7 Days of Deals
Ka-ching! Who's inking on the dotted line this week.
DEAL OF THE WEEK -- Will YouTube's Hollywood Experiment Pay?: YouTube ran around Hollywood for months trying to convince content creators to join its effort to launch 100 TV-style video channels on the Internet. So when the official announcement of the initiative finally came Oct. 28, many were underwhelmed by the mixed bag of celebrities (Madonna, Jay-Z, Ashton Kutcher, Sofia Vergara, Shaquille O'Neal ), established web-video outfits (BermanBraun, FremantleMedia, the WWE, Ben Silverman's Electus), niche sites (Young Hollywood) and news brands (Reuters, The Wall Street Journal) that Google hopes will eventually generate the premium ad revenue it covets. "I'm generally skeptical of these original content deals on the web," says Steve Birenberg of Northlake Capital Management. "I subscribe to the couch-potato theory that American TV viewing habits change more slowly than industry analysts and observers fear."
Most content partners are receiving very little upfront cash, but some have been advanced a portion of the estimated $150 million that YouTube has allocated to the overall project. If successful, YouTube hopes to meet its goal of driving the price of online advertising beyond what is commanded by, say, Charlie Bit My Finger, a 56-second YouTube video that was viewed 384 million times but took in only an estimated $500,000 in advertising. When the channels debut next year, partners will receive up to 55 percent of the ad revenue (generous, in TV terms) after advances have been recouped. "It's like being a network executive," says Amy Poehler, whose Smart Girls at the Party hub with Meredith Walker and Amy Miles aims to provide funny and educational content from a female perspective. "You have more creative control, you are producing faster, and people see things quicker."
The initiative also is providing a platform for traditional media producers to try out a new niche, such as the animal-oriented channel to be launched by FremantleMedia. "This is one of the first steps as we look toward more digital opportunities," says Olivier Delfosse, vp interactive, mobile and digital content at Fremantle. "This is a category of content that already does well on YouTube." That YouTube can attract an audience isn't in dispute, given that 3 billion of its videos are viewed each day. And Forrester analyst James McQuivey believes there is so little money at risk that the upside far outweighs the down. "If this succeeds -- even if only as a promotional platform for the celebrities involved,- then it will be a winner," he says. "Celebrities can afford to risk their brand capital on this because they can turn their backs on it the moment it appears to fail." Tom Taulli, founder of IPOPlaybook.com, figures that the YouTube initiative is Google's answer to video initiatives at Apple and Amazon. But, he warns, "to keep engagement high on the site, it will be important to have higher-quality content." -- Paul Bond and Georg Szalai
Why FX Bet Big on Sheen
When FX Network president john landgraf first heard the pitch for Charlie Sheen's Anger Management, few thought he'd bite. The executive built his reputation on such edgy homegrown fare as Sons of Anarchy and Louie, and he has been publicly skeptical of the distribution model being employed, whereby 10 episodes of Anger will be produced as a test run for 90 additional half-hours. But Landgraf and his staff were pleasantly surprised by showrunner Bruce Helford's pitch, which has Sheen playing a version of Jack Nicholson's character from the 2003 movie of the same name. Sheen's character, a former pro athlete with rage issues, becomes interested in psychology because of a woman, who serves as a friend and therapist to the character (who also has a 13-year-old daughter with his still-friendly ex-wife). "It's a pretty simple setup," says an insider of the series, which will air in summer 2012, likely before 10 p.m., and could be paired with FX reruns of Sheen's Two and a Half Men. Sheen's passion for the project and his decision to play a character who is aware of his struggles was a promising sign about his own state. "Charlie really wants to make this show good," adds a source, "and he has a lot riding on having it be successful." -- Lacey Rose
Anne Hathaway (CAA, Management 360, Hansen Jacobson) will produce and star in Puzzler, a paranoid thriller set up at Paramount. Trespass writer Karl Gajdusek (Verve, Management 360) will pen the script. Adam Shulman, Sarah Perlman and Stefan Sonnenfeld also are producing.
The Killing star Joel Kinnaman (UTA, Magnolia, Hansen Jacobson) will star as Lancelot in Warner Bros.' planned King Arthur movie Arthur & Lancelot. David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) wrote the script and will direct.
War Horse star Jeremy Irvine (CAA, the U.K.'s Hatton McEwan, Schreck Rose) will join Colin Firth in the drama The Railroad Man, based on a memoir about working on Japan's Death Railway during World War II. Lionsgate is handling international sales.
Karl Urban (WME, McKuin Frankel) and Ben Barnes (WME, the U.K.'s Creative Artists Management, Luber Roklin) will play car-thief brothers in the France-set action film Overdrive, with Emilia Clarke (WME, the U.K.'s Emptage Hallett) in talks to play the female lead. Antonio Negret is directing the script by Wanted's Derek Haas and Michael Brandt.
Andrew Baldwin (CAA, Anonymous Content) will rewrite Warner Bros.' remake of Logan's Run, the 1976 thriller about a society where people are killed when they turn 30. Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) will direct, and Ryan Gosling is attached to star.
Character actor Robert Davi (Binder & Associates) has sold a screenplay titled The Voice to Mark Canton's production company. Davi also is attached to star.
Syfy Films has acquired film rights to Wild Cards, a superhero anthology edited by Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin.
Warner Bros. has optioned The Scorpio Races, a young-adult fantasy novel by Maggie Stiefvater (WME), for David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith's KatzSmith to produce.
Gerard Butler (CAA, Alan Siegel), Sam Worthington (CAA, Anonymous) and Matthew McConaughey (CAA, Morris Yorn) have been cast in Thunder Run, an all-CG 3D thriller being made by Freedom Films. Simon West (The Expendables 2) is set to direct.
Jason Sudeikis (CAA, Brillstein) will join Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis in Dog Fight, a political comedy directed by Jay Roach.
Universal has won a bidding war for Grim Night, a spec written by Brandon Bestenheider and Allen Bey (Verve). Unbroken Pictures, run by The Strangers director Bryan Bertino and Adrienne Biddle, is attached to produce with Uni-based Marc Platt.
Oren Uziel (ICM, Circle of Confusion, Myman Greenspan) will adapt the sci-fi novel Forgotten for Paramount. Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld is attached to star for producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage and their Fake Empire shingle.
Samuel Hadida's Davis Films has picked up film rights to the young-adult book franchise House of Night, about a 16-year-old girl who learns she is marked to become a vampire. The series, written by American author P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin Cast, has sold more than 12 million print copies.
Jason Segel (WME, Abrams, Sloane Offer) and Nicholas Stoller (UTA, Ziffren Brittenham) are in talks to star in and direct, respectively, the Columbia comedy Sex Tape, which revolves around a couple whose homemade porn video becomes lost. Kate Angelo penned the script.
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (CAA, Gendler & Kelly) and their K/O Paper Products shingle have set a first-look deal with David Ellison's Skydance Productions that will give the writer-producers broad creative freedom.
McG (WME, Management 360, Sloane Offer) will direct Summit's Puzzle Palace, a thriller by David Guggenheim being produced by Twilight's Temple Hill.
Octavia Spencer (WME, Jackoway Tyerman) has joined Julianne Hough and Russell Brand in Diablo Cody's untitled directorial debut from Mandate.
Left Behind, the faith-based book series about the End of Days, is getting a film treatment from Cloud Ten Pictures.
Oliver Stone (CAA, Bloom Hergott) will direct an HBO film based on The Power Broker, Robert A. Caro's book about Robert Moses, who reshaped the New York landscape. Stone will executive produce alongside Peter Guber and James Gandolfini. Nicholas Meyer (Collateral Damage) is writing.
Will Gluck (UTA, Sloane Offer), one of the hottest writers of development season, has sold an untitled fathers-and-daughters comedy to NBC. Saturday Night Live scribe Jessi Klein (UTA, Mosaic) is attached to write and executive produce.
ABC is close to ordering the Glee-like drama Avalon and a teen hospital-set ensemble from Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman.
Couples Retreat scribe Dana Fox (WME, Anonymous, Myman Greenspan) will write a comedy script for Fox about a single mom whose brother helps raise her baby. Fox will executive produce alongside the Chernin Co.
NBC has ordered scripts for a pair of BermanBraun projects: the FBI drama Masters and Apprentice, penned by Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie (ICM), and the father-daughter comedy Apocalipstick from Julie Klausner (WME, Avalon).
NBC has given a script order to a Jack Black-produced Internet love story written by 30 Minutes or Less scribe Michael Diliberti (WME, New School Media, Morris Yorn).
CBS has bought Life Isn't Everything, a pitch based on an Israeli sitcom about a divorced couple. Rules of Engagement EP Mike Sikowitz (ICM, Gendler & Kelly), who has an overall deal at Sony, will co-write and executive produce with creator Daniel Lappin.
ABC has ordered a script for Lisa Ling's (WME) single-camera comedy No. One Son. Shameless scribe Cindy Caponera (ICM) is on board as writer and EP.
HBO is developing an untitled drama about a family dealing with addiction from writer David Seltzer (ICM, Hansen Jacobson).
Cheers alum Rob Long (CAA, Greenberg Glusker) is attached to write and executive produce TBS' Hot for You, with Rick Marin and Ilene Rosenzweig on board as writers and co-executive producers.
FX has renewed American Horror Story for a second season. ... Showtime has renewed Homeland for a second season. ... NBC has picked up reality series Love in the Wild for a second season. ... Comedy Central has renewed Workaholics for a third season. ... Bravo has renewed Million Dollar Decorators for a second season.
Discovery has is prepping a five-hour docuseries How We Invented the World about innovations.
DirecTV and Fox networks have reached a broad renewal deal ending a public spat over carriage fees.
The CW has inked a five-year pact with Hulu to stream shows via the subscription service Hulu Plus the day after they air.
UTA has signed actor-writer-producer Jason Mantzoukas, who will co-star in The Dictator. … APA has signed actress Azita Ghanizada, a series regular on Syfy's Alphas. … Nina Fiore and John Herrera, who recently closed a deal to write for Alphas, have signed with CAA. … Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura, who made his American debut with 2008's The Midnight Meat Train, has signed with ICM. … Rapper-singer Kay, whose debut album will be released in early 2012 through Interscope Records, has signed with CAA. … Gersh has signed writer-producer-actress Laura Kightlinger, who is consulting for CBS' 2 Broke Girls. … Chinese director Yang Shupeng, whose film The Lord of the Underground will be released in early 2012, has signed with CAA.