|PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
First Ladies, starring and exec-produced by Viola Davis, is a go at Showtime. The net gave a series order to the first season of the drama, which focuses on impactful First Ladies and will star Davis Michelle Obama. Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Ford also will be featured in season one. From Lionsgate Television, series also will be exec-produced by Julius Tennon, Cathy Schulman (Crash, Five Feet Apart), Jeff Gaspin (Rhythm + Flow, L.A.’s Finest), Brad Kaplan (Mr. Church) and author Aaron Cooley.
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Amazon Studios acquired The Dark of the Night, based on the upcoming third novel in Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB series, and will develop it as a drama series. Book series features a young FBI agent pursuing other UNSUBs, aka Unknown Subjects, the FBI’s name for an unknown serial killer.
Stanley Tucci will traverse Italy on a culinary adventure in upcoming CNN original series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. Four-part series, from Three Identical Strangers and Raw Television, will see Tucci travel to different regions as he delves into the history of cuisine and culture.
Writer/producer Wellesley Wild (Family Guy) inked an exclusive, multiyear deal with Warner Bros. Animation—the studio’s first major producer. Wild’s overall deal will see him develop, write and produce new animated projects for adult, kids and family audiences, and also encompasses the other scripted programming divisions of the Warner Bros. Television Group.
Production is underway on season 2 of Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, slated to debut on Disney+ in late 2020. This go-round, East High drama students prepare to perform Beauty & The Beast as their spring musical. Series is created and exec-produced by Tim Federle (Ferdinand).
Broadway Video’s Above Average Productions and film/TV producer M. Blair Breard are teaming for a premium scripted content production company. Breard continue to develop projects independently.
Next project for Left Bank, producer of The Crown, is a four-part adaptation of Robert Harris’ novel The Fear Index, for British broadcaster Sky. Set at a fictional hedge fund in Geneva, story follows an American expat physicist, who stays out of the public spotlight but in private sits atop a potent cocktail of in AI and hedge funds.
The US division of Yellow Bird, a joint venture of Bunim/Murray Productions, is adapting Krystal Sutherland’s novel A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares into a series. Story centers on a 17-year old girl who believes everyone in her family has been cursed with a debilitating phobia that will ultimately kill them.
The final, frenetic months before Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962 are the centerpiece of 101 Studios and Seven Seas Films series The Last Days Of Marilyn Monroe, adapted from Keith Badman’s book The Final Years Of Marilyn Monroe: The Shocking True Story.
UK’s House Productions optioned screen rights to Jack Fairweather’s The Volunteer, the true story of a covert operative who volunteered to be captured and taken to Nazi death camp Auschwitz in order to infiltrate the camp, organize a resistance and ultimately attack the Nazi forces.
The BBC and BritBox are reviving lottery drama The Syndicate five years after its last season. Briefly remade by ABC, Kay Mellor-penned series will get a fourth season, this time set in a dog kennel and takes place between Leeds and Vegas. New season will air on BBC One in the UK and BritBox in the US.
NEW & RETURNING SERIES
ID returns The Lake Erie Murders, where something sinister lurks in the waters, for season 2 on Sunday, February 9 at 10p. Series follows murders and mysteries in the Great Lake region.
The third season of Acorn TV’s Agatha Raisin premieres Monday, February 10, with three 90-minute episodes on tap. “She’s so supremely confident, and sometimes doesn’t really give a s**t about how other people feel really,” is how star Ashley Jensen describes the titular character. “I think I’m a bit more worried about other people’s feelings than she is. It’s quite freeing to play a character like that, but if she came into the room I think I’d just let her control the room. I can hold my own, but I’m not competing with that!” Check out our exclusive interview here.
Married at First Sight spinoff Bride & Prejudice: Forbidden Love is moving from FYI to sister net Lifetime for its second season. Bowing Wednesday, February 26 at 10p, season 2 again features Pastor Cal Roberson helping couples whose friends and families don’t approve of their relationships.
The season five premiere of Total Bellas muscles back to E! on Thursday, April 6 at 10p. Season five features Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, Daniel Bryan and Artem Chigventsev, as a romantic proposal is planned and twin pregnancies are revealed.
IMDb TV, the Amazon-owned free, ad-supported streamer, acquired rights to Desperate Housewives and more than 20 additional scripted shows controlled by Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer & International division. Additional content includes My So-Called Life, White Collar and The Glades. Many of the shows will have their free streaming exclusives on IMDb.
Quintesse has launched as an advanced contextual intelligence platform, aimed at meeting the need for pro-privacy targeting solutions in a CCPA, GDPR world. The new business from Vibrant Media offer brands and agencies transparency into the contextual suitability and safety of their campaigns and customized targeting tools to optimize and scale without the need for third-party data. “A new era of privacy legislation is forcing the advertising industry to pursue alternatives to third-party cookies as the primary method of targeting audiences,” said Doug Stevenson, CEO and co-founder. For more, go here.
TV measurement and analytics company 605 launched 605 PLATF0RM, a next-gen TV measurement and audience analytics solution for national TV networks, advertisers and agencies. The web-based application enables advanced measurement and analysis of TV programs and advertisements across linear, over-the-air, DVR and set-top box VOD, capitalizing on 605’s multi-source TV dataset comprised of set-top box and smart TV viewership data covering more than 21 million households in the US that is aggregated, anonymized and privacy compliant. For details, go here.
Snap reported Snapchat gained 8 million new daily active users in Q4, marking its biggest sequential growth in two years, though revenue slipped under Wall Street projections. Total revenue rose 44 percent to $561 million, shy by $2 million of the Street’s expectations.
CBS Sports Network celebrates Black History Month with the premiere of Jacksonville U: Can Do! on Sunday, February 9 at 7p. One-hour doc chronicles Jacksonville University’s memorable NCAA Tournament run led by All-American Artis Gilmore and Head Coach Joe Williams, which took place 50 years ago this March.
The Monday, February 10 episode of Nat Geo’s Brain Games will feature actor/musician Jack Black and his Tenacious D bandmate Kyle Gass learning how music affects the brain. Among highlights, Black will test his brain power in the Gauntlet, and then be joined by singer/songwriter Meghan Trainor for an improvised jam session.
Beginning Tuesday, February 11, ABC spices things up with Valentine’s Day-themed eps of comedies including Modern Family visiting the city of love, Paris; Tommy Lee appearing on The Goldbergs; and Tyler Cameron, formerly of The Bachelorette, guesting on Single Parents. The net will air Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Valentine on Friday, February 14.
Cinelatino is celebrating the month of love with a lineup of box-office romcoms, beginning with La Boda de Valentina on Sunday, February 9, at 9p and concluding February 16 with Camino a Marte.
DISTRIBUTION & SYNDICATION
Judge Jerry will get a second season in national syndication, thanks to a renewal from NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution. The court show, with Jerry Springer presiding, already has been renewed in more than 95 percent of the US.
Netflix acquired global rights to Radha Blank’s The 40-Year-Old Version, winner of this year’s Sundance Directing Award-US Dramatic, with a theatrical release planned for later this year. Film follows Blank as a struggling NY playwright who upon approaching 40 discovers a rapper alter-ego and must learn to juggle her two personas.
Bolstered by its podcast business, Spotify experienced its highest-ever net-add of subscribers, reporting a spike in monthly users but lower than projected revenue for Q4. The company ended 2019 with 124 million global premium subscribers, up 29 percent from the prior year and up 10 percent from the previous quarter. Ad-supported monthly users reached 153 million, up 32 percent on the year and 9 percent from Q3. Streaming hours rose 200 percent in Q4 from the prior year on “clear indications that podcast usage is driving increased overall engagement and retention,” according to the company. Revenue rose to $2.05 billion, up 24 percent.
Also at Spotify, the company is acquiring The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ pop culture/sports brand and podcast company. The Ringer podcasts include Simmons-hosted shows that bring guests from the world of sports, TV and movies into the studio.
HLN this week is bowing its inaugural true crime podcast, Down The Hill: The Delphi Murders. Podcast includes interviews with parents, grandparents, friends, local residents, law enforcement and other significant subjects related to the murder of adolescent girls Abby Williams and Libby German in Delphi, IN, three years ago.
Lior Raz (Fauda), co-creator and exec producer of Netflix’s Hit and Run, will also headline the upcoming series. He joins female lead Sanaa Lathan (The Affair), Kaelen Ohm (Queen of Spades), Moran Rosenblatt (Fauda), and Gregg Henry (Scandal); Gal Toren (Para Aduma) guest stars… Also at Netflix, Carmel Laniado (Doolittle) joined the second season of The Witcher in a supporting role, and Jennifer Esposito is set for a lead role opposite Julia Garner and Anna Chlumsky in Inventing Anna. Additionally, Zach Gilford (The Purge: Anarchy), Kate Siegel (The Haunting of Hill House) and Hamish Linklater (Legion) will topline Midnight Mass, a seven-ep Netflix horror series.
In a recasting, O’Shea Jackson Jr. is in as the lead of Apple’s basketball-themed drama Swagger… Medalion Rahimi, who recurred on CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles since last season, has been upped to series regular… West Duchovny scored a series regular gig opposite Jordana Spiro and Josh Andrés Rivera in HBo Max’s Vegas High… The CW’s Superman & Lois cast the iconic couple’s sons, with Jordan Elsass and Alexander Garfin joining the series.
Nelvana landed distribution agreements with TF1 in France and WarnerMedia’s Boomerang in EMEA for its new 3D animated series Agent Binky: Pets of the Universe. Based on the graphic novels, series follows a curious house cat and his fellow agents on a mission to protect their human families from aliens, robots, and interstellar threats.
Toon2Tango GmbH & Co. KG, the new kids and family venture headed by veterans Ulli Stoef and Jo Daris, is staffing up as it prepares to release new series Agent 203, co-produced with Mondo TV and V House Animation. Writing, directing and design agency Baboon Animation will be writing the pilot, and Jamila Metran and Alice Burden have been appointed as creative consultants.