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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Reading Between the Lines As Two Book Giants Become One: The Oct. 29 merger of book behemoths Random House and Penguin not only creates the world’s largest publisher, home to authors as diverse as Fifty Shades of Grey‘s E.L. James and mystery writer Patricia Cornwell, it also will present a formidable challenge to the growing power of such digital distributors as Amazon and Apple. And some already are worrying that the consolidation will decrease opportunities for authors and drive down advances.
The company, to be called Penguin Random House, will boast $4 billion in revenue and control about 25 percent of the worldwide consumer book market. In the U.S., its share of book sales will hover around 40 percent. Bertelsmann, the German conglomerate that owns Random House, will control 53 percent of the new company. (Penguin’s British-based parent Pearson Llc. will hold the rest.) Bertelsmann chairman Thomas Rabe says the merger — subject to regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. and abroad — will produce a “diversity of publishing opportunities for authors, agents, booksellers and readers.” Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino promises the company will be “more adventurous” in moving into digital publishing.
But some, such as IAC’s Barry Diller and partner Scott Rudin, who recently announced a new digital book company, have argued that the future of publishing is with pure digital players unburdened by legacy costs (like printing). Penguin Random House is doubling down in the opposite direction, believing that combining its legacy investments in marketing and distribution actually will make it a stronger digital force by shedding some costs in production and warehousing while giving it more money for marketing. This strategy is designed to combat not only Amazon, which controls about 60 percent of the e-book market and perhaps 40 percent of total sales, but also Apple, which is looking to increase its 10 percent share of the e-book market with the just-introduced iPad mini.
Agent Robert Gotlieb, chairman of Trident Media Group, which represents such authors as Deepak Chopra and Stephen Colbert, calls the promise of savings “Wharton Business School-speak for cutting.” He predicts a merging of imprints and publishing divisions to the financial and artistic detriment of authors. “It gives one company enormous power to dictate terms to authors,” he says.
Still, the combination is likely to be just the first shoe that drops in publishing. When news of the Penguin-Random House talks leaked, News Corp. owner HarperCollins made a late offer for Penguin for a reported $1.6 billion. Now analysts are wondering which of the remaining “Big Six” (Macmillan, Hachette or Simon & Schuster) Rupert Murdoch will court next. Many believe News Corp. will gobble up a big-name publisher in advance of the company’s split of its newspaper-publishing operations from its entertainment units. — Andy Lewis
In Nicholas Sparks’ Notebook: Three New TV Shows
Don’t cry for Nicholas Sparks. The author of 16 New York Times best-sellers, including such tear-jerkers-turned-movie blockbusters as The Notebook and Dear John, is expanding into TV. Sparks has put shows into development at three cable networks through Nicholas Sparks Productions, which he started in April with longtime agent Theresa Park (UTA’s Elise Henderson joined in July as head of TV). At TNT, Sparks is developing a show based on his novel A Bend in the Road with Brandon Camp, who wrote and directed the 2009 feature Love Happens. The romantic drama focuses on a sheriff who must deal with problems in a coastal Georgia town that sees its population soar during the summer. At ABC Family, Sparks is teaming with John Norris, who co-executive produced the channel’s Jane by Design, on The Falls, a modern re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet. And for Lifetime, Sparks has Deliverance Creek, a post-Civil War drama about a woman’s family caught between trying to be good and surviving. Melissa Carter (Jane by Design) will write the pilot and exec produce. The projects are the first to come from a two-year deal that Sparks, 46, signed in April with Warner Horizon. Eight of the author’s books have been adapted into films that have grossed $650 million worldwide, and several more are in the pipeline, including Safe Haven, starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough. The push into TV marks an expansion of his brand from love stories to broader drama. The “collaborative aspects” of TV are appealing, Sparks tells THR. “It’s a chance to venture into stories I don’t always write about.” — Andy Lewis
Goal! NBCU Bets $250M on Soccer
Will NBCUniversal score with soccer? The Comcast division announced Oct. 29 that it will pay $250 million to take coverage of England’s Premiere League away from Fox and ESPN and show games live on its NBC Sports Network, Telemundo and mun2. The move to air the world’s most popular soccer league, home to franchises like Manchester United, comes in the wake of NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus picking up Major League Soccer last year and enjoying success with futbol during the London Olympics. The price represents a big increase from the league’s previous deal, but when combined with the NHL (when its labor impasse ends), NBC Sports is buoying its offering. Says Lazarus, “We’re acquiring a set of assets that has unique affluent male appeal that’s very attractive to advertisers and attractive to cable operators.” — Georg Szalai
James Cameron (CAA, Greenberg Glusker) will direct The Informationist, an adaptation of the novel by Taylor Stevens, for 20th Century Fox.
Johnny Depp (UTA, Bloom Hergott) is in talks to star in Alcon’s Transcendence, to be directed by Inception cinematographer Wally Pfister.
Jeremy Renner (CAA, Untitled, Felker Toczek) and Julianne Moore (CAA, Management 360, Edelstein Laird) will star opposite Al Pacino in Imagine, with Crazy, Stupid, Love writer Dan Fogelman directing.
Adam Sandler (WME, Brillstein) has moved his comedy Ridiculous 6 from Sony to Paramount.
Pax and Zahara Jolie-Pitt are joining sister Vivienne in Disney’s Maleficent, toplined by mother Angelina Jolie.
Black Nativity director Kasi Lemmons (Gersh, Wet Dog) is attached to adapt and direct South African novel Agaat.
Jaime King (Gersh, Untitled, Myman Abel) and Sucker Punch‘s Jamie Chung (Gersh, 3 Arts, Morris Yorn) have joined Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City 2.
Javier Navarette (First Artists) is composing the score for Universal’s 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves.
Resident Evil: Retribution‘s Boris Kodjoe (Gersh, Untitled, Bloom Hergott) will play a lead role in Lionsgate’s thriller Addicted.
British actress Frances O’Connor (Gersh, the U.K.’s Artist Right Group, Wishlab) will star in Mercy, an adaptation of a Stephen King story, for Universal Pictures and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Prods.
The Magic Castle (CAA), Hollywood’s famed members-only club, is the subject of a film being developed by Ted Field and his Radar Pictures for Fox.
Comedian Katt Williams (ICM) will star in Dimension’s Scary Movie 5.
Rolf Kent (First Artists) will compose the score for Bad Words, directed by and starring Jason Bateman.
Desperate Housewives‘ Maiara Walsh (APA, Untitled, Lichter Grossman) will star in The Starving Games, a spoof of The Hunger Games.
Oprah Winfrey (CAA, Ziffren Brittenham) is developing a drama about the first black president of a liberal arts college for HBO.
Charlize Theron (WME, Hansen Jacobson), via her Denver & Delilah production shingle, is developing The Clan, a Viking drama set up at ABC.
Eva Longoria (CAA, Brillstein, Bloom Hergott), via her UnbeliEVAble production banner, has inked a first-look development deal with Universal Television.
Chloe Sevigny (WME, Brillstein) will star in A&E’s drama pilot Those Who Kill.
Shonda Rhimes (ICM, Brooke Wharton) and Betsy Beers (UTA, Sloane Offer) are teaming with Eight Below writer David DiGilio to adapt Debra Driza’s upcoming young-adult novel Mila 2.0 for ABC.
Rebecca Romijn (UTA, 3 Arts, Edelstein Laird) will star in NCIS: Los Angeles creator Shane Brennan’s TNT drama pilot King and Maxwell.
Brothers & Sisters showrunner David Marshall Grant (CAA, Untitled, Jackoway Tyerman) is developing a comedy for HBO, adapting the Israeli series Ran Quartet for CBS and executive producing the drama Blink for The CW.
Chris Klein (ICM, Brillstein, Sloane Offer) will play a character based on WME agent Brandt Joel in a comedy project for Fox.
Newsroom writer Gideon Yago (CAA, Gang Tyre) will pen and exec produce City Hall, a political drama set up at ABC.
The Simpsons‘ Dan Castellaneta (Sovereign, Forster, Myman Greenspan) and Absolutely Fabulous‘ Mo Gaffney (Stone Manners) will co-star in ABC Family’s comedy pilot Continuing Fred.
Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones (UTA, Brillstein, Hansen Jacobson) will write, executive produce and potentially star in a Fox comedy about a single guy caring for his sister’s kids, with Steve Carell attached as an EP.
ER‘s Ming-Na (Innovative, Kritzer Levine, Jackoway Tyerman) has joined the cast of Joss Whedon’s ABC pilot S.H.I.E.L.D.
Glee bad boy Grant Gustin (CESD, Robert Stein) is moving to The CW’s 90210 for a multi-episode arc.
Awkward‘s Beau Mirchoff (APA, Vital, Ginsburg Daniels) will co-star opposite Selena Gomez in the Disney Channel telepic Wizards of Waverly Place.
CBS has ordered full seasons of freshman dramas Vegas and Elementary. … ABC has picked up second-season drama Scandal and new alien comedy The Neighbors for full seasons. … NBC has ordered seven episodes of the Howie Mandel-hosted game show Take It All and picked up five additional scripts for freshman entries Chicago Fire and Guys With Kids. … The CW has added three more scripts for Beauty and the Beast and Emily Owens M.D. … USA Network has picked up docusoap Partners in Crime to series, greenlighted sports handicapper docuseries All In and announced development on unscripted ranch effort The Cowboy Way. … AMC has renewed Hell on Wheels for a third season.
Bones creator Kathy Reichs (WME) will write three novels for Random House’s Ballantine imprint.
Taye Diggs (ICM) will pen a children’s book about a day in the life of a biracial child, with illustrations by Shane W. Evans, for Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends.
Amber Tamblyn, best known for her Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated starring role on CBS’ Joan of Arcadia, has signed with UTA.
Jason Patric, who has starred in Narc, Sleepers and The Lost Boys, has signed with CAA.
William Moseley, who starred as Peter Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, has signed with APA.
Ophelia Lovibond, whose credits include No Strings Attached and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, has signed with ICM Partners.
Kuno Becker, who has been added to the cast of TNT’s Dallas as a series regular, has signed with APA.
NEXT BIG THING: RZA
Reps: ICM, Joe Carlone, Lichter Grossman. Why He Matters: The former Wu-Tang Clan frontman has reinvented himself as a filmmaker. His directorial debut The Man With the Iron Fists opens Nov. 2, and he’ll next helm the thriller No Man’s Land, to be produced by Bill Mechanic, and a Genghis Khan biopic.
THE BIG NUMBER: $254 Million — Economic benefit of the annual Coachella music festival last year on the surrounding California desert community, according to a study revealed Oct. 25
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