situations will ensue, showcasing their talent. There has been a lot of interest in the idea and I hear it is being pitched to a number of networks this week. But I hear that the video has also spurred a slew of other pitches, with the networks getting a lot of calls in the past few days from producers shopping similar ideas. CBS has had success in the past year with reality projects about well-known people going undercover: its hit freshman series Undercover Boss and series of specials I Get That A Lot.
Phil Keoghan, host and producer of CBS’ realty series The Amazing Race is taking on hosting and producing duties for another unscripted series about a race. Keoghan has teamed with Exodus Film Group, which has secured North American rights to the project. It will chronicle the Velux 5 Oceans 2010-11 race, which features skippers from all over the world sailing alone for 30,000 miles around the globe on high powered racing yachts and video recording their journeys. Search is under way for an U.S. network to carry the series.
Managers of the UK production company hope Time Warner will end up paying £90 million ($135 million) for Shed Media. They own 65% of the company between them. Analysts say that Shed may go for up to £85 million. Time Warner wants Shed, which makes Supernanny for America, because it wants to expand overseas, replicating the success it has had in American with hit shows such as The Wire and Gossip Girl – both of which have exported well. It recently hired ex-Tiger Aspect managing director Andrew Zein to buy independent TV producers and grow Warner Bros’ UK production business.
Apart from cashing out, being bought by Warner Bros would give Shed’s managers access to studio’s vast resources for deficit funding – that percentage of the budget not covered by a British broadcaster. It has been argued that the parochial nature of what most UK broadcasters’ commission makes these shows difficult to sell overseas. Access to Warner Bros’ cash could free up Shed to make more shows for the international market.
Shed has confirmed its managers are in talks with Warner Bros. No offer has yet been made though. Time Warner declined to comment.
The Sunday Times, which broke the story, says that Time Warner will pay £75 million for Shed. The company made a pre-tax profit of £9.8 million last year. Shed shares rose more than 5% after news of the deal broke.
Publicly-listed Shed …
EXCLUSIVE: Wife Swap producer RDF USA has signed with WME after more than 4 years without agency representation. The American branch of U.K.’s RDF Media, which was recently acquired by Zodiak Entertainment, is prepping 8-10 new unscripted projects – both RDF-owned British formats and original concepts – which it will take out in the next few weeks with its WME agents. This will mark the first selling season for RDF US since the arrival of ITV Studios executive Natalka Znak as Chief Creative Officer in April. RDF USA’s upcoming series include ABC’s Secret Millionaire and the syndication version of Don’t Forget the Lyrics, both launching in the fall, and scripted dramedy Being Human for SyFy, which is about to go into production. Following the closing of the Zodiak/RDF deal two weeks ago, RDF USA will become more active on the scripted side by mining Zodiac’s scripted catalog. It plans to hire a scripted development executive in the next 6 months. RDF USA was repped by UTA until 2006 when its point agent there, Chris Coelen, became the company’s CEO. Grant Mansfield now runs RDF USA following Coelen’s departure at the end of the year.
Cecile Frot-Coutaz, FremantleMedia North America President, and ITV director of comedy and entertainment Elaine Bedell have emerged as candidates for the job of Talkback Thames CEO.
Bedell enjoys the reputation of being a toughie. At ITV she has been in charge of Talkback cash-cows The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. Yet, it’s the drama side that needs building up now that ITV has cancelled its long-running soap banker The Bill. That show contributes 40% of Talkback’s profits. Its cancellation was the reason why Talkback chairman Tony Cohen fired CEO Lorraine Heggessey last week. Simon Cowell and Sony hoover up 70% of the profits from his ratings blockbusters, not Talkback. Staff are bracing themselves for deep redundancies.
Other names being bandied about include Eyeworks CEO Paul Jackson, former director of entertainment at ITV; and ITV controller of factual and daytime Alison Sharman.
Sounds like a tough gig. I’ve been told that Heggessey’s email was cancelled even as she was taking the lift out of the building. How undignified.
NATPE is firming up the lineup for its LATV Fest, which will be held July 12-15 at the Hyatt Regency Plaza in Century City. New America’s Got Talent judge Howie Mandel is expected to be the keynote speaker, with the Innovator Award, which recognizes
Jason Hervey and Eric Bischoff’s reality production company Bischoff Hervey Entertainment TV has signed an overall international distribution deal with Shine International, which will handle distribution for BHE TV’s formats. Shine International already distributes BHE TV’s CMT series Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling, which as been sold in more than 20 territories. BHE TV has several shows in development and production at VH1, TruTV, A&E, Fuse and Spike TV. Separately, Shine International also is handling distribution for the Gone Too Soon Michael Jackson documentary, which will air in more than 50 countries on June 25, the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, including on the TV Guide Network in the U.S.
Reality producer Louis Boyd has joined CBS as VP alternative programming. He will be involved in developing new alternative programs, including reality and game shows, and in overseeing CBS’ current slate of reality series, reporting to EVP alternative programming Jennifer Bresnan. Boyd most recently served as a producer on the Style Network’s How Do I Look? that received a Daytime Emmy nomination last month. Previously, he was a coordinating producer of the Food Network’s Chefs vs. City and a producer on the CW’s Pussycat Dolls and Stylista and Fox’s The Swan.
Lorraine Heggessey, CEO of the TV company which makes The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent over here, is leaving after five years in the job. Heggessey, who was controller of BBC1 before becoming CEO of Talkback Thames in 2005, will be replaced by Sara Geater, currently the COO, for the time being. At Talkback, Heggessey has been responsible for overseeing Simon Cowell’s talent show juggernauts. However, she didn’t originate the shows — they were invented by Cowell — and Talkback has not come up with any other big new franchises. Also, ITV has cancelled Talkback’s long-running police soap opera The Bill after 25 years with the loss of 90 jobs in the company. Heggessey was the first woman to hold the job of BBC1 controller, which she became in 2000. During her tenure at the Beeb she re-commissioned Doctor Who and launched Strictly Come Dancing.
LOS ANGELES – June 8, 2010 – 3 Ball Prods./Eyeworks USA CEOs JD Roth and Todd Nelson today announced the promotions of two key executives: COO Ross Weintraub has been named Managing Director, Eyeworks Distribution, adding to his day-to-day finance and operations responsibilities the oversight of worldwide distribution for parent company Eyeworks’ ready-made programs and formats. Additionally, Adam Greener has been promoted to Chief Creative Officer, overseeing creative on the company’s development and current series. Ross continues to report to Roth and Nelson, with a dual reporting stream to the Eyeworks Board of Directors for distribution. Greener continues to report to Roth and Nelson. Roth said, “Ross Weintraub has been a key factor in the success and explosive growth of 3 Ball over the last four years, culminating in our transition with Eyeworks into a global production company. Regarding Greener, Nelson added, “Having been a member of the 3 Ball family for nearly a decade, Adam has given birth to some of the company’s most popular and personality-driven shows, including Scott Baio is 45 and Single and The Pick-up Artist, and was also instrumental in the development of our new series, Obese for ABC.” 3 Ball Prods.’ series slate include The Biggest Loser, Beauty and Geek, Obese, Master Chef for Fox, OCD and Dad Camp for VH1 and What’s Eating You? for E!
Simon Cowell says he is “excited” about creating a worldwide talent show pitting winners of his Got Talent franchise against each other. Such a show would draw on the winners and runners-up from some of the 36 countries that televise the format. It would be broadcast to an international audience of 300 million viewers and boast a top prize of £1 million ($1.4 million). Cowell was talking about the idea of a global competition backstage at the Bafta TV awards. Such a show would have to work without judges, he said. Instead, TV viewers would vote at home in a global Eurovision-style contest. “It’s like coming out of the [soccer] Premiership into the Champions League,” he said.
Bafta was awarding Cowell a Special Award at the Philips British Television Awards, recognising his role in developing new talent. Previous Special Awards have gone to BBC executive Jane Tranter and independent producer Andy Harries in the past.
Some would question the wisdom of giving Cowell such an award. He’s been called a fathead who’s done the most damage to Britain’s intellectual life since Rupert Murdoch. Others call Cowell a brilliant producer, whose X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent – which ended its latest run here on Saturday night with a peak audience of 15 million – are outstandlingly made compared to the BBC’s staid rival Strictly Come Dancing. He may have plenty of producers working under him, but Cowell generates all the ideas himself. According to Bafta TV chairman John Willis, Cowell has not …
New York, New York – May 27, 2010 – Marking a major expansion of its reality programming, Syfy today announced it is greenlighting three new series, Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen (wt), Paranormal Witness (wt) and Face Off (wt). This broad-based slate builds upon the success of the channel’s unscripted programming such as the Ghost Hunters franchise and Destination Truth on Wednesday nights, along with Syfy’s new Thursday reality block of Mary Knows Best and Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, which premieres July 15.
Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen
Utilizing the science of cooking, Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen stars one of America’s most notorious chefs, molecular gastronomist Marcel Vigneron (Top Chef). In each episode, Marcel and his new catering and event company will be hired by a demanding client to produce an extraordinary celebration or event. Based on the client’s requests, Marcel will dream up a theme and cuisine for the event, which range from a fairytale graduation party and a Goth-rock fashion show to a birthday dinner held on a platform
VH1 has renewed freshman reality series Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business, Basketball Wives and What Chilli Wants for a second season. All fall under VH1’s core celebreality genre. A Family Business stars singers and siblings Brandy and Ray J Norwood, What Chilli Wants stars former TLC member Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, and Basketball Wives, about wives of professional basketball players, stars and is executive produced by Shaquille O’Neal’s ex Shaunie O’Neal.
Paula Abdul is off the market, at least for now. The former American Idol judge has signed on as executive producer, lead judge and “creative partner” for CBS’ new dancing reality-competition Got To Dance. She had been courted for numerous gigs since quitting Idol last summer, including to topline a revival of Star Search for ABC. On Got To Dance, she will also serve as coach, mentor and advocate for contestants during the performances and elimination process, the network said this morning. Meanwhile, Abdul also is rumored to make an appearance on Idol this week as part of the send-off for judge Simon Cowell.
Got To Dance is based on the popular British series, which debuted earlier this year on Britain’s Sky 1. It features amateurs of any age group from across the nation (either performing solo or in a group) who can audition any form of dancing. “I’ve spent the better part of my life teaching, mentoring, nurturing—working with so many talented people—and I consider myself truly blessed to be able to continue to do something that I hold so dear to my heart,” said Abdul, who is repped by UTA. Got To Dance is a Shine Group format, created by Princess Prods. and Shine TV and is produced by Reveille. Abdul, Elisabeth Murdoch, Howard T. Owens, Mark Koops and Robin Ashbrook are executive producers. Distribution is handled by Shine International.