Here’s the latest installment in the media merger mania saga: Journal Communications shares are up 26.6% with E.W. Scripps + 10.6% today after the companies unveiled their plan to merge their TV operations and spin off their newspapers. The TV company will retain the E.W. Scripps name and be controlled by the Scripps family. It will become the No. 5 independent TV group reaching 18% of all households with stations in 27 markets including eight political battleground states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Scripps will own affiliates for all of the Big Four networks, but will be especially important to ABC with 15 of its affiliates.
“In one motion, we’re creating an industry-leading local television company and a financially flexible newspaper company with the capacity and vision to help lead the evolution of their respective industries,” says Scripps CEO Rich Boehne, who will continue to run the TV company. He adds — as execs usually do when deals like this are announced — that the companies are “both driven by a deep commitment to public service through enterprise journalism.” Still, shareholders should see “significant value.” (Scripps will retain control of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.)
The newspapers and their digital counterparts will go to Journal Media Group. It will have publications in 14 markets including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Memphis Commercial Appeal.
The transaction, which will need federal approval, will be structured as a stock swap: When the dust settles, current Journal Communications investors will own 31% of E.W. Scripps. and … Read More »
VH1 is bolstering its New York programming team with the hire of Jennifer McGovern as VP, Development, East Coast and Ken Martinez as VP, Current Production, East Coast. They will report to Nina L. Diaz, SVP, East Coast Production and Development. In addition, Vivian Gomez has been promoted to Director, Current Production.
McGovern will be responsible for the development of all East Coast original unscripted programming and lead the East Coast development team. She comes from Oxygen where she was Director of Development and Production since August 2010, working on such series as The Glee Project, I’m Having Their Baby and the upcoming Funny Girls and Nail’d It! Before Oxygen, McGovern was Manager of Alternative Series at TLC, working on Sarah Palin’s Alaska, Brace For Impact: The Chesley B. Sullenberger Story and Police Women Of Broward County, and worked as manager of development at Fox TV Studios.
Martinez will head up production on all East Coast original programming and manage the network’s slate of current unscripted series. He comes from Big Fish Entertainment, where he was an executive producer on the VH1 series Black Ink Crew. He also worked as a producer on Celebrity Wife Swap for ABC and From G’s To Gents on MTV as well as VH1′s Rock Of Love, Gotti’s Way, Flavor Of Love and My Fair Brady. In her new role, Gomez will executive produce multiple series, including Love … Read More »
CBS TV Studios has brought in Meghan Lyvers as SVP Drama Development and Brianna Bennett as VP Drama Development. They will work under Julie McNamara, EVP Drama Development, Broadcast and Cable.
Lyvers comes from Television 360, a division of Management 360, where she oversaw the department’s development and production slate including Avenues Of Spies, Heartland Trucking and The Terror, among others. She previously served as VP Development & Production at Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Productions where for more than 10 years she oversaw the feature film and television slate.
Bennett joins CBS from Fox where she was Director, Drama Development, working on Sleepy Hollow, The Following, Gang Related, Almost Human and the upcoming Red Band Society, Empire and Backstrom. This marks her return to CBS TV Studios where she worked as an assistant in comedy development before joining the CW as a drama development coordinator.
The company that sensationalizes pain is seemed to feel a lot of it in Q2: The bold $9.99 a month streaming video venture that World Wrestling Entertainment launched in February only had 700,000 subscribers at the end of June, it says today. That’s half of the 1.4M that the company said in May it needs to offset lost pay-per-view TV sales, much of it from fans watching online. The growth rate is nothing to brag about. WWE Network only added 33,000 subs in Q2. In April the company boasted that it was “well on its way to reaching its goal of 1 million subscribers by the end of 2014.”
Now it’s bracing for the point in a few weeks — after SummerSlam on August 17 — when initial subs’ six-month commitment expires. SummerSlam “will likely be the biggest draw through the remainder of the year,” Benchmark Co’s Mike Hickey observed yesterday. As a result, “We suspect subscribers will wrestle with the decision to immediately renew their six month subscription.”
So why is the stock up 7.9% today? Some investors believe that WWE’s been beat up enough; even with today’s uptick, shares are down 36% over the last three months. And WWE employees are sharing some of the pain. The company says it will slash its staff by 7%, contributing to a $30M improvement in its cash flow outlook for this year.
The Q2 numbers also weren’t as bad as analysts expected. Revenues at $156.3M, +2.6% from last year, came close to projections for $156.8M. The net loss, at 14.5M … Read More »
Legendary Hollywood makeup artist Dick Smith has died at the age of 92. His protege and fellow makeup genius Rick Baker tweeted the sad news this morning.
“The master is gone. My friend and mentor Dick Smith is no longer with us. The world will not be the same.”
Smith’s iconic transformations appeared in films such as The Godfather, Taxi Driver and The Exorcist, in which he created the device that allowed Linda Blair to projectile vomit. He also transformed the look of F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus, as he aged in the film from his 40s to his 80s. In 2011, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences presented Smith with an honorary Oscar (Smith’s second, his first was for Amadeus) at the Governors Awards. It was presented by Baker who called Smith “my idol, mentor, and friend for over 40 years, the greatest makeup artist of all time”. On accepting the award, an emotional, tearful Smith said ”When I watch the wonderful films they just showed, I thought, ‘What a wonderful career this fellow has had.’ I have loved being a makeup artist. To have had so much kindness is just too much.”
Earlier in his career, he worked on the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows, a project he credited with being valuable preparation for the 1970 film Little Big Man. In Dark Shadows, vampire Barnabas Collins was undergoing medical treatment to change him into a living human being. … Read More »
In 2012, China relaxed its feature film import quota, upping the total number of foreign movies eligible for a 25% revenue-share slot to 34. In the meantime, online has been a pretty freewheeling space where American culture has been given a large window to be exploited in the country. In the past few months, however, there has been an increase in cracking down on online content. And today, Chinese media says a plan may be afoot to impose a quota system on the licensing of overseas programs by video websites. The idea being mulled over by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television would have implications for video giants like Sohu, Youku Tudou and Tencent who collectively stream about 400 American and British TV shows — with audiences rabid for the likes of Sherlock, The Vampire Diaries and others.
I’m cautioned that there has been talk for a long time about applying stricter censorship enforcement to online content, and China specialist Rob Cain tells me, “It would be no surprise to see it enacted.” He says the Communist party “wants to set the rules of morality and proper conduct in China — essentially to keep people behaving in ‘appropriate’ ways that support, or at least don’t threaten, the (party)’s rule or legitimacy — and foreign programs are generally perceived as a threat, often referred to as ‘cultural pollution.’ ” Read More »
Here is a look at Netflix‘s next original series, the irreverent (and a little trippy) adult animated comedy BoJack Horseman, which premieres August 22. The PSA-style promo introduces BoJack (Will Arnett), the failed legendary star of the favorite ’90s family sitcom Horsin’ Around, who has been trying to find his way through a muddle of self-loathing, whisky and failed relationships. Now, in the presence of his human sidekick Todd (Aaron Paul) and his feline agent and ex-paramour Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), BoJack is primed for his comeback. The cast of the 12-episode series, which marks Arnett’s return to Netflix following last year’s installment of Arrested Development, also includes Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins and Patton Oswalt. Raphael Bob-Waksberg created the comedy, from Michael Eisner’s The Tornante Co., and executive produces with Arnett, Paul, Steven A. Cohen and Noel Bright. BoJack was designed by graphic artist Lisa Hanawalt and animated by ShadowMachine.
Sara Just, a 25-year ABC News veteran, is leaving the network to become executive producer of PBS NewsHour and SVP at WETA, the public television station in Washington, DC. Just, who has been ABC News’ Deputy Washington Bureau Chief since April, will join News Hour on September 2, succeeding Linda Winslow, who is retiring. During her tenure at ABC News, Just also served as Senior Washington Producer for Good Morning America and spent 17 years as a producer at Nightline, working with longtime anchor Ted Koppel.
Just’s hire comes on the heels of WETA taking over NewsHour from MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, the company named after former anchors Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, on July 1.
On the bright side: Time Warner Cable saw strong growth in broadband subs. But Q2 won’t go down as a quarter to remember for the No. 2 cable company, in the process of being acquired by Comcast. It reported net income of $499M, +3.7% vs last year, on revenues of $5.73B, +3.2%. The revenue number came close to the Street’s target of $5.74B. But diluted earnings at $1.89 a share fell short of expectations for $1.91.
Some of the weakness was due to the double whammy of increased programming costs — including for SportsNet LA, launched this year — while the number of residential video subs declined by 152,000 since March to 11.0M. Video revenues fell 4.8% to $2.55B while programming costs increased 3.9% to $1.3B. The declines were somewhat offset by price increases.
The broadband business carried the company. It added 67,000 subscriptions for a total of 11.4M while revenues increased 12.8% to $1.6B. TWC also added 79,000 phone customers, ending the quarter with 4.9M, although revenues slipped 5.2% to $490M. Looked at another way, the number of single and double play customers declined while the number of triple play subs increased for a total of 14.5M customer relationships, down 34,000.
CEO Rob Marcus says TWC “delivered the best second quarter subscriber volumes in years” as it “made terrific progress on our strategic and operating initiatives.” The company is “working hard to complete our merger with Comcast.”
UPDATE: Discovery decided in the recent upfront ad sales market to bet that pricing will improve, CEO David Zaslav told analysts this morning. The company’s upfront sales grew by mid-single-digit percentages vs last year. “We held inventory back” to maintain the price it charges for each viewer reached, he said. “The volume was not as strong as it was last year” although pricing in the scatter market remains healthy. Zaslav is determined to close what he says is a cost gap between the prices Discovery commands vs other companies’ networks. “In the long term getting the value we deserve for the quality audience we provide is how we’ll get meaningful growth.” He’s sensitive to the market changes because in the past “we think we left some money on the table.”
On other matters, the CEO says he expects to establish new relationships with subscription VOD providers in the next few months. And he kept his options open when asked about the consolidation taking place in media. “We’re thinking hard about it as all content owners are.”
PREVIOUS, 4:13 AM: CEO David Zaslav’s globalization efforts paid off in Q2 as Discovery Communication’s overseas operations helped to cover for weaknesses in the U.S. businesses. The company reported net income of $379M, +26.3% vs the period last year, on revenues of $1.61B, +9.8%. The top line was a hair above the $1.60B in the Street’s consensus estimate. Earnings at $1.09 a share were well above forecasts for 95 cents. Read More »
UPDATE 7:30 PM: I’ve learned that Warner Bros TV has made the call — there will be no table read for The Big Bang Theory tomorrow. Production on Season 8 of the hit CBS comedy originally was scheduled to start today, but with the five original castmembers still without contracts as negotiations between their teams and WBTV continue, the studio cancelled the table read, pushing it by a day. Now I hear production has been postponed one more day as talks continue. In its statement confirming the production delay this morning, WBTV did not set a return date, so it still stands.
PREVIOUS 9 AM: There is no agreement yet in the contract negotiations between the original cast of The Big Bang Theory and Warner Bros TV, leading to the studio’s decision to push the production start date for Season 8, originally slated for today.
“Due to ongoing contract negotiations, production on The Big Bang Theory — which was originally scheduled to begin today — has been postponed,” WBTV said in a statement. I hear the postponement is for one day, and the situation would be evaluated day by day as the two sides continue to negotiate and are close to deals, something that could happen as early as today.
While Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar worked during the 2010 salary renegotiations that also dragged on over the summer, they were under deals back then. The situation is different this time as the quintet’s contracts all expired at the end of last season. The only Big Bang cast members who have deals and would’ve shown up today are Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, who renegotiated their contracts last fall. Read More »
The death of Robert Halmi Sr., the vastly respected producer of ambitious and Emmy-winning TV projects who led a very full life over 90 years, stirred plenty of comment and reaction on social media and beyond. Below is a sampling of reactions from some of the industry’s notables, including producer Gale Anne Hurd‘s (The Walking Dead) simple homage of two hashtags. Read More »
Anna Gunn, an Emmy winner as Skyler White on Breaking Bad and Geffen Playhouse regular, has taken to the boards as her latest show, Gracepoint, heads to its October premiere on Fox. In Laura Eason’s Sex With Strangers, running at the increasingly essential Second Stage, she plays Olivia, a writer who has retreated to a secluded B&B in Michigan to finish her second novel. It’s a dark and snow-stormy night when Ethan comes stomping in from the cold.
Olivia is on the cusp of 40, wispy and comfortably wrapped in an afghan. Ethan is played by Billy Magnussen, for whom the cusp of 40 is still a considerable way off and who — as anyone knows who saw him as Sigourney Weaver’s gifted boy toy in Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike (he was Spike) — has a body to render women weak and set men’s teeth on edge. Read More »
The documentary filmmaker who was called the “father of American cinema verite” died today at his home in Sharon, Conn. Robert Drew was 90. He was a Life magazine correspondent and editor when he formed Drew Associates in 1960 and hired a team of filmmakers that included then-unknowns D.A. Pennebaker, Albert Maysles and Ricky Leacock. Their first project was Primary, which followed handsome young senator John F. Kennedy as he campaigned in Wisconsin for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination.
Starting with Primary, Drew’s films pioneered a new journalistically minded code of documentary creation, including not directing subjects or using set-up shots or an on-camera narrator. The candid footage was edited into a dramatic narrative that gave the feeling of what it was like to be there as events occurred. His technique became known as cinema verite or direct cinema, though he liked to call it reality filmmaking.
Drew and his team re-engineered a motion picture camera and sound recorder so they could move freely and in sync with a subject, allowing them the mobility to capture real life as it unfolded before the lens. Primary and the 1963 docu Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment, which chronicled the president’s effort to integrate the University of Alabama, are part of the Library of Congress’ National Registry of historic films. Read More »
Emmy-winning TV movie and miniseries producer Robert Halmi Sr. has died. At 90, he was still doing what he had loved doing for the past three and a half decades — producing television — until his sudden passing this afternoon in his New York home from a brain aneurysm.
A freedom fighter in his native Hungary, where he had been jailed and sentenced to death twice — once by Nazi invaders, then by the communist regime — Halmi was able to emigrate to the U.S. in 1951, arriving with a Leica camera and $5 in his pocket. He started off as a “diaper photographer,” taking pictures of babies for a diaper service, before becoming one of America’s leading magazine photographers. He then switched to television, becoming one of the most prolific longform producers in the genre’s heyday during the 1980s and 1990s. His more than 200 movies and miniseries included such hits as Gulliver’s Travels, Merlin, The Odyssey and Tin Man. Together, they have earned 136 Emmy Awards (and 480 nominations), as well as Golden Globes, Peabodys, Christophers and Humanitas Prizes.
“I cannot retire, I would go nuts,” Halmi told me five years ago, when he was still jetting around the world to the sets of his movies, with that still camera still around his neck. Recently, he was working on the latest big-scope project, Syfy’s 13-part series Olympus, which started filming three weeks ago for a 2015 premiere.
Halmi … Read More »
Warren Kole and Erik Stocklin have landed recurring roles in CBS drama Stalker. The Kevin Williamson series stars Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q as detectives from the Threat Assessment Unit who investigate cases of stalking. Kole, repped by The Kohner Agency, Silver Lining Entertainment and attorney Stuart Rosenthal, will play Detective Trent Wilkes, a lead detective in the Robbery Homicide Division of the LAPD who gets into a turf war with Jack (McDermott). Stocklin has been added as a recurring after appearing in the pilot. He will reprise his role of Perry, an introverted college sophomore. Kole appeared in the NBC pilot Salvation and recently recurred on USA’s White Collar and Fox’s The Following. Stocklin, repped by Domain and manager JC Robbins, appeared on ABC’s Mistresses.
EXCLUSIVE: Incomparable writer, producer, First Amendment apostle and funny guy Norman Lear will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN Center USA, which works on global issues of freedom of speech and censorship. The non-profit human-rights group also said it is giving its First Amendment Award to journalist Glenn Greenwald and documentary director Laura Poitras for their work disseminating documents relating to NSA surveillance. Journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas will receive the Freedom to Write Award for his work on immigration issues.
Lear, who turned 92 on Sunday, made his name creating groundbreaking TV sitcoms in the 1970s, including All In The Family, Maude, Good Times, One Day At A Time, Sanford And Son and The Jeffersons. The shows couched controversy in humor, dealing with thorny societal issues including racism, bigotry, feminism, divorce, abortion and class. Lear, also the producer of films including Fried Green Tomatoes, was as politically active off-screen as on: He founded the advocacy group People for the American Way in 1981, led a consortium to purchase an original copy of the Constitution and toured it around the country, and remains at the forefront of Hollywood’s most active and influential political progressives.
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The cable networks company known for its hits The Walking Dead and Mad Men could use the deal to further establish itself as a leading distributor of premium content — strengthening its ability to sell ads and negotiate high fees from cable and satellite companies. Bankers and executives are working on a cash and stock deal, I’m told — but with no dollar figures yet.
The arrangement would give AMC Networks just short of a majority stake in BBC America, unlike a previous representation arrangement with Discovery, which did not own equity. While BBC Worldwide would still control the channel and brand, AMC would be able to influence programming decisions and handle BBC America’s domestic ad sales and distribution. Talks have been ongoing for several months, but a deal isn’t complete. Bloomberg was first to report the negotiations.
AMC and BBC know each other well. They’re co-producers of The Honorable Woman, which premieres tomorrow on SundanceTV. Last year they partnered on Sundance’s Top Of the Lake, and they have an upcoming production, One Child.
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