|PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
Laura Neal (Sex Education, Secret Diary of a Call Girl) will be the next lead writer of BBC America hit Killing Eve. The network renewed the series, from Sid Gentle Films, for a fourth season last month, ahead of the season 3 premiere April 26 on BBC America and AMC.
Sheela, a Barry Levinson-directed drama about Ma Anand Sheela, the ‘80s guru who perpetrated the largest bio-terrorist attack executed on US soil, is in the works at Amazon with Priyanka Chopra starring as Sheela.
A&E Network greenlit a second season of Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole. Documentary series tells the stories of convicted juvenile offenders who received mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. Due to a recent US Supreme Court ruling that such sentences for minors are unconstitutional, these inmates now can petition the court for a new sentencing hearing.
Media execs hungry for insights on the industry’s most pressing challenges will have the opportunity to hear from and engage some of the brightest, most creative thinkers in the business at Cynopsis’ That Big TV Conference (September 23rd + 24th in NYC). Save the date!
Five Women, a limited series about a serial sexual harasser and his female employees, is in the works from Marielle Heller and Big Beach, the respective director and producers of feature film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Series is based on an ep of the NPR show and podcast This American Life. Heller will direct and serve as showrunner and exec producer through her new Defiant by Nature production company.
Broadcast net renewals: NBC renewed The Blacklist for an eighth season, ahead of its season 7 premiere on Friday, March 20 at 8p… Fox gave a Season 17 renewal to So You Think You Can Dance, hosted by Cat Deeley.
Danai Gurira (Black Panther, The Walking Dead) signed a two-year overall deal with ABC Studios, where she’ll develop, write and produce for the studio across all platforms. Gurira currently is showrunner and exec producer on HBO Max miniseries Americanah.
Simon West, who directed Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, will helm Boundless, an Amazon miniseries about Juan Sebastian Elcano and Ferdinand Magellan, the two 16th century explorers who set out to disprove the theory that the world is flat. Four-part drama is a co-production between Amazon and Spanish broadcaster RTVE.
The film business was unprepared for the tremendous changes that Netflix and others brought to the industry over the past decade or so, says Kevin Hill, Founder/CEO of VuPulse, a digital advertising platform, adding that now, “It’s time for the movie industry to finally bite the bullet and embrace change. Collaboration between the digital video/streaming world and old-school, traditional movie business has already begun and it’s time to stop fighting it. The efficiencies for cross-promotional benefits lie ahead and the hide tide will definitely lift all boats.” Hear more from Hill in Cynsiders.
Fixer to Fabulous will get a second season on HGTV, after attracting more than 17.9 million viewers during season 1. The network ordered 13 new eps of the series, which stars husband and wife duo Dave and Jenny Marrs, for a premiere in fall 2020.
UK production company Sister scored screen rights to Helena Merriman’s hot BBC podcast Tunnel 29, which chronicles the true story of a group of students who dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall from West to East Germany to help people escape the Communist regime. Sister, whose roster includes HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl and BBC/Netflix series Giri/Haji, TBD whether the project will become a series or film.
Vicky McClure (Line of Duty, This Is England) will topline Trigger Point, a bomb squad drama for ITV, produced by HTM Television. Six-part thriller follows London’s Metropolitan Police Bomb Disposal Squad and its counter-terrorism police efforts.
NEW & RETURNING SERIES
Unsung returns to TV One this Sunday, February 23 at 10p, followed by a performance by first ep featured act Dru Hill immediately following on Unsung Live at 11p.
90 Day Fiance: What Now? heads back to the TLC Go app this Sunday, February 23, with a new season that follows fan favorites from across the 90 Day franchise. Season 4 will post weekly eps TLC GO beginning this weekend, and will air on Monday nights on TLC starting April 20.
In Dishing With Julia Child, nine renowned chefs—including Jose Andres, Rick Bayless, Jacques Pepin and Martha Stewart — gather to screen and share stories around episodes of Julia Child’s iconic series The French Chef, which debuted in 1963. Series will stream on PBS Living beginning February 28 and premiere on PBS on three consecutive Fridays, April 3-17 at 10p.
AMC released the opening minutes of the premiere of Dispatches From Elsewhere, created by and starring Jason Segel. Anthology series, about four people searching for greater meaning in life who come together to solve a mysterious puzzle, debuts with a two-night premiere Sunday, March 1 and Monday, March 2.
A new trailer for the new season of Westworld, dropped yesterday by HBO, confirms the action will step out of the park and into the real world this season. “I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain,” says Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores in the teaser. “For my kind, there was one place we were never allowed to go, one place we were never allowed to see: your world.” Season 3 premieres Sunday, March 15.
Travel Channel’s Portals to Hell will descend into new eerie encounters when it returns for season 2 Friday, March 13 at 9p with paranormal investigators Jack Osbourne and Katrina Weidman. Eight additional hourlong eps will move to their regular 10p timeslot beginning Friday, March 20.
Call the Midwife returns on PBS on Sunday, March 29 at 8p. The show returns to Nonnatus House for a ninth season of laughter, tears and inspiring stories as the medics and midwives encounter new challenges as the population shifts, rules change and old diseases return.
Epix dropped a new trailer and official key art for new series Belgravia, which premieres Sunday, April 12 at 9p. Series is a story of secrets and scandals among the upper echelon of London society in the 19th Century.
Hollywood, Ryan Murphy’s post-WWII limited series for Netflix, will premiere Friday, May 1. From Murphy and Ian Brennan, seven-parter follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers as they try to make it in post-war Tinseltown, no matter the cost.
Choose your fighter. BattleBots returns to Discovery on Friday, May 15 at 8p. New season features an unprecedented 50 hours of programming, with competitors from around the world facing off to prove who is the ultimate robot-building genius.
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars is sashaying over to Showtime, premiering a new edition Friday, June 5 at 8p. Viewers will be able to catch their favorite queens as they return for a second attempt to earn the crown. Showtime’s debut will follow the season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race on VH1; that series bows Friday, February 28.
ViacomCBS president/CEO Bob Bakish said yesterday the company’s domestic digital pay subscriptions total more than 11 million, with growth expected to reach 16 million by year’s end. AVOD service Pluto TV has 22 million monthly active users in the US, he said, up 75 percent year-on-year and expected hit 30 million by the end of 2020.
In related news, CBS All Access is expanding. The service this year will launch a product called “House of Brands,” part of parent ViacomCBS’ plans to bolster its digital offerings. The move will add select film and TV assets from the company’s library to CBS All Access and expand its entertainment offerings via on-demand and live experiences in the US and globally. The new service will complement the company’s existing free Pluto TV and pay Showtime OTT services.
New from A+E Networks is A&E Crime Central, a subscription video on-demand offering that features more than 900 of episodes of A+E’s library of classic crime series and specials from across its portfolio including A&E, History, Lifetime and LMN. Monthly subscriptions are $4.99. New service joins A+E SVOD offerings including History Vault and Lifetime Movie Club.
In the latest streaming migrations, Marvel’s Black Panther will bid adieu to Netflix in the US on March 3 and head over to its new home at Disney+. Ava DuVernay film A Wrinkle in Time will also exit Netflix for Disney+, beginning March 25. Disney+ also is the exclusive home for subscription VOD access to new releases from Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel starting with new releases in 2019.
Hispanic-focused content house VIx added a faith-based channel to its free ad-supported OTT streaming app. Films from the Paulist Productions library comprise the majority of the new offerings and include remastered Raul Julia-starrer Romero, The Fourth Wise Man, and Christmas films including The Juggler of Notre Dame.
Amazon Prime Video became the fastest-growing streaming service in the UK during Q4 2019 after it started broadcasting, and heavily promoting, Premier League football for the first time. The streamer escalated to 7.14 million subscribers during the quarter, according to Britain’s measurement body BARB, a 35 rise from Q4 2018. Netflix remains the UK’s biggest streamer; its subscriber numbers rose nearly 20 percent YoY to 12.35 million between October and December 2019.
RuPaul launched a 16-lesson self-help online course to help people find their identity and live their best life. Offered via online-education platform MasterClass, the $90 class features RuPaul spilling secrets and encouraging students of life on topics such as how to embrace self-love, identify strengths and cultivate a tribe.
Cart abandonment, it’s a thing: The average conversion rate for an online store is 2.2 percent, according to a new study from website analytics firm Oribi on ecommerce shopping trends in 2019. While 11 percent of all visitors add items to their carts, of these, only 39 percent proceed to checkout, with 48 percent of that group completing a purchase, according to the study, which analyzed the data of 5.2 million visitors, buying 22,459 products in 204 online shops, between October and December 2019. Among other findings:
* Mondays (2.25 percent) and Tuesdays (2.5 percent) hold the highest conversion rates leading to the highest number of sales. The average conversion rate drops as the week progresses, falling to 2.1% on the weekends.
* Google tops Facebook and Instagram for traffic and sales. After email marketing and mobile apps, Google is the second party traffic driver, powering 35 percent of traffic through organic search (20.6 percent) and paid search ads (14.1 percent), followed by Facebook organic/paid (9.6 percent) and Instagram organic/paid (1.5 percent).
Sports-centric media company The Players Media Group in March will launch PlayersTV, a network dedicated to sports lifestyle and culture entertainment that counts pro athletes Carmelo Anthony, Vernon Davis, CJ McCollum and Chris Paul as partners. Net initially will launch on Samsung TV Plus, with three additional distributors coming online by Q3. Nancy Pingitore will serve as CEO of the venture, from Collin Castellaw and Deron Guidrey, the duo behind digital agency Pregame Media. Anthem Sports & Entertainment, owner of AXS TV, Impact Wrestling and other media properties, also is an investor and strategic partner in Players Media Group.
Amazon is giving members of the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) discounts on Fire TV devices. The program, available to the co-op’s more than 750 broadband and cable operators, covers a range of devices including the Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube.
DISTRIBUTION & SYNDICATION
Ovation acquired non-exclusive US broadcast rights for two drama series from AMC Networks’ RLJ Entertainment. Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, a British series based on the short stories by mystery writer Christie, and Australian drama A Place to Call Home will join Ovation’s new Mystery Mornings block.
Amazon is close to wrapping a deal for Time, the Garrett Bradley documentary that won Sundance’s US Documentary Directing Award. Film follows an entrepreneur, author, and mother of six who’s spent the last 21 years fighting for the release of her husband, who is serving a 60-year sentence for an offense they both committed. Doc is Amazon’s fourth Sundance acquisition this year.
TNT and All Elite Wrestling are launching weekly podcast AEW: Unrestricted, hosted by AEW referee Aubrey Edwards and AEW broadcaster Tony Schiavone. One-hour eps will feature conversations with AEW talent including Jon Moxley, Cody, The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) and Brandi Rhodes. Podcast is produced, sold and distributed by WarnerMedia Podcast Network.
Steven Universe Future is drawing to a close on Cartoon Network. The first of the final 10 eps of the Rebecca Sugar-created animated series, the denouement to her long-running Steven Universe, will debut Friday, March 6 at 7p; the series will wrap Thursday, March 27 with a four-part finale.
Factory Entertainment and Mattel are in a licensing partnership to produce collectibles for the Masters of the Universe brand, with first product due out this summer.
Melanie Mayron and Polly Draper are the latest OG thirtysomething cast members to sign on for ABC pilot thirtysomething(else), a sequel to Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick’s 1987-91 drama series. They join fellow original cast members Ken Olin, Mel Harris, Timothy Busfield and Patty Wettig; all are reprising their characters as supporting series regulars.
Bebe Neuwirth will recur opposite Zosia Mamet in HBO Max’s drama The Flight Attendant, starring and exec produced by Kaley Cuoco… Harriet Dyer (The InBetween) scored a lead role in NBC comedy pilot American Auto… Matt Borlenghi landed a supporting role opposite Rachel Hendrix on TV movie Unveiled, for Reel One Network…Niecy Nash, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Cedric Yarbrough, and Carlos Alazraqui join the cast of Quibi and Comedy Central Productions’ Reno 911.
Delroy Lindo, co-star of The Good Fight, is in negotiations to headline Harlem’s Kitchen at ABC. The move would see him leaving the CBS All Access legal drama at the end of this season.
Banijay Rights sold Thomas Markle: My Story to pay TV provider OnDirecTV Latin America, among other international broadcasters. From Alaska TV, doc features insight into the decision by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to step down from royal duties from Meghan Markle’s father.
Production begins in early March on the second season of Canadian net Global’s medial drama Nurses. From Entertainment One and ICF Films, season 1 was the most-watched Canadian scripted series premiere in more than two years.