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NBC Entertainment Names Robert Hayes to Lead Digital Media Push

2:06 AM PDT 6/7/2012 by Georg Szalai

The hire reunites NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt with another former Showtime colleague to “more closely align” the company’s digital and programming strategies.

NBCUniversal’s NBC Entertainment arm has named former Showtime executive Robert Hayes to the new position of executive vp digital media “to more closely align its digital and programming strategies.”

The company said the executive shuffle, which reteams NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt with a former Showtime colleague, shows its “commitment to maximize its programming value in the digital marketplace and its reach through emerging technologies.”

Vivi Zigler, who has been serving as NBCUniversal’s digital president, agreed to leave the company in a mutual decision. In a statement, the company didn’t mention her or her next career step.

Hayes will report to Len Fogge, president of NBC Entertainment marketing & digital.

Greenblatt and Ted Harbert, chairman of NBC Broadcasting, to whom Zigler had reported, emphasized the strategic importance of digital media in a competitive TV landscape.

“It’s critical that we do everything possible to light up digital media in order to help rebuild the primetime schedule. And there’s no one better to lead this effort than Rob Hayes,” said Greenblatt. “I saw the effect he had at Showtime firsthand, and it’s no accident that the pay network’s explosion coincided with its digital innovations.”

Added Harbert: “As NBC expands its digital media reach, we want to take full advantage of the synergy between programming, marketing and digital media, which the interface between Rob, Len and Bob represents.”

Hayes will oversee the network’s day-to-day digital strategy and operations, including NBC.com, social media, online, mobile/apps, connected devices and multiplatform programming, as well as digital media business development and digital marketing. Enhancing digital marketing opportunities for NBC shows including Smash, The Voice, Grimm, Up All Night and 30 Rock will be one of his jobs.

“Digital media is an essential component of NBC’s programming, marketing and monetization strategies,” said Fogge.

Hayes most recently served as COO at Iconic Entertainment, where he created premium VOD channels for YouTube.

Before that, he oversaw digital at Showtime Networks, where he developed a business strategy that included the first deals for premium TV with iTunes, Amazon and Netflix, among others.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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Charlie Sheen to Discuss Personal Branding at Promo Conference

Charlie Sheen FX Ad Sales - P 2012

12:08 PM PDT 6/5/2012 by Alex Ben Block

Shortly before the launch of his new series “Anger Management,” the controversial actor will be interviewed live by “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush.

He may or may not bring along one of his goddesses when Charlie Sheen does a live interview at a conference about marketing, promotion and publicity, being held in Los Angeles.

Less than two weeks before he will be seen in his new series Anger Management on the FX network,  Sheen will appear live at the PromaxBDA conference, which is being held from June 12 through 14.

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Sheen will be interviewed by Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush. According to an announcement Tuesday, Bush will talk to the actor about his personal brand, “how he keeps ahead of the entertainment curve, and his use of social media.”

“There is no doubt Charlie Sheen has created a uniquely personal brand that ignited a cultural conversation about entertainers and social media practices,” said Jonathan Block-Verk, president and CEO of PromaxBDA International.

The announcement did not specify the time or day Sheen will appear.

PHOTOS: Charlie Sheen Wildest TV Interviews

Sheen certainly has created a unique brand, although sometimes drawing as much critical attention as favorable publicity. After his highly publicized battle with Chuck Lorre, which led to him leaving the show Two and a Half Men, Sheen did a live event tour called “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not An Option.” Sheen was also roasted on Comedy Central in September 2011, drawing  6.4 million viewers, making it among the most highly rated programs ever on the cable network.

Beginning on June 28, FX will air 10 episodes of Sheen’s new comedy series Anger Management. If it draws a large enough audience, FX is then contractually committed to air another 90 episodes of the series, which is also being sold overseas. Beginning in 2014, if it goes forward, Anger Managementwill also be licensed to cable TV and for broadcast syndication by Debmar Mercury, a unit of Lionsgate.

The Real Reasons Paramount Bumped ‘G.I. Joe 2’ to 2013 (Analysis)

G.I Joe: Retaliation Dwayne Johnson Channign Tatum - H 2012

9:37 PM PDT 5/29/2012 by Kim Masters

Brutal competition, fears of a “Battleship” sinking and 3D reshoots (with a resurrected Channing Tatum?) leave a studio’s cupboard bare.

This story first appeared in the June 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

When Paramount announced May 23 that it was moving G.I. Joe: Retaliation from its June 29 release date to March 2013, nostrils started to quiver throughout the industry.

The explanation the studio was selling — that it needed time to turn the sequel into a 3D spectacle — didn’t seem to pass the smell test. Why bump a $125 million-budgeted tentpole starringDwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis five weeks before its scheduled release after launching a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that included a pricey Super Bowl spot?

“They eat all of that money,” notes one prominent producer. “And when you yank a movie at the last minute, it does not send an encouraging signal.”

Paramount sources say studio chair Brad Grey and vice chairRob Moore felt the expense was preferable to a duel with Sony’s Spider-Man reboot, out July 3.

“They looked at the landscape and realized they couldn’t compete,” agrees the producer in an appraisal shared by many executives and agents. Add to that the sinking of Universal’s $200 million-plusBattleship — another film based on a Hasbro property — and the potential downside looked especially distressing. So Paramount is adding 3D in hope of bolstering overseas box office and taking the opportunity to expand the role of Channing Tatum, whose stardom has grown thanks to The Vowand 21 Jump Street. In fact, Tatum’s character originally died in Retaliation, but it’s now possible he will be resurrected.

STORY: ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Director Jon M. Chu on Not Shooting in 3D, Addressing Studio Notes

More broadly, Paramount has decided to sit out the season after a brutal few months in which potential franchises — Disney’s John Carter, Universal’s Battleship, Warner Bros.’ Dark Shadows — turned into losses. Many suspect Sony’s Men in Black 3 also will lose money due to its soaring cost associated with atroubled production. (Some think Paramount’s top executives might also have an eye on their bonuses, deferring costs to polish up results for the current fiscal year. Paramount declined comment.)

Whatever the reason, Paramount’s decision to move G.I. Joe signals a big shift for the studio: It also bumped the Brad Pitt zombie tentpole World War Z — a film with a budget of $150 million or more that is said to be facing several weeks of costly reshoots — from December to June 2013. The studio also moved the action-adventure Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters from March 2012 to January 2013, ostensibly to allow star Jeremy Renner to bolster his name value with The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy.

At this point, the studio’s summer slate has only a Katy Perry concert movie (July 5) and distribution fees from Madagascar 3 (June 8). And the latter might be one of the last films from DreamWorks Animation to be released by Paramount as the two have been at an impasse over distribution fees. (Of course, any troubles at Paramount might well strengthen the hand of DWA’s Jeffrey Katzenberg in a negotiation. Insiders are speculating that DWA will strike a deal with Sony Pictures or self-distribute domestically and make a deal with Fox for overseas distribution.)

STORY: Paramount Bumps ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ to 2013

Toward year’s end, the picture appears to brighten for Paramount. The studio has the fourthParanormal Activity in October and the November thriller Flight with Denzel Washington, directorRobert Zemeckis‘ first live-action film in more than a decade. At Christmas, it has a Tom Cruisethriller, Jack Reacher, and then The Guilt Trip, a comedy with Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand.

But overall, the studio is looking at a sparse year. In March, it dumped Eddie Murphy’s A Thousand Words in theaters, and in May it stumbled with The Dictator, which sources say cost about $100 million, though the studio pegs it at $65 million. The Sacha Baron Cohen film has grossed an underwhelming $93 million worldwide so far.

The idea that Paramount might be hitting turbulence after several years of flying high actually cheers some who feel the studio has relied on hits provided by outsiders — notably Marvel and DWA — while showing less interest in nurturing its own product.

“They are impossible to do business with,” says a prominent player. “They spend less money on movies than anybody; they develop fewer movies than anybody.”

The haters don’t even credit the current regime for its hits: They point out that the Transformersfranchise was hatched by live-action DreamWorks and Mission: Impossible predated the current bosses. Still, the Mission and Star Trek franchises have been re-ignited, and if Paramount’s G.I. Joe strategy works, 3D could boost its overseas haul by as much as 30 percent. But for now, Paramount’s recent boasts about market share — a dubious measure of success yet one that studios like to brag about — are over. So far, analysts are largely unfazed, with Stifel Nicolaus saying that moving G. I. Joe “adds to a much stronger slate in full-year 2013 for Viacom [with] limited impact on full-year 2012 results.”

One industry veteran agrees the real impact of a weak 2012 won’t be apparent in the current fiscal year’s results. Paramount will receive a hefty 8 percent fee from Disney on The Avengers (part of the deal when Disney bought out Paramount’s interest), and the studio is still benefiting from its 2011 hits. He predicts, “The bad news will come next year.”

NBCUniversal Licenses ‘Dance Your A** Off’ To China

NBC Universal Logo White - H 2011

4:41 AM PDT 5/29/2012 by Stuart Kemp

Chinese broadcaster ZheJiang Satellite TV snaps up format rights to produce 12 episodes of the weight loss dance show.

LONDON – NBCUniversal’s weight-loss dance challenge format Dance Your A** Off has booked its passage to China.

The company has sealed a deal with Chinese broadcaster ZheJiang Satellite TV for the format with the satcaster set to produce 12 episodes. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Dance Your A** Off is a show where men and women who struggle with their weight compete in a dance challenge to “unleash their inner thin.”

The Chinese broadcaster will air the show on Sunday evenings at 10pm, with a rollout scheduled for later this year. The show originally premiered on Oxygen in the U.S. in 2009. This is the format’s fourth version to air internationally.

Danish and South African versions of the program aired in 2010, and an Estonian version broadcast earlier this year. Dance is also under license in Italy and optioned in Germany.

NBCUniversal International senior vp formats and production Yvonne Pilkington said: “Through the support of our local representative, Linfield Ng, China and the wider Asian region is becoming a very active market for us. Our mix of gameshow formats from dating to cookery to big production primetime shows offers Asian broadcasters a diverse menu of choices to fit their audiences.”

Du Fang, TV vice controller of ZheJiang Satellite Channel, added: “ZheJiang is excited to bring Danceto our audience.  Not only is the format entertaining but there is also a positive message that will resonate with our viewers. NBCUniversal have been terrific partners in helping us adapt the show for the Chinese audience.”

‘Big Bang Theory’ Star Jim Parsons is Gay, By the Way

Jim Parsons Horizontal - H 2012

12:26 PM PDT 5/23/2012 by Seth Abramovitch

Could the casual reference to his 10-year relationship mark a new era in how same-sex-loving celebrities acknowledge their personal lives?

Jim Parsons, the lanky, Texas-born actor who has won two Emmys and a Golden Globe award for playing persnickety genius Sheldon Cooper on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, acknowledges that he is gay and in a 10-year relationship, the New York Times reveals.

But blink and you may have missed it: The information is buried towards the end of the 1,800 word profile — which focuses mostly on Parsons’ lauded stage work in Broadway revivals of The Normal Heart and, now, Harvey — and doesn’t even contain a direct quote from Parsons himself.

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The Normal Heart resonated with him on a few levels,” theTimes‘ Patrick Healy writes. “Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship, and working with an ensemble again onstage was like nourishment, he said.”

Whether or not this constitutes a “coming out” for the popular TV star seems to be a topic for debate. Some industry and online chatter today has argued that Parsons was never really “in,” openly and matter-of-factly addressing his relationship whenever it came up in his daily life and work. And it’s not the first time a reference to his sexuality has been made in a print publication. (That honor would go to Antenna magazine, which folded shop earlier this year, Parsons gracing the final cover.)

STORY: ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Finale Postmortem: EP, Cast on Space, Marriage and What’s Next

But compared to other primetime stars who identify as gay — take Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, for example, who has been tireless in his vocal support for same-sex marriage rights — there’s no denying that Parsons has been extremely quiet on the topic.

If anything, the news marks what could be a new chapter in the evolution of the celebrity “coming out” story. Unlike the old-school approach —  the magazine-cover-route followed by a string of “revealing” TV interviews, a method trailblazed by the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and later mimicked by everyone from Lance Bass to Neil Patrick Harris — the new method stealthily embeds the personal information in a larger piece on the “work.”

STORY: ‘The Big Bang Theory’: From ‘Star Trek’ to ‘Lord of the Rings,’ the Show’s Nerdiest Moments

Credit Zachary Quinto, another in-demand gay actor straddling both Broadway and Hollywood, with having forged the template: In late-2011, the Star Trek and American Horror Story star gave an interview to New York magazine, ostensibly about his performance in another New York theater revival with gay themes — Tony Kushner‘s Angels in America. Four paragraphs into the piece, the crucial clause found its way into a sentence:

“And at the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done, and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed.”

Cannes 2012: Falcom Takes Marlon Wayans’ Spoof ‘Untitled Found Footage Comedy’

Marlon Wayans Headshot - P 2012

5:59 AM PDT 5/22/2012 by Scott Roxborough

The German distributor bought the “Paranormal Activity” spoof from IM Global and also acquired 3D nature documentary “The Penguin King 3D” from Kaleidoskop.

CANNES – German distributor Falcom Media has picked up two major titles at Cannes Marche du Film: the 3D nature documentary The Penguin King 3D andUntitled Found Footage Comedy, the latest movie spoof from Scary Movie author Marlon Wayans.

Falcom inked with Britain’s Kaleidoskop forPenguin King and with IM Global forUntitled.

Wayans co-wrote the script to Untitled Found Footage Comedy together with producer Rick Alvarez. The spoof will be a parody of the Paranormal Activityfranchise.

Penguin King 3D from producers Anthony Geffen and Sias Wilson, follows the journey of a young penguin in stereoscopic 3D. David Attenborough narrates the nature documentary.

It’s Official: China’s Wanda Group to Buy AMC Entertainment

Wang Jianlin, president of Wanda Group

7:27 PM PDT 5/20/2012 by THR Staff

The transaction, valued at $2.6 billion, will create the world’s largest cinema conglomerate.

Under a deal that would create the worlds largest cinema conglomerate, China’s Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd. will acquire AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.

The transaction is valued at $2.6 billion. Wanda, based in Beijing, intends to invest up to $500 million in AMC strategic and operating initiatives over time.

“This acquisition will help make Wanda a truly global cinema owner,” Wanda Chairman and President Wang Jianlin said in a statement. “We share with AMC a passion for the growth of the worldwide movie industry.”

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AMC, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., employs about 18,500 people and owns 346 theaters. It is not believed the transaction will affect employment levels at the company.

“With Wanda as its partner, AMC will continue to seek out new ways to expand and invest in the movie-going experience,” AMC CEO and President Gerry Lopez said in a statement.

The transaction is pending closing conditions and regulatory approval from the U.S. and China. The move comes after a line of investments Wanda has made in the entertainment sector since 2005. The group says it has more than $1.6 billion invested in entertainment and cultural activities.