PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
Done deal: JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot studio closed a five-year deal with WarnerMedia that sees Abrams keeping his TV business and moving his film business under the WM umbrella. The estimated $500 million pact, which came after many other companies attempted to woo Abrams, also includes games and digital content. Bad Robot had been based at Warner Bros. Television since 2006, and three of the company’s current shows are at HBO –Westworld, Lovecraft and Demimonde.
Making its first move into unscripted space, WarnerMedia’s upcoming direct-to-consumer service HBO Max ordered two original unscripted series, Legendary and The Greatest Space (working title) straight to series, from the producers behind Queer Eye and The Amazing Race. At 10 eps, Legendary will showcase divas competing on voguing teams with the motto: They Walk. They Serve. They Live to Slay. The Greatest Space, a 10-ep design competition show, will feature interior designers traveling around the world to transform an eclectic mix of empty rooms into spectacular spaces.
ABC Signature Studios snagged Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s best-seller Fleishman Is in Trouble, and the project is being set up at FX as a limited series. Brodesser-Akner will write and exec produce with Sarah Timberman, Susannah Grant and Carl Beverly. Story follows the Toby Fleishman, a recently divorced 40-something whose wife one day drops their kids at his door and doesn’t come back.
In a move to bolster its unscripted business, Entertainment One acquired Finding Escobar’s Millions producer Blackfin, and eOne appointed Blackfin founder/CEO Geno McDermott to the new role of president, US Alternative Programming-Unscripted Television. The purchase comes just one month after eOne itself was acquired by Hasbro in a $4 billion deal.
Boat Rocker Media acquired Katie O’Connell Marsh’s LA-based TV production studio Platform One Media in a move that elevates Boat Rocker’s foothold in premium scripted series. Among recent news, Platform One’s recently greenlit untitled sci-fi series from Simon Kinberg and David Weil for Apple, and straight-to-series Rust for Showtime, based on Philipp Meyer’s debut novel American Rust. As part of the acquisition, O’Connell Marsh has been promoted to founder and chairman of Platform One and will be taking on a senior leadership role at Boat Rocker.
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network renewed for a fifth season Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar. Latest installment of the drama series is slated to air in 2020.
Netflix inked an overall deal with Kuku Studios to produce animated films and TV shows. Under the new pact, Alex Woo, Stanley Moore, Tim Hahn and Erik Benson, who’ve worked on hits including Toy Story 3, Ratatouille and Finding Dory, will serve as exec producers on exclusive projects. First project is Go! Go! Cory Carson, a preschool series based on the toy line Go! Go! Smart Wheels.
Sky Studios is revving its US production engine with the launch production services hub The Hive. Based in NY and Knoxville, the TV facilities, which offer preproduction, production and postproduction services for Sky Studios projects as well as productions from third party producers, will be overseen by Jupiter Entertainment, which it owns. Jupiter Entertainment exec Robert Twilley will serve as president of The Hive. Jupiter series include Oxygen’s Snapped, ID’s Homicide Hunter and Animal Planet’s Wild West Alaska.
Bryn Mooser, two-time Oscar nominee (Lifeboat, Body Team 12) and co-founder and former CEO of RYOT, launched nonfiction film and TV studio XTR. The company will develop and produce documentary films and nonfiction series; current projects are in the works with partners including Anonymous Content, Vice Studios and Futurism. XTR recently closed an investment round from supporters including former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia.
Netflix will finance and release a new, untitled film from director Alexander Payne. Set to star Mads Mikkelsen, upcoming project is about a Danish journalist who takes a road trip across the US with his teenage daughter as he writes an article.
International production house All3Media is restructuring, combining back-office functions of Cash Cab studio Lion TV and Lime Pictures, which produces Netflix drama Free Rein. Lion will move into Lime’s central London offices, though the two companies will remain distinct brands. Lion’s joint managing directors Richard Bradley and Nick Catliff will now report to Lime’s Kate Little and Claire Poyser; Lion’s managing director Shahana Meer is stepping down.
NEW & RETURNING SERIES
Syndicated series Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford launches its 22nd season this weekend. Home improvement series, which follows father-daughter host team Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf, achieved a 100 percent renewal rate for 2019-20, and will continue to air in 207 of the 210 Nielsen markets.
Season 9 of Doc Martin kicks off on Acorn TV on Thursday, September 26. Since its premiere on UK’s ITV in 2004, series has become one of the most successful British series worldwide, especially in the US.
BBC America’s BAFTA-winning The Graham Norton Show returns for a new season Friday, October 4 at 11p. Opening night guests include Helen Mirren and Jack Whitehall.
HBO and the BBC set premiere dates for their adaptation of His Dark Materials. The series will first bow on the BBC on Sunday, November 3, with HBO launching the series Monday, November 4 in the US and internationally where it has networks and streaming services.
Nationally syndicated talk show Maury will begin its 22nd season with NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution on Monday, September 16. The show, hosted by Maury Povich, will now be accessible anytime through Amazon Alexa.
Discovery en Espanol will debut Caravanas, an hourlong special following the journey of thousands of Latin American migrants in search of a better life, on Sunday, September 22 at 9p. Production follows the actual walk of migrant masses, providing insight into the roots of the mass social movement.
Nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow brings her final album Threads to life in star-studded special CMT Crossroads: Sheryl Crow & Friends. Event premieres Friday, September 27 at 10p on CMT.
TLC is bringing “iconic” bridal fashion event The Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Challenge to TV. On September 30 at 10p, the network will air a special hosted by Paige Davis with celebrity judges Jeremiah Brent, Monte Durham and Zanna Roberts Rassi to crown a winner.
Fuse is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with programming focused on rising Latinx leaders. September 15-October 15, the net will explore emerging Latinx leaders in music, film, literature and politics through programming and editorial coverage across linear and digital platforms, including the TV premiere of indie film Collisions on Saturday, October 5 at 9p and debut of original series Made From Scratch.
The NFL is keeping Facebook in its playbook, renewing a deal with the social network for another two years. The pact, which extends through the 2020 season, will see the League continuing to distribute on Facebook Watch recaps plus an array of original content including NFL Media analyst clips, on-air personalities from signature studio shows and video versions of NFL-produced podcasts – including a weekly video version of Around the NFL The expanded Facebook Watch lineup also will include archived content from the NFL Films vault, and the NFL will create Facebook Groups around content themes.
Snapchat is partnering with DoubleVerify, a platform for digital media measurement software and analytics, to authenticate ad viewability and prevent digital ad fraud and sophisticated invalid traffic. Brands can authenticate the quality of Snapchat campaigns using DV’s viewability and fraud verification technology and data. DV is the only verification provider with coverage that extends across Snapchat’s Filter, Lens, Snap Ad and Story Ad formats. DV also partners with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
Layoffs hit WarnerMedia’s sci-fi fandom division Rooster Teeth, which for the first time in its 16-year history made a broad cutbacks, laying off 13 percent of its employees, about 50 staffers.
Hulu has removed support for Google’s Daydream VR platform from its Android app, making it impossible for most Daydream users to watch Hulu videos on Google’s Daydream View VR headset. A Hulu spokesperson confirmed the change to Variety, but declined to comment further. A Google spokesperson declined to comment. Daydream owners can still access Hulu in VR if they haven’t upgraded their Hulu Android app for some time, according to Hulu’s support pages.
Disney+ launched a free trial in the Netherlands, two months before the service’s planned US and Netherlands debut of November 12. Titles included in the surprise trial include Avengers, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, all three Iron Man films, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Captain America films and the entire Star Wars franchise.
The fifth annual Game Awards will be held December 12 in LA and will be live-streamed for free on 45-plus platforms worldwide. The event, created and exec-produced by Geoff Keighley, celebrates video games and the people who make them.
After nine years and 221 episodes, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic will have its series finale on Discovery Family Channel with a primetime 90-minute event Saturday, October 12 at 8p. Leading up to the night, the network will air behind the scenes look My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic – A Decade of Pony on Friday, October 11 at 5p.
Pop star Ally Brooke will sing the theme song to new Nickelodeon series The Casagrandes. The tune has elements of urban and pop music and authentic, fast and upbeat Latin music rhythms, giving it a catchy vibe and expressing the theme, “we’re all familia!”
Amazon Studios scored US rights to Darius Marder-directed drama Sound of Metal, starring Nightcrawler‘s Riz Ahmed as a drummer in a band who most come to terms with a new reality of silence when he begins to lose his hearing. The deal will include theatrical release.
Impact Wrestling, a subsidiary of Anthem Sports & Entertainment, is moving its flagship weekly two-hour program IMPACT! nationally across the US to AXS TV. Anthem Sports & Entertainment recently acquired a majority interest in the network when Mark Cuban sold his stake.
Discovery’s program licensing arm Discovery Program Sales is distributing worldwide media rights for five-part series Mysterious Planet. Series, from director Andrew Murray, aims to unlock the mysteries behind the world’s most incredible species.
Gimlet released its fall slate of new and returning podcasts, topped by cyber-thriller Motherhacker, about a single mom (Carrie Coon) journeys through the dark web. Beginning in October, Gimlet will release one fiction series per month through the end of the year, including first scripted renewals since Homecoming season 2. Also due up are season 2 of The Horror of Dolores Roach and the return of The Two Princes. All three series will be available free on Spotify.
Cadence13 is launching Campaign HQ, a weekly podcast featuring former Obama campaign manager and political strategist David Plouffe. Plouffe will bring listeners inside the war rooms of the presidential campaigns for an incisive look at the key decisions driving the race to 2020; Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz is the inaugural guest.
Dope Labs, from Spotify Studios, is back this week for season 2. Co-hosted by Titi Shodiya and Zakiya Whatley, podcast series blends scientific principles with a dose of entertaining pop culture.
True crime meets sports in new podcast Sports Criminals, which debuts this week from Spotify’s Parcast. Series will shed light on some of most notorious crimes to happen in the world of sports, including first ep centered on Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who was convicted of murdering of his girlfriend.
Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is onboard to star opposite Olivia Holt in Freeform’s Turkey Drop, slated to premiere Saturday, November 23 at 9p during Freeform’s Kickoff to Christmas programming block. Story follows a small-town girl who returns home for Thanksgiving freshman year of college and takes new charge of her life to brace herself for getting dumped by her high school sweetheart.
Newcomers Quincy Isaiah and Solomon Hughes have been cast as NBA legends Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, respectively, for HBO’s untitled ‘80s Lakers Project… Michael McKean landed a role in the upcoming HBO Max pilot Delilah…Ali Skovbye (Breakthrough) and Roan Curtis (The Magicians) are set as series regulars in upcoming Netflix drama series Firefly Lane… Georgie Flores (Famous in Love), Adelaide Kane (The Purge), Paige McGhee (Meg’s First Dance), Jacques Colimon (The Society), Dylan Arnold (Halloween) and Evan Bittencourt (Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists) joined the cast of the Uncanny Annie installment of Hulu’s monthly horror event series Into The Dark.
Netflix is adapting Harlan Coben’s mystery thriller The Woods as an original series in Poland. The streamer commissioned the European original from directors Leszek Dawid (You Are God) and Bartosz Konopka (Rabbit a la Berlin) and writers Agata Malesinska and Wojtek Miłoszewsk; six-part series will premiere in 2020.
Channel 4 is resurrecting Love Productions’ The Great Pottery Throw Down after it was canceled by the BBC last year, and will broadcast the series on its main channel and More4.