7 Days of Deals

Ka-ching! Who's inking on the dotted line this week.

DEAL OF THE WEEK: Batter Up! ESPN Deal Puts MLB In Scoring Position: When ESPN president John Skipper announced Aug. 28 that the cable network would pay $5.6 billion over eight years beginning in 2014 for a package of Major League Baseball games, baseball commissioner Bud Selig boasted of a "record-setting increase in the annual rights fee." But the move, which nearly doubles what the Disney-owned channel has been paying, is merely the first pitch before an expected home-run deal for MLB's primary national TV games.

The ESPN package includes 90 regular-season matchups, one wild card playoff game, the Home Run Derby, six one-hour specials and extensive digital and international rights. But it is not MLB's primary national showcase. Those rights are held by Fox Sports and include the World Series, key playoff games, the All-Star Game and regular-season Saturday matchups through the 2013 season. Renewal talks already are under way with Fox and Turner Broadcasting, which airs a smaller package and is partnering in its new bid with March Madness teammate CBS, according to sources. But other suitors, as well as the recently skyrocketing value of sports content, could lead to a record-setting pact.

Baseball doesn't generate the mega-ratings of the NFL or even the NBA, and the national packages compete with teams' local broadcasts. But the 162-game seasons for the league's 30 teams can fill lots of network hours during the slow summer. In addition, experts say baseball rights have gained value since the NFL closed deals in late 2011 for nine-year TV licenses with increases averaging about 7  percent annually (from $1.93 billion a year currently to $3.1 billion by 2022). In the era of the DVR, sports are one of the few TV offerings that most viewers watch live, and they reach hard-to-pin-down male viewers. The NFL deal set up an expectation that baseball would reap increases of about 10 percent a year, but ESPN's doubling-down has raised those targets significantly.

Insiders also wouldn't be surprised if NBC gives Fox and Turner/CBS a run for their money. New owner Comcast has rebranded Versus as the NBC Sports Channel and is expected to be an aggressive bidder. Notes Mark Fratrik, vp and chief economist for BIA/Kelsey, "It obviously puts pressure on those networks to bid higher." -- Alex Ben Block

APA Unveils New Beverly Hills Digs

The APA Talent Agency will expand its Beverly Hills headquarters into a 5,700-square-foot annex on Sept. 9. The 200-employee agency purchased the building at 417 S. Beverly Drive for $2.4 million in spring 2011 because it needed space, says president and CEO Jim Gosnell. APA, unlike many other agencies, owns its 27,000-square-foot headquarters, which sits next door to the new building. "What it shows not only to the community but to our own people is that we are not afraid to step up and control our own destiny," Gosnell says. Architecture firm AREA handled the $2.5 million renovation of the space; the two-story loft building will accommodate 28 people, says AREA principal Henry Goldston. Gosnell says one APA department yet to be determined will be relocated to the new space. -- Daniel Miller

Douglas Good to Go as the Gipper

First, he's, Liberace. Now he's becoming a Republican. Michael Douglas (WME), in real life an active Democratic fund-raiser, is in discussions to star as Ronald Reagan in Participant Media's $10 million film Reykjavik. The hot-button political drama, to be shot in Germany beginning in March, was written by Kevin Hood (Becoming Jane) and takes place over a few days in 1986, when the 40th U.S. president and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (not yet cast) met for talks in the Icelandic capital to iron out peace against the backdrop of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Mike Newell (WME, the U.K.'s Independent Talent Group) is in talks to direct the film that once was being eyed by Ridley Scott, who remains on board as a producer. Douglas' take on Liberace, Behind the Candelabra, is scheduled to air on HBO next year. -- Tatiana Siegel

FILM

Ryan Gosling (IFA, Artist Management, Sloane Offer) will make his directorial and writing debut with the fantasy How to Catch a Monster, which Sierra Affinity will shop at Toronto. Christina Hendricks (CAA, Kritzer Levine, Hirsch Wallerstein) is attached to star.

Leonardo DiCaprio (LBI, Hansen Jacobson), Tobey Maguire (WME, Management 360, Hansen Jacobson) and Tom Hardy (CAA, Sloane Offer, the U.K.'s United) are teaming to produce an untitled animal-trafficking drama set up at Warner Bros.

Michael Keaton (ICM, Ziffren Brittenham) has joined RoboCop, the MGM-Columbia remake directed by Jose Padilha, as an evil CEO. Hugh Laurie had been in negotiations for the role.

Charlize Theron (WME, Hansen Jacobson) and her Denver & Delilah Films partners Beth Kono and A.J. Dix are producing a film about slain war reporter Marie Colvin, with producers Basil Iwanyk and Peter Lawson working from a Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner.

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (CAA, Gendler & Kelly) will produce Dragonology, Universal's fantasy adventure based on the kids' books.

Jon Turteltaub (WME, Oasis Media, Hansen Jacobson) will develop and direct Fox 2000's Beached, about an Olympic swimmer.

Gossip Girl's Jessica Szohr (ICM, Mosaic, Bloom Hergott) will join Analeigh Tipton and Miles Teller in Two Night Stand, a romantic comedy produced by Beau Flynn and Ruben Fleischer.

Fox has picked up Para Time, a sci-fi project from Life on Mars co-creator Matthew Graham.

Game of Thrones' Jason Momoa (APA, Edelstein Laird) will play the villain in Wolves, the directorial debut of X-Men writer David Hayter.

Benedict Cumberbatch (UTA, the U.K.'s Conway van Gelder Grant), star of the BBC's Sherlock, is joining August: Osage County, The Weinstein Co.'s adaptation of the play. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts also star.

Zac Efron (CAA, Alchemy, Felker Toczek) will star in Are We Officially Dating, a romantic comedy written and directed by Tom Gormican. QED is shopping the project at Toronto.

TELEVISION

Vera Farmiga (CAA, Authentic & Literary, Peikoff Mahan) will star in A&E's Psycho prequel Bates Motel, playing Norma Bates in the drama from Lost's Carlton Cuse.

ABC has ordered Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, with Joss Whedon (CAA, Ziffren Brittenham) writing with his Dr. Horrible and Dollhouse cohorts Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. He'll possibly direct.

Showtime has tapped The Good Wife creators Michelle and Robert King (Paradigm, Del Shaw) to develop the military drama Girls With Guns from CBS Studios. The network also is developing a divorce comedy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Marti Noxon (WME, Hansen Jacobson) and an adaptation of Slamdance winner Punching the Clown from Sarah Silverman (CAA, Thruline, Ziffren Brittenham), Gregori Viens and Arrested Development's Chuck Martin (Manage-Ment, Morris Yorn).

Fox and Burn Notice co-producer Lisa Joy (UTA, Bloom Hergott) are developing Athena, a drama at 20th TV based on the graphic novel Headache, about a woman who discovers she's the Greek goddess. The network also picked up a workplace comedy about an "NFL Sunday"-type show from 30 Rock writer Kay Cannon (WME, Brillstein).

The CW has given script orders to Wrecking Ball, a drama revolving around a John F. Kennedy Jr. type who teams with a campaign strategist to solve cases, from Grimm's Richard Hatem (WME, Jackoway Tyerman).

American Idol, producer Nigel Lythgoe (ICM) and MGM are developing a modern take on the 1980 musical series Fame.

Former Saturday Night Live player Abby Elliott (CAA, Mosaic) has booked a multiepisode arc on CBS' How I Met Your Mother.

Angela Bassett (Gersh, Lighthouse, Fox Rothschild) will play Coretta Scott King opposite Mary J. Blige's Betty Shabazz in the Lifetime telefilm Betty and Coretta.

Lost's Jorge Garcia (APA, Kritzer Levine) will guest star on ABC's Once Upon a Time.

Malin Akerman (WME, Sanders Armstrong, Jackoway Tyerman) will play Jane Levy's long-lost mother on ABC's Suburgatory.

Breaking Bad's Matt Jones (Paradigm, Ferrantino, Felker Toczek) and Upright Citizens Brigade's Thomas Middleditch (WME, Kirsten Ames, Schreck Rose) will play Rainn Wilson's cousin and brother, respectively, on NBC's The Farm, the potential spinoff of The Office.

Paul Schneider (CAA) will play an attorney in AMC's untitled Richard LaGravenese/Tony Goldwyn drama pilot.

Wilmer Valderrama (UTA, Collective, Gendler & Kelly) has inked a development deal with 20th TV.

Six Feet Under's Craig Wright (WME, Ziffren Brittenham) signed a one-year deal with Fox 21 to develop cable series.

Cold Case's Mark Pellington (UTA, 3 Arts, Gang Tyre) has inked a development pact with ABC Studios.

ABC Family has given pilot orders to The Fosters, a dramedy from Jennifer Lopez about a multiethnic group of kids being raised by lesbian mothers, and the crime drama Socio from Gavin Polone. The network also renewed Switched at Birth, Baby Daddy and Melissa & Joey and ordered additional episodes of Bunheads.

FX has picked up Charlie Sheen's Anger Management for 90 additional episodes. … Fox has renewed summer series Hotel Hell for a second season. … ABC is bringing back summer competition series Wipeout for a sixth season. … Bravo has renewed stylist Brad Goreski's It's a Brad, Brad World and ordered a spinoff of Most Eligible Dallas starring Courtney Kerr. … Syfy has renewed docuseries Paranormal Witness for a third season. … TLC has ordered eight episodes of cheerleading docuseries Cheer Perfection from the producers of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. … VH1 has renewed Single Ladies for a third season.

Guggenheim Partners, the financial services company that co-owns The Hollywood Reporter, is nearing a deal to buy Dick Clark Productions.

MUSIC

Billy Joel (ICM, Artist Group) has signed a worldwide publishing agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group and its Rondor arm.

REPRESENTATION

Picture Machine manager-producers Kevin Mann, Matthew Perniciaro and Mauricio Betancur have joined Tom Sawyer Entertainment's Jesse Hara and Rachel Miller to form Haven Entertainment.

DIGITAL

Worldwide Biggies, the digital studio founded by ex-Nickelodeon president Albie Hecht, has partnered with online gaming site Miniclip.com to develop properties like Gravity Guy.

Heroes alum Milo Ventimiglia (CAA, Management 360, McKuin Frankel) will star in and executive produce the action thriller Chosen for Crackle.

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REP SHEET

William Friedkin, Oscar-winning director of The French Connection and The Exorcist, has signed with ICM Partners.

Jack Quaid, the son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid who made his feature debut in The Hunger Games, has signed with UTA.

Shay Mitchell, who stars on ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars, has signed with APA.

Natasha Calis, who stars opposite Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick in the horror pic The Possession, has signed with CAA.

Julie Durk, a writer for NBC's upcoming comedy Save Me, has signed with CAA.

THE NEXT BIG THING: Austin Mahone

Reps: Chase, Paradigm. Why He Matters: The 16-year-old YouTube star, often dubbed "Baby Bieber," has signed a seven-figure deal to join Universal Republic Records, home to Florence + the Machine. The Florida-based teen already has more than 1 million Twitter followers.

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THE BIG NUMBER: $1.19 Billion

Revenue of German giant Bertelsmann's publishing division in the first half of 2012, way up thanks to the Fifty Shades books published by its Random House arm.

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