7 Days of Deals
Ka-ching! Who's inking on the dotted line this week.
DEAL OF THE WEEK: Business of Weather Rising With the Temperature: With record heat battering most of the country, the Weather Channel is looking at an increasingly sunny forecast, thanks in part to digital ad revenue.
It's no coincidence that David Kenny, appointed chairman and CEO of the NBCUniversal-backed Weather Channel Cos. in January after a stint as president of tech firm Akamai, on July 2 made online hub Weather Underground his first acquisition, snapping it up for an undisclosed price.
"People are always interested in the weather, but it's a difficult business model to do linear-only as many people checking weather are traveling," explains SNL Kagan analyst Derek Baine of the rationale behind the deal. "So being the leader on mobile and the web is critical to a healthy future."
The network's Weather.com and its affiliates already are the most-visited weather web sites in the U.S., with a combined reach of 60 million monthly visitors. Plus, the company touts 30 million monthly mobile users via the mobile web and apps. Weather Underground, or Wunderground.com, has a cult following and 10 million unique visitors a month, with only some also using Weather.com.
"Given the information content aspect, digital is critical" for growth, says Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan. The Weather Channel, purchased by NBCU and private-equity firms in 2008 for a whopping $3.5 billion, stands out in the cable world as a digital darling. "In 2008, more than a quarter of the revenue was coming from the website, which is very unusual," adds Baine. "Most cable nets were generating only about 2 percent of revenue from the Internet at the time."
That percentage likely has increased. Making money online has supplemented soft ratings for the cable network, though it has been expanding original programming with such series as Ice Pilots.
"After several years of ratings declines, they have seen viewership tick up over the past couple of years, which is likely due to their expanded programming strategy," says Baine. He predicts revenue for the privately held Weather Channel to rise from an estimated $344 million in 2011 to $359.4 million this year, with cash flow rising from $159 million to $166 million. Not a bad forecast. -- Georg Szalai
Will Soccer Royalty Score on Wall St.?
Manchester United, the legendary U.K. soccer club that American owner Malcolm Glazer filed papers July 3 to float on the New York Stock Exchange, would seem a smart investment. Forbes says David Beckham's former squad is worth $2.24 billion, more than the New York Yankees. And soccer is a huge and growing business. Deloitte calculates England's Premier League, in which Man U plays, will be worth $3.3 billion this year, compared with "just" $850 million in 1996. But buyers be warned: Soccer stocks are notoriously bad bets. The Stoxx Europe Football Index, which tracks publicly listed teams, is down 53 percent during the past five years. Economics, even for Man U, are heavily dependent on performance, with TV revenue dropping as much as 40 percent in a losing year. So Glazer likely will have trouble convincing Wall Street his team is a winner. -- Scott Roxborough
Bethenny Show Nears Pickup
An ex-Real Housewive is turning out to be a real talk show host. Bethenny Frankel is almost certain to secure national syndication as early as fall 2013 for her just-launched hourlong chat show, which is halfway through a six-week test on six Fox TV stations. The Warner Bros.-produced program has increased ratings in its time periods by 125 percent and improved viewership among women 18 to 49 by a whopping 233 percent compared with the same periods last year. "It's logical given the performance of the show that they would pick up Bethenny," says Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming at Katz Media. Fox says no decision has been made and the fate of the talk show won't be decided until after the test. However, sources say that with numbers so strong (especially among hard-to-attract younger females), the announcement of a national rollout is a mere formality. -- Alex Ben Block
Michael Fassbender (CAA, the U.K.'s Troika) will produce and star in a film adaptation of the Ubisoft video game Assassin's Creed.
Fifty Shades of Grey, based on E.L. James' racy best-seller, will be produced by The Social Network duo of Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti.
CBS Films has picked up rights to the video game Deus Ex from Square Enix, with Roy Lee and Adrian Askarieh attached to produce the film.
Crispin Glover (Don Buchwald/Fortitude) and Martin Klebba (Stevens Group) have joined Motel, an indie action thriller starring John Cusack, Robert De Niro and Rebecca Da Costa.
Cole Hauser (APA, IAM, Morris Yorn) has joined Olympus Has Fallen, Nu Image/Millennium's White House-set thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua. Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart star.
Paramount is developing a U.S. film version of The Inbetweeners, tapping Iain Morris, who co-created the hit U.K. series with Damon Beesley, to write and direct.
Philip Seymour Hoffman has joined The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire as head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. Jena Malone (Gersh, Hirsch Wallerstein) is in talks to play snide tribute Johanna Mason.
Darren Lemke (UTA, Loeb & Loeb), who worked on Shrek Forever After and the upcoming Jack the Giant Killer, will pen Walden Media's film version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Keith Merryman and David A. Newman (APA, Circle of Confusion, Stone Meyer) will write a sequel to Screen Gems' Think Like a Man.
Steve Carr (ICM, Principato Young, Jackoway Tyerman) is in negotiations to direct the CBS Films ensemble comedy The Wedding Day, produced by Andrew Lazar.
Christopher Meloni (Gersh, Industry) is joining Lionsgate's They Came Together, a romantic comedy spoof from director David Wain. Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler star.
Fox has picked up movie rights to Sesame Street and has tapped Joey Mazzarino (ICM), the show's longtime writer, to pen the script.
Jackie Chan (WME, Bloom Hergott) is teaming with Beijing-based Talent International Media Group to produce and star in an English-language action comedy written by Jay Longino.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has acquired Crooked House, an adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie mystery novel from Ealing Metro International. Neil LaBute is slated to direct.
Jennifer Lopez (UTA, Medina, Hirsch Wallerstein) is developing an hourlong drama about a lesbian couple for ABC Family with co-creators and writers Peter Paige and Brad Bredeweg.
Game Change director Jay Roach (WME, Mosiac, Behr & Abramson) is attached to direct HBO's K Blows Top, about Nikita Khrushchev's 13-day American sojourn in 1959, when Cold War tensions were running high. Paul Giamatti will play the Soviet leader.
Christine Lahti (ICM, Management 360) will recur on CBS' Hawaii Five-O, playing the presumed-dead mother of Alex O'Loughlin's McGarrett.
Former Lost star Elizabeth Mitchell (IFA, Kritzer Levine, Hirsch Wallerstein) will reunite with J.J. Abrams on
his upcoming NBC drama Revolution. She'll appear in flashbacks as the mother of two of the series' teenagers.
ABC's Once Upon a Time has cast its Sleeping Beauty and Mulan, with The Tudors' Sarah Bolger (CAA, Mosaic, the U.K.'s Hamilton-Hodell) and The Hangover Part II's Jamie Chung (Gersh, 3 Arts, Morris Yorn), respectively, joining the series in a recurring capacity.
Broadway veteran Krysta Rodriguez (Paradigm, Principal) has boarded season two of NBC's Smash, playing a spunky new roommate opposite Katharine McPhee.
NBC will produce a live version of The Sound of Music, with Smash producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron attached.
The Secret Circle's Chris Zylka (WME, Simmons & Scott, Hirsch Wallerstein) has joined the cast of FX's rebooted American Horror Story.
Barbara Hershey (Pakula/King, Impression, Jackoway Tyerman) and Rachael Leigh Cook (Paradigm, James/Levy, Fuller Downs) will play mother and daughter in the Lifetime telefilm Left to Die, based on the true story of a woman on vacation in Ecuador who is wrongly imprisoned for drug trafficking.
Bones executive producer Stephen Nathan (WME) has inked a new two-year overall deal with Twentieth Television, where he'll continue to work on the David Boreanaz starrer and develop new projects.
Glee's Jessalyn Gilsig (Paradigm, Untitled, Ziffren Brittenham) will co-star on History's first scripted drama series, Vikings, as the wife of Gabriel Byrne's character.
Ray Ford (Rectangle, Morris Yorn), who recurred as James Van Der Beek's assistant on ABC's Don't Trust the B-- in Apt. 23, has been promoted to series regular for season two.
Eileen Davidson (Media Artists, Blain & Associates) is returning to the NBC soap Days of Our Lives, reprising her role from 1993-98. Her first new episode airs Oct. 11.
CBS has revived Poppy Montgomery's Unforgettable for a second season of 13 episodes set to bow next summer. … HBO has renewed The Newsroom, True Blood and Eastbound & Down for a second, sixth and fourth season, respectively. … TNT is bringing back Rizzoli & Isles and Dallas for a fourth and second season, respectively.
USA Network has picked up White Collar creator Jeff Eastin's law enforcement drama Graceland to series, ordering 12 episodes. … A&E has given series orders to Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin's Psycho prequel Bates Motel, bypassing the pilot stage with a 10-episode order. It also renewed Katee Sackhoff's freshman Western Longmire.
Melissa Joan Hart (Paradigm) has signed with St. Martin's Press to write the memoir Melissa Explains It All for fall 2013.
Glee actress Jenna Ushkowitz (Abrams Artists, Emery, Stone Meyer) will write the motivational book Choosing Glee, which St. Martin's will publish in the spring.
Weissmann Wolff Bergman Coleman Grodin, which represents Warner Bros., actress Diane Lane and others, has agreed to merge with Weintraub Genshlea Chediak Tobin & Tobin of the Bay Area.
Blake Lively (CAA, Untitled, Jackoway Tyerman) will be the face of Gucci's new fragrance Premiere and star in a short commercial movie directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) that will premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
Metallica's James Hetfield has partnered with Sutro Eyewear to launch limited-edition JH Sutro sunglasses.
Pulse Recording, the songwriting collective with a hand in Lady Gaga and Katy Perry hits, has partnered with Creative Nation, a Nashville publishing/management company co-founded by country hitmaker Luke Baird.
Andy Heyward, co-creator of the Inspector Gadget cartoon, has listed for sale a Paul Williams-designed residence in Los Angeles' bird streets neighborhood at $7.85 million. Heyward and his wife bought the property in March 2010 for $4.75 million.
THE BIG NUMBER
1 Billion: Hours of content streamed by Netflix in June, making it the biggest TV network by volume and setting a company record.
Kevin Connolly, who starred as "E" on HBO's Entourage, has signed with 3 Arts Entertainment.
Ryan Raddatz, a writer on NBC's forthcoming 1600 Penn and an ex-writer and producer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, has signed with CAA.
Thomas Wright, the male lead in the upcoming BBC and Sundance Channel miniseries Top of the Lake, has signed with WME.
Colin O'Donoghue, who co-starred in New Line's The Rite with Anthony Hopkins, has signed with UTA.
Jack Fox, who stars on the new BBC drama series Privates, has signed with ICM Partners.
THE NEXT BIG THING: Rose McIver
Reps: WME, Magnolia, Johnson & Laird
Why She Matters: The New Zealand-born Lovely Bones actress, 24, has landed the tough-to-cast title role in MTV's hot drama pilot Cassandra French's Finishing School for Boys, with Michael Lehmann (Heathers) on board to direct.