PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
AMC opened up a writers’ room for 61st Street, a potential new AMC Studios’ drama with Peter Moffat (Criminal Justice) as showrunner and executive producer, to be executive produced by Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society. Project is being developed as part of AMC’s “scripts-to-series” model.
Sam Esmail and his production entity Esmail Corp have renewed their overall deals with Universal Content Productions calling for Esmail to produce premium content for linear and streaming platforms, including NBCUniversal’s recently-announced upcoming streaming service. Esmail entered into his first overall deal with UCP in 2015 after creating USA Network’s Mr. Robot.
Epix is co-producing Julian Fellowes’ period drama Belgravia with ITV, and will air it day-and-date with its UK premiere, reports Deadline. Series begins production in the spring.
Nat Geo announced new docu-series Activate, in partnership with Procter & Gamble and co-produced by Global Citizen and RadicalMedia. Each of six episodes, featuring activists like Hugh Jackman, Uzo Aduba, Common, Pharell Williams, and Rachel Brosnahan, delves into an issue connected to the root causes of extreme poverty.
Also on the way from Nat Geo are three natural history global series. Six-part America uses special night cameras to deliver images in darkness; four-episode Planet of the Whales offers a cinematic look at whale hunting behavior; and four-night Yellowstone Live follows animals as they emerge from a brutal winter.
Coincidence…or curse? AMC Networks’ streaming service Shudder announced its next original program: Cursed Films, a docu-series examining the facts, myths and mysteries around films and franchises whose casts and crew have been struck by misfortune and tragedy (think The Exorcist, Poltergeist and The Omen “Cursed Films is a fascinating look at why these iconic horror movies have gained such an outsized reputation for being the focus of bizarre tragedies and strange coincidences that seemingly defy explanation,” said Craig Engler, Shudder’s GM.
BBC Studios and ITV streaming service BritBox struck a multi-series partnership with Oscar nominee Jeff Pope (Stan & Ollie, Philomena), it was announced at TCA. BritBox will co-produce Pope’s original BBC drama, The Barking Murders (wt), written by Neil McKay. Previously the pair collaborated on the Golden Globe nominated Appropriate Adult.
Lifetime greenlit Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal (wt), a follow up to its 2018 movie about the newlyweds. Production on the film, executive produced by Merideth Finn and Michele Weiss, begins later this month in Vancouver for a spring debut on Lifetime.
Slow Burn, a docu-series based on the podcast of the same name, was greenlit by Epix. From Nixon and Watergate to Clinton’s impeachment, host Leon Neyfakh excavates the strange subplots involved in the downfall of a president. Six-parter will be produced in partnership between Left/Right and Slate.
Production has begun on Shudder’s first long-form original TV series, Creepshow, in Atlanta. Executive produced by The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero, the streaming service’s horror series is based on the 1982 anthology film written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero.
Top 10 Weekend Domestic Box Office Estimates: February 8-10
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Bros.) $34.4 million, opening weekend
What Men Want (Paramount) $19.0 million, opening weekend
Cold Pursuit (Lionsgate) $10.8 million, opening weekend
The Upside (STX) $7.2 million (week 5), cume revenue $85.8 million
Glass (Universal) $5.4 million (week 4), cume revenue $98.5 million
The Prodigy (Orion) $6.0 million, opening weekend
Green Book (Universal) $3.6 million (week 13), cume revenue $61.5 million
Aquaman (Warner Bros.) $3.3 million (week 8), cume revenue $328.5 million
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony) $3.0 million (week 9), cume revenue $179.8 million
Miss Bala (Sony) $2.7 million (week 2), cume revenue $11.9 million
NEW AND RETURNING SERIES
HBO’s Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, bows Sunday, March 3, it was announced at TCA. The four-parter, offering accounts from men who claim they were molested by the late superstar when they were underage boys, has drawn fierce criticism from Jackson’s estate.
HBO also revealed the final season of Veep launches Sunday, March 31; mini-series Chernobyl debuts in May; and season two of Big Little Lies and comedy series Los Espookys will arrive in June.
The new season of Discovery’s Naked and Afraid ventures to (brrrrr) Alaska. In addition to the frozen tundra, clothes-less competitors will face an alligator-infested swamp, lions, and a herd of elephants, starting Sunday, March 3 at 8p.
Season two of History’s Knightfall premieres Monday, March 25 at 10. Mark Hamil (Star Wars) and Tom Cullen (Downton Abbey) make their debuts in the medieval drama.
History renewed Project Blue for a sophomore run. Based on the true, top-secret investigations into UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s, the show debuted as the number one new series on cable this season, pulling in 3.4 million viewers in Live+3 Nielsens.
Global Child just landed on Amazon Prime. It’s a travel show with a twist – hosted by travel expert (and Christian jail chaplain) Augusto Valverde, the series combines exotic destinations with charitable work, including a partnership with the BIG Foundation, established by Valverde in 2016. In each episode, Valverde, joined by an influencer co-host, uses the power of social media to find people who want to travel with a purpose, and use their platforms to inspire people and give back.
BBC America announced at TCA the returns of two natural history programs. Eight-part Planet Earth III lands in 2022, while six-episode Frozen Planet II is set for 2021.
A Discovery of Witches makes it network television debut on AMC and BBC America following its premiere on AMC Networks streaming sibs Sundance Now and Shudder. Drama begins an eight-week run on both networks starting Sunday, April 7 at 9p. “This is a great example of our cross-network strategy, to expose our series to new audiences across our ecosystem of networks and streaming services,” said Sarah Barnett, President of AMC Entertainment Networks.
More news from AMC: Into the Badlands and The Son are coming to an end. The final eight episodes of Badlands start Sunday, March 24 at 10p; the show moves to its regular Monday timeslot on March 25 at 10p. The second and final season of The Son launches Sunday, April 27 at 9p.
Season 26 of BBC America’s Top Gear revs up Thursday, April 25 at 9p, with Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris, Rory Reid and The Stig back for five episodes. Luther returns to the net Sunday, June 2 at 8p.
Brockmire’s back for season three on IFC starting Wednesday, April 3 at 10p. Guest stars this round include Richard Kind, Linda Lavin, Martha Plimpton, J.K. Simmons, Christine Woods and Becky Ann Baker.
SundanceTV docu-series Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo chronicles the life and crimes a born-again, fire-and-brimstone televangelist and cult leader, beginning Wednesday, February 27 at 11p.
The Young and the Restless will honor longtime cast member Kristoff St. John, who died February 3 at age 52, with a story that launches in late April. “The Young and the Restless will forever value the legacy of Kristoff St. John in his portrayal of Neil Winters,” said CBS. Friday’s episode of the soap concluded with a tribute to the actor.
The Thursday, February 28 episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy will make it the longest-running prime-time medical drama ever, with 332 episodes.
Combate Americas is launching a two-part, live Mixed Martial Arts fight series. Battles begin with a showdown in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico on Friday, March 8, live in Spanish in the U.S. on Univision (12a) and UDN, and in English in the U.S. and Canada on DAZN (10p).
Bravo is covering the paternity leave of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen host Andy Cohen with a week of specials. Tonight’s offering: Best of Vanderpump Rules at 11p.
Showtime acquired U.S. rights to The Go-Go’s, a documentary about the “Our Lips Are Sealed” pop band that rose to the top of the charts in the 1980s. Doc is slated to premiere later this year.
“Bigger is not always better. Better is better,” said AMC Networks’ President, Entertainment Networks Sarah Barnett, explaining that the nets under her watch are experimenting with new programming. “I’m prepared to be really quite scared to do good work,” she said. “We’re at our best when we subvert ourselves and surprise the world with something wholly original. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, not the allure of a shiny package.”
BBC America’s Killing Eve speaks to the social climate, said series star Sandra Oh. During the breakout drama’s first season, “It was amazing to be making a show and doing exactly what Time’sUp is trying to do and trying to bring,” she said. “Our show examining and taking the female psyche seriously.”
A+E Networks President of Programming Rob Sharenow announced that 78% of Lifetime directors are female, versus an industry average of 17%. On a Lifetime panel of female directors, Alyssa Milano said the #MeToo movement is having an impact: “We have proved that if you speak up we are holding people accountable for their abuses of power and we’re not going to allow that anymore,”
Nat Geo notes from TCA: The net tapped Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog) as executive producer and showrunner for Genius: Aretha Franklin…The Right Stuff, an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s account of the early days of the U.S. space program, was greenlit with Mark Lafferty as EP and showrunner and David Nutter as EP and director of the first episode…And Running Wild with Bear Grylls has found a new home on Nat Geo, which over the past year has aired episodes of previous seasons of the show, following their NBC run. New season is in production and slated to premiere in December 2019. “I’m so proud to have joined the National Geographic family, whose brand is synonymous with adventure,” says Grylls.
On Nat Geo WILD, clip series Howie Mandel’s Animals Doing Things will be back for a second season in June.
Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier spoke to journalists at TCA about a Fox future without headed-to-Disney studio 20th Century Fox TV. Will Fox look at acquiring production companies? “I wouldn’t say acquiring production companies, I would say acquiring capabilities, acquiring companies that compound the value that we have at our core,” said Collier. “If that happens to be a production company, sure. In respect to unscripted, we already have built some production capabilities, and we already have started to scale our capabilities for being not just the network but also be the format creator and the rights holder.”
With Oscar-nominated documentary film Free Solo setting box office records, its debut on TV was moved to later in the quarter, to extend its theatrical run. It will premiere commercial free on Nat Geo Sunday, March 3 at 9p. Rock climber/star Alex Honnold, whose legendary ascent of the 3200-foot El Capitan in Yosemite was the focus of the flick, was at TCA, and admitted his stay at a hotel the previous night was not as comfortable as his van, because he had to figure out where the light switches are and take a long walk to the bathroom. “The beauty of the van, you can just reach down and grab the pee bottle,” he noted.
Ovation docu-series The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook follows Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) as he retraces the route taken by the explorer across the Southwest Pacific. “This is me going around in little boats and airplanes and container vessels, all around the Pacific, and kind of exploring in the same way Cook did,” said Neill. “But it’s a correction of the history I was taught….We can’t discover places that had already been found.”
“Television that matters has a long shelf life,” said John Hendricks, head of fact-based CuriosityStream. Hendricks predicted that Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Apple, AT&T/WarnerMedia and Comcast will be the survivors of the streaming wars. “For us, we want to be priced so that we can layer on top of these offerings very inexpensively, because the consumer doesn’t have an endless budget,” Hendricks added. “I think in our future will be some kind of alignment with one of those six.”
Asked if she is channeling “her southern self” in BritBox’s Florida-set Living the Dream, Facts of Life alum Kim Fields replied, “I’m from New York, from Harlem. I don’t necessarily have an inner southern belle, I’m just a really great actress.”
Samsung has launched a “Refrigerdating” service, to help users find love based on what’s in their ($4000 Family Hub) fridge. “By uploading an image of your food, you can get in contact with others who have realized that you are what you eat,” said Samsung. “Simply upload an image and let the world know what kind of person you are. Refrigerdating will then hook you up with a variation of fridges, of different tastes, to pick and choose from.”
The arrival of 5G will create trillions of dollars in economic value and upend everything know about commerce, but consumers aren’t talking about it, says Craig Greiwe, SVP, Rogers & Cowan. “5G has a branding problem: because it is a technology and not a brand, no one is in charge of explaining it to the public in a simple, emotionally valuable way,” explains Greiwe. To understand the impact, Greiwe breaks it down for just one product category. “Netflix has shifted how we think about entertainment content in revolutionary ways, with an over 55 million US homes in their corner,” he says. “But pay TV has almost twice that, at more than 90 million and 5G will upend every single one of them by giving users a high speed option to access whatever content they want in home. Imagine a technology coming along that has twice the impact of Netflix. And that’s just in TV. The same will hold true for XR (another industry with a branding problem), eCommerce, gaming, auto, electronics, and more. The impact of YouTube will be replicated over and over in every area of industry.” For more 5G insights from Greiwe, go here.
Cinnafilm and Technicolor are teaming for a file-based solution for high-quality High Dynamic Range conversions from Standard Dynamic Range source material. Cinnafilm is integrating Technicolor Intelligent Tone Management and Advanced HDR by Technicolor as a feature set upgrade to the conversion capabilities of the Dark Energy noise and texture management toolset. Technicolor ITM is an algorithm that tone maps and up-converts SDR video into a native HDR format. Dark Energy can remove digital noise and film grain from moving pictures without harming image detail. “We have been active in live production over the past several years with Advanced HDR by Technicolor; however, we needed a strong partner in file-based production that would add other aspects of the video toolchain like noise reduction. We believe partnering with Cinnafilm and combining the features of Dark Energy and PixelStrings to be a compelling solution for our customers,” said Kirk Barker, SVP of Emerging Products at Technicolor.
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Animated entertainment company Cyber Group Studios and Outright Games, a videogames publisher, are teaming to create the first video game inspired by Gigantosaurus, an animated t series airing on Disney Channel since January 18. The game will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Epix announced the launch of Epix Now, a streaming service available for download in the App store for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV and in Google Play for Android phones and tablets. The $5.99/month service will continue rolling out across additional devices over the course of the year.
UK-based SVOD service True Royalty is now available on Comcast’s Xfinity X1, the first time the service is available through a pay-TV provider in the US. “Since launching in June, we have seen the US viewer demonstrate a tremendous appetite for a deeper understanding of what really goes on with the Royals,” said Gregor Angus, CEO and co-founder, True Royalty TV.
T-Mobile is not planning to copy competitor AT&T’s WatchTV skinny bundle, said COO Mike Sievert during T-Mobile’s quarterly earnings call. “There are plenty of those,” said Sievert. Instead, the company will assist customers in finding new streaming services. “We think there’s a more nuanced role for us to play in helping you get access to the great media brands that you love — and able put them together in your own media subscription in smaller pieces, $5, $6 $7, $8 at a time,” said Sievert.
Google announced Friday it has forked over $3.4 million to 317 security researchers over the past year in its bug bounty program, to address privacy and security vulnerabilities. That’s up from $2.9 million last year. Google rewards range from $100 to $200,000.
NBCUniversal’s Audience Studio guaranteed ticket sales for STXfilms’ The Upside, its first performance-based advertising guarantee. STXfilms purchased inventory across NBCU’s portfolio, and early data indicates the guarantee was met. “Video is the most effective advertising medium, yet it has been tied to traditional metrics for too long,” said Brian Norris, SVP, Audience Studio. “We want to prove how each dollar spent yields a direct business result and this is a big step forward on that journey.”
Brands are spending big on influencer marketing, but for some, a good chunk is going towards fake followers. A new report from Points North Group said that last year, 46% of beauty brand Raw Sugar Living’s influencer budget was wasted on fake followers, while Clarins Skin Care squandered 45 of its influencer marketing dollars. Overall, out of $744 million spent by brands, Points North said $102 million was blown on fake followers.
Promotions in general are decreasing in effectiveness, while advertising effectiveness is increasing, according to Analytic Partners’ “ROI Genome Report: Have Promotions Lost Their Punch?”. Looking at ROI trends over time and across industries and geography, a pattern emerges. “For many years promotional activities had, on average, a higher ROI but the data shows that the marketplace is changing, with advertising media becoming more efficient over time as promotion efficiency declines,” said the report. By 2017, the divide is dramatic, with media being 35% more efficient than promotions, on average.
A sixth season of ITV Studios Australia’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! has been commissioned by Network Ten. The reality show’s fifth run is still in production and will air its finale on February 17.
Distribution360 struck deals across eight animation series ahead of Kidscreen 2019, including digital stop motion program George & Paul launching in CITV’s preschool block LittleBe (UK), Daeyko Kids (South Korea), Jetsen Huashi Wangju (China) via a deal with Bomanbridge, Hop (Israel), YLE (Finland), RTV (Slovenia) and TVNZ Kidzone (New Zealand).
UK’s Limonero Films acquired global digital, educational and in-flight entertainment rights to Almost Fashionable: A Film About Travis, following a music critic covering the tour of one of his least favorite bands.
Cherry blossom alert: BBC 2 has commissioned Blink Films and Alexandra Henderson Associates to produce two-part Monty Don’s Japanese Gardens, exploring some of Japan’s most beautiful gardens.
Eight months after its launch, Smithsonian Channel is a top five most-watched documentary network in Latin America, according to data provided by Trust Ratings Solution and Business Bureau. Business Bureau analyzed the performance of 22 paid TV channels in the Documentaries genre between May and November 2018.
SundanceTV and Sundance Now are delving deeper into the true crime genre space with the launch of a podcast series hosted by Amanda Knox. The Truth About True Crime with Amanda Knox looks at the true crimes that are chronicled in upcoming Sundance TV and Sundance Now documentary series Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo, Killing for Love, The Preppie Murder: Death In Central Park (wt) and No One Saw A Thing. “After surviving my own true crime saga, I tend not to be a fan of the genre, because it so often veers into sensationalism at the expense of the human beings involved and the truth,” said Knox, imprisoned for almost four years in Italy for a murder she didn’t commit. “But these stories are very important when told with compassion and context.” Episodes of are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and other listening platforms and new episodes will premiere timed to each documentary airing on Sundance TV or Sundance Now.