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Will Packer Crafts Content Production Pact for ‘All Screens’

1 hour ago

Will Packer wasn’t satisfied with his options for setting up a new TV production pact. So he tackled the problem like an entrepreneur, setting up an unusual partnership with Discovery Communications, Own, and Universal Pictures that gives him much more flexibility to tackle film, TV, and digital projects in all shapes and sizes, from miniseries to short-form branded digital content.

The wide-ranging pact to launch Will Packer Media was unveiled Tuesday, hot on the heels of the strong box office debut this past weekend of Packer’s latest Universal Pictures release, “Girls Trip.”

“We wanted to put ourselves in a position to expand beyond the traditional TV model and produce content for all screens and all formats,” Packer told Variety. “We wanted to get our production business in line with the democratization of media that is happening right now. We want to be able to get the right content to consumers in the way they want »


- Cynthia Littleton

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Local TV News Feels Squeeze Amid Station Consolidation

3 hours ago

The state of local TV news is sure to be a flash point when public debate over Sinclair Broadcast Group’s $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media heats up next month as the FCC fields comments on the proposed merger.

By many accounts, the wave of consolidation among TV stations over the past few years has been brutal for TV newsrooms across the country. The emergence of mega-groups such as Sinclair and Nexstar has put bottom-line pressure on stations to cut costs to help owners manage ballooning debt loads. At the same time, local TV has been grappling with ratings erosion, particularly in the daytime hours, which adds to pressure on profit margins.

The aggregation of stations in regional clusters has become vital to big broadcast groups because viewership of local TV news is generally on the decline. Ratings for late local newscasts, which used to be a license to print money for successful stations, are »


- Cynthia Littleton

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TV One Taps Interim Chief as Brad Siegel Departs

3 hours ago

Cabler TV One has named Michelle Rice as interim general manager following the exit of president Brad Siegel.

Rice was among the first employees hired for the cabler, which bowed in January 2004. TV One targets African-American viewers with entertainment and news programming.

Siegel is leaving the company after two and a half years at the helm. He previously ran the indie cablers Up and Aspire, and before that was a top exec at Turner.

“Michelle is business savvy, understands our demographic and has the energy, vision and discipline to position TV One for the future,” said Alfred Liggins, CEO of parent company Urban One. “She has the respect of our industry and I believe in her ability to provide leadership for our network during this time of intense competition, increased platform availability and growing content targeting the black viewer.”

Rice joined TV One as VP of distribution, strategy and operations. She »


- Cynthia Littleton

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TV News Roundup: ‘Vanderpump Rules Jax and Brittany Take Kentucky’ Set at Bravo

3 hours ago

In today’s roundup, Bravo greenlight “Vanderpump Rules Jax and Brittany Take Kentucky,” and Fox Writers Lab selected its 2017 fellow. 

Greenlights

Bravo announced “Vanderpump Rules Jax and Brittany Take Kentucky” will premiere on Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 9 p.m. Et/Pt. The new half-hour series follows bartender Jax Taylor and his southern sweetheart, Brittany Cartwright, as they travel to her family’s farm in Kentucky. While Cartwright is back in her element, city-boy Taylor tries to embrace the southern lifestyle. “Vanderpump Rules Jax & Brittany Take Kentucky” is executive produced by Douglas Ross, Alex Baskin, Bill Langworthy, John Carr, Lisa Vanderpump, and Ken Todd, with Robert Carroll and Joe Kingsley serving as co-executive producers.

Executive News

The Jackal Group announced the hire of Susan Lierle to the role of senior vice president of Business and Legal Affairs. In this position, Lierle will oversee all business and legal matters for the company in all divisions including television, film »


- Rebecca Rubin

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Universal TV Signs Danielle Claman Gelber to First-Look Deal

4 hours ago

Veteran producer and TV executive Danielle Claman Gelber has signed a first-look deal with Universal Television. Gelber will produce new programming for a wide variety of platforms.

“I’ve known Danielle since we were colleagues at Showtime and she’s always had wonderful taste in material and a keen eye for writing talent,” says Universal Television president Pearlena Igbokwe. “I couldn’t be happier that she and I will get to continue our collaboration at Universal Television.”

“I’m thrilled to continue such an ongoing productive and fantastic relationship with longtime friends and colleagues, Bob, Jen and Pearlena through NBC and Utv,” Gelber says. “I could not feel more supported, and I’m excited to cover a wide swath of creative territory with them in broadcast, cable and streaming.”

Gelber recently founded a television production company, Acoustic Productions, which will be based at Universal Television.

Gelber most recently served as the exec vice president of Dick Wolf’s »


- Daniel Holloway

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Discovery Defends Michael Phelps ‘Shark Week’ Special After Backlash

6 hours ago

The Discovery Channel has defended its recent Michael PhelpsShark Week” special after some viewers complained the Olympian did not race head-to-head with a real great white shark.

“In ‘Phelps vs Shark’ we enlisted world class scientists to take up the challenge of making the world’s greatest swimmer competitive with a Great White,” Discovery said in a statement to Variety. “The show took smart science and technology to make the challenge more accessible and fun. All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side by side race. During Michael’s pre-show promotion, as well as within the first 2 minutes of ‘Phelps vs Shark,’ this message was clear and we are thrilled with the audience and the engagement around the world.”

In the special–which kicked off Discovery’s annual week of shark-themed programming–scientists determined the top swimming speed of a great white, and »


- Joe Otterson

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Leonardo DiCaprio Developing ‘The Right Stuff’ as National Geographic Scripted Series

6 hours ago

National Geographic is developing a scripted series adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff.” Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are serving as executive producers. Will Staples will write and executive produce.

The project is part of a new scripted development deal at National Geographic with DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television.

Based on the 1979 book by Wolfe, “The Right Stuff” tells the story of the U.S. fighter pilots who tested the early aircraft and rockets that became the foundation of the American space program, and of the first Mercury astronauts. The book was adapted into a 1983 feature film.

“Having already had a rich relationship with Leonardo, Jennifer and their production company Appian Way on ‘Before the Flood,’ I’m excited to work with them in a scripted capacity,” said Courteney Monroe, CEO, National Geographic Global Networks. “With ‘The Right Stuff,’ we’re looking at moment in time where the »


- Daniel Holloway

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Fox Accused of Scapegoating Executive in Sexual Harassment Scandal in New Lawsuit

6 hours ago

Updated: Fox News parent 21st Century Fox is continuing to see fallout from the network’s sexual harassment scandal, and was hit with a different kind of lawsuit on Tuesday.

Former Fox News Latino vice president Francisco Cortes, who was accused of sexual assault against an on-air contributor and was later terminated, says in a new $48 million lawsuit that he was used as a “scapegoat” to demonstrate that the network “aggressively handles sexual harassment complaints.” The 54-page suit, obtained by Variety, alleges that the move was, in part, to ease concerns regarding Fox’s pending $15.2 billion acquisition of U.K. broadcaster Sky.

In March, the New York Times reported that Fox News contributor Tamara Holder reached a settlement with 21st Century Fox worth more than $2.5 million. In her lawsuit, Holder alleged that Cortes attempted to force her to perform oral sex on him. In Cortes’ suit on Tuesday, he contends that their relationship was consensual, and »


- Alex Stedman

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‘Daily Show’ Alum Jordan Klepper Says New Comedy Central Show Is ‘Alex Jones Meets Garrison Keillor’

7 hours ago

In 2005, Comedy Central premiered “The Colbert Report,” in which Stephen Colbert of “The Daily Show” took on Fox News with a character who was shared a name with his creator but was a parody of the flag-waving, right-facing primetime hosts on the cable news network.

More than a decade later, Comedy Central is taking a similar swing at the emerging alt-right news ecosystem.

Speaking at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour Tuesday in Beverly Hills, Jordan Klepper, who will host Comedy Central’s upcoming “The Opposition With Jordan Klepper,” described the show as a vehicle built around a faux alt-right host, taking cues from outlets such as Infowars, Breitbart News, and The Blaze.

But the show will not be a targeted shot at Infowars’ Alex Jones, one of the most outrageous figures of the alt-right media.

“We’re inspired by the points of view of these alternative media sources, but »


- Daniel Holloway

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‘Broad City’ Creators on Using ‘Trump’ as Expletive: ‘It Sounds So Gross’

7 hours ago

The creators of Comedy Central’s “Broad City” discussed their decision to use the word “Trump” as an expletive on the series’ fourth season during the TCA summer press tour on Tuesday.

“We got to a point where, in real life, we’re talking about the current administration, talking about Trump, and it sounds so gross like everyday saying it so many times and we just didn’t want to share air time,” Ilana Glazer said. “He’s got enough. It’s just a different kind of joke.”

Glazer and co-creator Abbi Jacobson also addressed the idea that the show represents a kind of “sneak attack feminism.”

“We had to do sneak attack early on when the  conversation was, ‘Are women funny? Can women be hilarious or not so much?'” Jacobson said. “That literally used to be a question that was being asked.”

Season 4 of “Broad City” is set to premiere on Sept. 13. The »


- Joe Otterson

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MSNBC Claims Top Spot in Cable Weekday Primetime Viewers for First Time Ever

8 hours ago

MSNBC scored an historic victory last week, finishing as the number one cable network in weekday primetime total viewers for the first time in the network’s 21-year history, according to Nielsen data.

From July 17-21, MSNBC averaged 2.34 million viewers from 8-11 p.m., topping its nearest cable news competitor, Fox News (2.25 million). MSNBC was previously the number one cable news network in weekday prime during the weeks of May 15, 2017 and September 3, 2012 among total viewers, but this was the first time MSNBC was number one among all of cable.

“The Rachel Maddow Show” (9-10pm) also bested both Fox News and CNN among total viewers for the fourth straight week in 9-10pm time period. Among cable news, last week marked MSNBC’s 29th weekly win in 30 weeks in Monday-Friday primetime over CNN with total viewers this year.

MSNBC has seen a major surge in its ratings ever since the election of President Donald Trump, much »


- Joe Otterson

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National Geographic’s Isis Drama ‘The State’ Goes Inside Infamous Terror Group (Exclusive Video)

8 hours ago

In an exclusive look at National Geographic’s upcoming two-part miniseries drama “The State,” viewers see one family’s path to radicalization at the hands of Isis.

The fictional story follows Jalal, played by Sam Otto (“Collateral”), as he follows in his brother’s footsteps and travels to Raqqa, Syria, to fight for Islamic State, alongside his best friend, Ziyad, played by Ryan McKen (“Nw”). It also follows the journey of Shakira, played by Ony Uhiara (“Law and Order”), a doctor and single mother who wants to help Isis, and idealistic teenager Ushna, played by Shavani Seth (“Homeland”), who leaves for Syria after being radicalized online. The series, from “Wolf Hall” director Peter Kosminsky, will bow on Channel 4 in the U.K. and go out on National Geographic internationally. It is produced by Archery Pictures.

“Isis and its adherents have caused pain and suffering the world over,” Kosminsky previously said. “But »


- Joe Otterson

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Comedy Central Orders More ‘President Show,’ ‘Jim Jefferies Show,’ New Hasan Minaj Sketch Special

8 hours ago

Comedy Central has extended the series orders for both “The President Show” and “The Jim Jefferies Show,” in addition to ordering a new sketch comedy special from Hasan Minaj, the network announced Tuesday at the TCA summer press tour.

The Jim Jefferies Show” has received an order for 10 additional episodes. The series, which features the titular Australian comedian tackling politics and world issues, will see original episodes air through August 15. After a brief hiatus, new episodes from this extension will begin on Tuesday, September 19 at 10:30 p.m. Et/Pt, following the fall season premiere of “Tosh.0.”

“I’m very grateful to Comedy Central for making our relationship more official,” said Jefferies. “Like all my relationships, I look forward to a few more months with Comedy Central before it starts crying outside of a bar at 2am. Or spray paints ‘liar’ on the side of my car.”

Jim Jefferies continues to surprise me,” said »


- Joe Otterson

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Comedy Central’s ‘Daily Show’ to Take Chicago Road Trip

8 hours ago

Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and host Trevor Noah will do a week-long stint from Chicago.

The late-night series will telecast from the Athenaeum Theatre from Monday, October 16 through Thursday, October 19 nightly at 11:00 p.m. eastern on Comedy Central, marking

he 14th time the series has taken its coverage on the road for a special week of episodes. “The Daily Show” last summer journeyed to Cleveland and Philadelphia for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

The Athenaeum Theatre opened in 1911 as part of the campus of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. Conceived as a “neighborhood playhouse,”  the Athenaeum Theatre is a historic building and the oldest continuously operating off-Loop theater in Chicago. The Athenaeum Theatre promotes the arts, arts education and adds to its century old heritage by sharing the various public spaces of the historic Athenaeum Theatre building with the community. »


- Variety Staff

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Kendrick Lamar, Katy Perry, The Weeknd Lead 2017 MTV Video Music Awards Nominations

8 hours ago

MTV today announced nominations for the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, with Kendrick Lamar scoring the most of the year with eight nominations for his video “Humble.” Katy Perry and The Weeknd are tied for second with five nominations each. (The full list is below.)

The show also announced a pair of award tweaks: Best Male Video and Best Female Video have been combined into the non-gender-specific Artist of the Year (echoing a similar move by the MTV Movie & TV Awards earlier this year) and the Best Fight Against the System category has been added “to celebrate videos that inspire viewers to stand up and fight injustice.”

The 2017 “MTV Video Music Awards” will air live from The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. on Sunday, August 27 At 8:00 p.m. Et/Pt.

Jesse Ignjatovic returns as Executive Producer for the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, while Bruce Gillmer, Garrett English and Lee Lodge are Executive Producers. Melanie Block »


- Variety Staff

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PBS, CBS Each Receive More Than 40 Nominations for News & Documentary Emmys

9 hours ago

PBS and CBS each received more than 40 nominations for the 38th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, which were announced Tuesday by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

The awards will be presented on Thursday, October 5th, 2017, at a ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in the Time Warner Complex at Columbus Circle in New York City. More than 1,000 television and news media industry executives, news and documentary producers and journalists are expected to attend the event,where awards will be presented in 49 categories.

NBC News, CNN, The Washington Post, and ABC News were nominated in the “Outstanding Breaking News Coverage,” with CNN getting two entries in the category.

MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” “All in With Chris Hayes,” “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” and ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” were all nominated in the “Outstanding News Discussion and Analysis” category, with »


- Variety Staff

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Stephen Colbert’s ‘Russia Week’ Lifts ‘Late Show’ to Biggest Weekly Win Ever

9 hours ago

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” scored its biggest margin of victory in total viewers ever thanks to the CBS late-night show’s “Russia Week” for the frame ending July 21.

The week of shows covered the host’s recent trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow. It won the week in viewers by its largest margin since the show’s premiere in September of 2015, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings, with an average of 2.87 million viewers per episode. The show topped “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” by 450,000 viewers for the week, with the “Tonight Show” averaging 2.42 million viewers per episode. “The Late Show” was also up 14% compared to the same week last year.

However, Fallon was still the top-rated late night show in adults 18-49. “The Tonight Show” averaged a 0.59 rating in the key demo, topping Colbert (0.43) and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel (0.37).

Colbert and Fallon have been battling it out in the ratings for months, with »


- Joe Otterson

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Scripps Networks’ Controlling Family Said to Ready Vote on Possible Sale (Report)

9 hours ago

Members of the family that controls Scripps Networks Interactive are said to be preparing to vote on whether the company should sell itself to one of two suitors, Discovery Communications or Viacom Inc., according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reported Tuesday that members of the Scripps family are expected to meet Tuesday to consider a potential sale, citing people familiar with the matter. The family members are said to control a 91.8% voting stake in the company. Spokespersons for Scripps, Viacom and Discovery all declined to comment. Scripps controls cable’s Food Network, Hgtv and the Travel Channel, among other properties.

The Scripps-Discovery recipe has been tasted before. In late 2013, the two companies pondered a tie-up, only to go their own separate ways. Viacom, if it were to add Scripps to its portfolio, would gain new content categories that might help it gain leverage in its pricing and fee negotiations with cable and »


- Variety Staff

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Emmys 2017: Handicapping the Top Series and Performer Races

9 hours ago

It’s that time of year again, when champagne corks are popped all over Hollywood in honor of the Television Academy’s Emmy nominations. But the true celebration cannot begin until the winners are announced live on Sept. 17. With so much high-quality TV vying for the top prizes — and some surprises among the nominees — it’s shaping up to be one of the most competitive Emmy seasons in years. Here, Variety breaks down the key races.

Drama Series

Taking the torch from “Game of Thrones,” which has been the most-nominated series for the past few years, is fellow HBO genre series “Westworld.” The sci-fi thriller is tied with long-running variety sketch series “Saturday Night Live” at 22 noms this year, the most of any series. More notably, it’s also one of five freshman series in the race — and that buzz may well boost it over long-in-the-tooth “House of Cards” (six noms for the Netflix drama), or even »


- Danielle Turchiano

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Epix Renews ‘America Divided,’ Sets Season 2 Premiere Dates for ‘Berlin Station,’ ‘Graves’

10 hours ago

Epix has renewed the documentary series “America Divided” and also set the Season 2 premiere dates for “Berlin Station” and “Graves,” the network announced Tuesday at the TCA summer press tour.

The 4-episode second season of “America Divided” will premiere on Epix in 2018. In Season 2, Norman Lear and Jesse Williams return as executive producers and correspondents with another cast of celebrated Americans to continue the series’ mission to explore America’s most urgent challenges. The second season will once again go cross-country to investigate the forces driving people apart and introduce viewers to ordinary people engaged in extraordinary efforts to overcome our country’s racial, class, gender, religious and partisan divides.

“’America Divided’ season one truly distinguished Epix as a destination for provocative, timely and important documentary storytelling,” said Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of Epix. “We are thrilled to be working with this team again to take a probing look at some of the most polarizing matters »


- Joe Otterson

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