NBC, Liberty Mutual to make movies

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NEW YORK -- NBC and Boston-based insurer Liberty Mutual announced a partnership Wednesday that will result in at least two television movies next season, one of which is billed as a back-door pilot.

The news about "Kings" and an as-yet-unnamed project is one of the first official schedule announcements ahead of NBC's release of its 52-week schedule Wednesday afternoon. Financial terms of the deal weren't announced.

The first is a two-hour movie and back-door pilot called "Kings," which is jointly produced by Universal Media Studios and Liberty Mutual. It stars Ian McShane as a king of a European country who finds it challenging to do the right thing, and Christopher Egan as a young soldier who saves the king's son in battle. The movie, billed as "The West Wing in a kingdom," is part of Liberty Mutual's public-service and ad campaign The Responsibility
Project.

The executive producers are Michael Green, Francis Lawrence and Erwin Stoff. It's in preproduction right now and will air sometime in September.

Liberty Mutual senior vp Steve Sullivan said the company and its ad agency, Hill Holliday, approached several networks with the idea but NBC gave the best reaction.

"Ben Silverman in particular got the idea in the first 10 minutes of a meeting and they ran with it," Sullivan said. "They made it happen inside the NBC organization. They've worked really well."

NBC and Liberty Mutual will collaborate on another as-yet-unnamed movie that will run on NBC and USA Network in the first quarter of 2009. Sullivan said he thinks highly of the way NBC is handling this year's upfront presentation -- not having one.

"It's great having a rolling upfront because of the economics of the business and the demand from advertisers," Sullivan said. "Fewer and fewer advertisers want to play the roulette wheel of the upfront."
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