PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
NBC is feeling strong – the network this summer is bringing back American Ninja Warrior for its eighth season. Production will begin in the spring; a premiere date will be announced shortly. Hosted by Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila, the obstacle course competition series will hit six cities this season: LA, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Baltimore and Cincinnati, and the Pacific Northwest near Seattle.
Director Steven Piet and producer Erik Crary are in a new first-look deal with Universal Content Productions to develop scripted programming. Piet and Crary previously worked under Nick Antosca (The Act, Channel Zero), who is under an overall deal at the studio.
Multihyphenate creator John Ridley inked a new five-year overall deal with ABC Studios. It’s the longest-term pact for the writer/director/producer at the studio, where he’s been based since 2014. Under the new deal, which covers only TV, Ridley will develop content across multiple platforms.
Psych: The Movie 2 got a green light at USA Network as a follow-up to the net’s Psych: The Movie. The sequel, starring original cast members James Roday, Dule Hill, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen and Tim Omundson, hails from Universal Content Productions in association with Thruline Entertainment. A premiere is slated for later this year.
AXS TV is teaming with Feld Entertainment for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus: The Final Farewell, a 90-minute documentary special that will premiere this spring on AXS TV.
Endemol Shine Australia is launching the factual series One Born Every Minute, set in a bustling maternity ward and capturing all of the fear, love and joy that comes with welcoming new life into the world. Created by Dragonfly, part of Endemol Shine UK, the documentary series has now been adapted in 10 markets including France, Denmark, Czech Republic and Israel. The Australian version will be made by Endemol Shine Australia and distributed globally by Endemol Shine International.
Tomorrow Studios, a joint venture between Marty Adelstein and ITV Studios, is adapting Polite Society, a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma set in contemporary Delhi, for television. Project is based on the forthcoming novel by Mahesh Rao and marks the first mixed-language series for the production company.
NEW & RETURNING SERIES
From exec producers Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Meyers, a new season of Documentary Now! returns to IFC to once again pay tribute to some of the world’s most renowned docs on February 20 at 11p. Guests this season include Michael Keaton and Owen Wilson, who star in the premiere ep, as well as Cate Blanchett, Michael C. Hall, John Mulaney, Taran Killam, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Bobby Moynihan, Natasha Lyonne, Paula Pell, Richard Kind and more. Dame Helen Mirren hosts.
truTV invites viewers back into the slightly deranged world of At Home with Amy Sedaris when the variety sketch series returns Tuesday, February 19 at 10p. In the season’s premiere ep, “Teenagers,” Sedaris attempts to understand their complex and unpredictable minds as they grapple with their irrational fears.
Nat Geo WILD tees up a new season of Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER on Sunday, February 24.
Bridezillas returns to WE tv with a vengeance as more over-the-top brides wreak wedding hell in season 12, beginning Friday, March 15 at 10p.
Films BYkids, a collaboration between Thirteen and nonprofit organization, BYkids, pairs filmmakers with teenagers from around the world to create short personal documentaries that educate and encourage understanding about global issues. Narrated by actress Ashley Judd, season 2 of the four-part series premieres Sundays, March 3-24 at 7:30 p.m. on Thirteen.
The bar next door is set to open on Thursday, March 28 at 9:30p as new comedy series Abby’s joins Global lineup. The first multi-camera comedy shot outdoors in front of a live studio audience is set in the backyard watering hole that abides by some peculiar rules and is frequented by a colorful cast of characters.
Fans starved for more Santa Clarita Diet can satiate their hunger on March 29, when Netflix will premiere season 3 of the Drew Barrymore– and Timothy Olyphant-starring series.
BBC America dropped the first trailer for season 2 of Killing Eve, which will see Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer return as Eve and Villanelle in the story of two women bound by a mutual obsession and one brutal act. Second season, which debuts April 7 at 8p on BBCA and AMC, picks up just 30 seconds after the end of season 1.
Acorn TV announced a packed 2019 schedule of new series and returning favorites, including season 5 of top UK dramas Manhunt (March 11) and Line of Duty (spring premiere TBA); commissioned series London Kills (February 25) and Queens of Mystery (April 8); and new Aussie/Kiwi dramas Straight Forward, Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries and My Life Is Murder, plus returning favorites including Jack Taylor, Keeping Faith and Doc Martin.
AT&T Audience Network’s original short doc Beacons of Hope, part of the network’s Believe Chicago initiative, premieresMarch 15 at 8p. Set in some of Chicago’s most distressed neighborhoods, the series aims to inspire change.
The Grand Canyon is celebrating its 100th year as a national park this month, and Nat Geo is honoring the milestone with Into the Canyon, premiering Thursday, February 21 at 8p. The special follows photographer Pete McBride and journalist Kevin Fedarko as they embark on a 750-mile journey on foot through the canyon.
Netflix set March 15 as the premiere date for adult-leaning animated anthology series Love Death and Robots. Series, from Tim Miller and David Fincher, consists of 18 animated short stories, each created by different animation teams from around the world.
HEARD AT TCA
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke told the TCA crowd the company is moving ahead on a direct-to-service strategy that may look a lot like the speedy theatrical-to-streaming window Netflix practiced this past awards season for Roma, among its other films. Citing projects already in the works, including the Blumhouse thematically linked streaming films, and projects under Nicole Kidman’s deal to make content for Prime, Salke said, “The direct-to-service strategy is happening.”
In other TCA news, Amazon is bringing back John Krasinski-fronted Jack Ryan for a third season, and Benedict Cumberbatch is in as the final member of the Good Omens cast. The series will launch May 31 on Amazon Prime… Also, Broadchurch producer Jane Featherstone and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Reed Morano are teaming on a global thriller based on Naomi Alderman tome The Power for Amazon. Featherstone’s Sister Pictures’ 10-part series was unveiled at TCA with news that Alderman is adapting her book and exec producing with Featherstone, Naomi de Pear and Morano.
Amazon Studios’ co-head of TV Vernon Sanders said fans of The Expanse are in for an expansive season 4 of the series Amazon scooped up eight months ago after it was canceled by. “The show has come back strong,” he said, confirming all series regulars are coming back, and new characters will be introduced.
Speaking of new characters, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg of Midnight Radio are in as writers and exec producers of Anthony and Joe Russo’s as-yet-untitled global multiseries for Amazon Studios. The spy series franchise will launch with an international tentpole series to be followed by multiple, connected local-language series; first two will originate in India and Italy.
The streaming service continues to “dip its toe in the water” of live sports rights, said Albert Cheng, co-head of TV at Amazon Studios. Amazon last year aired Thursday Night Football. It also purchased rights to 20 soccer matches per season in the English Premier League from 2019-22, and aired the US Open tennis tournament in the UK. “We’re experimenting and we’re trying to understand how our customers are responding to it,” Cheng said. “What we have seen so far is good responses.”
ID is launching digital talk show Crime Obsession, hosted by self-proclaimed true crime fanatic Traci Stumpf. The weekly show provides a forum to continue the conversation about what viewers see on ID’s air and beyond. Segments include conversations with experts including journalists, detectives, psychologists and forensic scientists.
DC Universe today (February 15) premieres the series Doom Patrol. The debut was preceded yesterday by an extended trailer for the screen drama about misfit superheroes who gain their powers through affliction or tragedy. Doom Patrol is the second live-action original series for the DC’s subscription streaming site following the October premiere of Titans.
Netflix at work on a sequel to The Kissing Booth, the original film the streamer released last year that’s based on Beth Reekles’ young adult book. The Kissing Booth 2, now in production, stars Joey King, Joel Courtney and Jacob Elordi – all back from the original, which Netflix said was its most-re-watched original movie of 2018.
Word is Apple will pull back the curtain on its upcoming video content slate at its March 25 press event in Cupertino. The company is expected to show clips of its original series; no launch date for the series has been set.
National Geographic and PBS NewsHour are the latest content partners to join the Reuters Connect platform. The deals give Reuters subscribers photography from the National Geographic Image Collection, and PBS NewsHour content from current locations as well as historic and evergreen footage.
Audible, an Amazon subsidiary, on April 4 will release West End True West, the audio of Sam Shepard’s 39-year-old True West as staged in London with Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn in starring roles. The audio release is directed by the London production’s director, Matthew Dunster, and will feature music composed for the stage.
Walmart and DreamWorks Animation are teaming for a touring virtual reality experience that lets fans of How to Train Your Dragon interact with characters from the film franchise, then be led through an immersive gift shop, in the retailer’s parking lots. Shopping pop-ups will take place in five (warm) states. Synergy alert: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World opens wide February 22.
Amazon is launching a service, Moments, that lets marketers hand the work of fulfilling customer rewards to the retail giant. Companies can reward customers that take specific actions, and Amazon sources and fulfills the rewards. When users complete the action, an Amazon link launches them to their reward. The tool has been in the testing phase with a variety of partners.
There’s a lot of new ahead at Nickelodeon. A series of SpongeBob SquarePants spinoffs, an Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? reboot hosted by John Cena, a revival of sketch comedy series All That exec produced by Kenan Thompson, a scripted music series set in a performing arts school from American Idol creator Simon Fuller and music artist Ryan Tedder and Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, a live-action preschool series that follows YouTube star Ryan of Ryan ToysReview, his parents and animated friends created in conjunction with pocket.watch are among the network’s 2019 roster, introduced by president Brian Robbins, who took the reins at Nick in October. New shows will begin to roll out this summer.
Also in the works are several Hispanic-focused series. The Casagrandes is a companion to animated hit The Loud House and will feature a multigenerational Mexican-American family; series is slated to debut in October. Santiago of the Seas (formerly The Swashbuckling Adventures of Capitan Calavera) is an interactive animated series featuring a Spanish-language and Latino-Caribbean culture curriculum. A Dora the Explorer live-action movie, slated to hit theaters in August, is in development from Paramount Pictures, Paramount Players and Nickelodeon Movies and Walden Media.
Turner Asia Pacific and Chinese animation company UYoung formalized their partnership, which includes the development of a new IP by UYoung, details of which will be revealed later this year.
Nicki Micheaux (Good Trouble) scored a recurring role on NBC’s Chicago P.D.…Newcomer Kennedy McMann will topline the CW’s untitled Nancy Drew drama pilot, inspired by the classic mystery book series. Leah Lewis (Charmed) will co-star in the pilot…. Gabriel Bateman (American Gothic, Outcast) scored the lead of Syfy pilot Cipher (working title), and Kyla-Drew Simmons (Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn) will co-star in the AI drama.
London calling: BBC Studios is making its first big foray into podcasting with the launch of a Chuck D-fronted series about legendary band The Clash for Spotify. The Public Enemy front man will narrate eight-part series Stay Free: The Story of The Clash for the music service.
ADVERTISING & BRANDS
History and Welch’s are partnering for a monthlong Truck Night in America integration that spans linear and social platforms and brings together the two brands to create a perfect marriage of grape juice, demolition and big rigs. The partnership features a challenge where three Truck Night In America competitors are tasked with pushing sheds filled to the brim with 55-gallon barrels of Welch’s grape juice over the edge of a 100-foot cliff.
Hallmark Channel is joining forces with affiliate partners Altice USA, Cable ONE and Buckeye to help shelter animals find forever homes by staging 10 adoption events in various markets nationwide beginning February 16. Throughout the remainder of the month, both the network and participating MVPDs will be hosting raffles and giveaways, as well as making donations to local shelters. The adoption drives kick off as the network gears up to air the second annual American Rescue Dog Show on February 17 and 18 at 8p.