What Matters in Hollywood Today

8:27 AM 10/4/2017

by THR Staff

Photographed by Koury Angelo

What's news: As streaming wars escalate, YouTube is readying a new premium content plan. Plus: FX chief John Landgraf writes a memo to Silicon Valley, Kate Winslet reteams with James Cameron and TV networks shy away from an O.J. Simpson interview (so far). — Matthew Belloni, Erik Hayden and Jennifer Konerman

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On the cover: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Demi Lovato and content head Susanne Daniels. During a visit with Natalie Jarvey at Google's Mountain View campus, Wojcicki laid out YouTube's multipronged offensive in the content arms race:

Cash-rich new players — led by Netflix and Amazon and now including Hulu, Apple, Facebook and, yes, YouTube — has electrified the content business as legacy distribution models continue to fracture (see the 25-year low in box-office attendance this summer).

YouTube's plans? A slate of ad-supported unscripted originals from such names as Demi Lovato, Ryan Seacrest and Ellen DeGeneres, coupled with a scripted push for YouTube Red that combines existing IP (including Step Up: High Water, an offshoot of the dance movie franchise, and The Karate Kid spinoff Cobra Kai) with projects fronted by its homegrown digital stars.

Among the shows in the works are a musical comedy with Rudy Mancuso (3 million YouTube subscribers) executive produced by Avengers: Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo, an Anna Akana (1.9 million) drama executive produced by Mark Gordon and a Liza Koshy (11.7 million) vehicle.

It even launched its own version of a skinny bundle, YouTube TV, offering access to channels including FX and ESPN over the internet for $35 a month. "Television is changing a lot, and there are opportunities to reinvent parts of it," says Wojcicki. "We're going to continue to invest more in it." Full story.

+ Full chart: Where streamers get original content...

  • FX Chief's Silicon Valley Memo

    Illustration by: Matt Collins

    FX president John Landgraf, in a new guest column, responds to Wall Street's "irrational exuberance" over platforms like Netflix and Apple with a prediction that the future of content will reward artists, not algorithms. An excerpt: 

    Currently, Wall Street is placing bets that platforms will own the future of everything, including TV. This is reflected in the radically disparate valuations (relative to profits) of traditional media companies versus internet media companies. Disney stock trades at 17 times earnings. Netflix stock trades at 222. Projected 2017 net revenue for Disney is $9.1 billion, and it's $561 million for Netflix.

    I suspect that Wall Street is partially right about the bright future value of platforms, although with a huge dose of irrational exuberance. I do think platforms are very useful tools. I'm an Amazon Prime member. I subscribe to Netflix and Hulu, and they have great user interfaces and some excellent original programs. But what truly distinguishes all three of these services is the utility of their vast libraries of acquired content, which also is a part of what makes each a platform, even if it has a "house brand," too. But this giant scale also can make it hard to find one great story to watch amid the tens of thousands available.

    Still, I don't think anyone can argue that these new platforms haven't used their unrestrained access to capital to innovate brilliantly around technology and the consumer media model to create value for viewers. On the other hand, I think Wall Street is wrong about the bets it is not placing on the future of the strongest TV brands.

    People still go to HBO, Showtime, AMC, Starz, BET, Nat Geo and numerous cable networks for a great new original series, as well as Netflix or Hulu. And most U.S. TV viewers still seem eager to go to ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC and PBS. The legacy of these brands will be hard to completely erase, and in many ways, as the streaming ecosystem develops, they actually will get better. Full column.

    Elsewhere in TV...

    Fox's 911 enlists Connie Britton to star. The actress has been cast in a leading role in the midseason Fox procedural from Ryan Murphy. Character details about who Britton, Angela Bassett and Peter Krause will play are being kept under wraps. 

    ABC's The Good Doctor lands full season order. The network has given a full order to the drama, ordering five additional episodes to bring the total count to 18. The pickup comes after two weeks of solid ratings for the series.

    ► TNT's Major Crimes concluding after season 6. The Mary McDonnell procedural is set to end after its upcoming season, which is set to premiere Oct. 31, with the two-hour series finale dated for Jan. 16, 2018. 

    Syfy lands Futurama in off-network deal. All 140 episodes of the cult classic Matt Groening animated series will air on the cabler as part of multiyear, nonexclusive deal with studio 20th Century Fox Television. 

    ^TV networks fear O.J. interview might cause advertiser exodus. Associates of O.J. Simpson have been shopping his first post-prison interview for weeks, numerous sources tell THR. But the erstwhile NFL great, who was released from Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada a little after midnight on Oct. 1, so far has no takers. 

    + Marisa Guthrie writes: Sources at ABC, CBS and NBC all stress that they will not pay for a Simpson interview, which would violate news division standards. Multiple large cable TV groups, including A+E Networks and Discovery, also have passed. "It is treacherous," says one TV news veteran. Not with a "10-foot pole," says another. Full story. 

    ► Showtime's White Famous, reviewed. Jay Pharoah makes the most of his moment in the spotlight, but the new Hollywood comedy, debuting Oct. 15, only occasionally feels like his show. The takeaway: "Producer Jamie Foxx's cameo upstages his star."

    ► ABC's Kevin (Probably) Saves The World, reviewed. Jason Ritter and JoAnna Garcia Swisher have strong chemistry as siblings in an ABC dramedy that can't quite figure out what it wants to be. The takeaway: "Schmaltzy spiritual drama? Broad prodigal son comedy? Unclear."

  • Winslet, Cameron Reteam


    Kate Winslet is headed to Pandora. The actress is reuniting with Titanic director James Cameron as he works on his Avatar follow-ups, Borys Kit notes:

    It is unclear how many of the four planned sequels to Cameron's 2009 film Winslet will appear in. The filmmaker is currently shooting Avatar 2 and 3 concurrently. 20th Century Fox has scheduled Avatar 2 to open Dec. 18, 2020. It will be followed by Avatar 3 in 2021, Avatar 4 in 2024 and Avatar 5 in 2025.

    Ahead of the sci-fi epics, Winslet can soon be seen in theaters in the survival thriller The Mountain Between Us, opposite Idris Elba and opening Thursday. She is also set to topline in Woody Allen's upcoming feature Wonder Wheel for Amazon, which is due out in December (and which just released a trailer this morning). Full story. 

    Elsewhere in film...

    ► Daisy Ridley to star in drama Daddio. Playwright Christy Hall wrote the script, which centers on a woman who talks with her cab driver about their respective past and current relationships. CAA is arranging financing.

    ► Jenny Slate in talks for Sony's Venom. The actress would play a scientist in the film, which stars Tom Hardy as the popular Marvel anti-hero. Zombieland helmer Ruben Fleischer is directing.

    Martin Scorsese's The Irishman adds Anna Paquin. She will play the daughter of Robert De Niro's character alongside Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Jack Huston and Bobby Cannavale in Netflix's gangster movie.

    Pirates 5 director in talks for Maleficent sequel. Joachim Ronning is in talks to direct the sequel for Disney, with Angelina Jolie returning to star in the live-action take of the famous animated villain, reprising her role from the 2014 hit. 

    ► Patricia Arquette plans directorial debut. The '70s drama Love Canal follows housewives who fight back after their neighborhood is used as a dumping ground for toxic chemicals. Brad Desch wrote the script for TriStar.

    ^The Foreigner, reviewed. Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan star in Martin Campbell's London-set, China-U.K. co-production about a retired hitman avenging his daughter's death. The takeaway: "An uneven mix of action and politics." 

    + Early take: Screen Daily: "plays more like an political thriller, spending as much time on conspiratorial plotting as the publicised bone breaking."

    Paramount, Platinum Dunes team for thriller Big Rig. The Melrose Avenue studio has picked up the thriller pitch from Bragi Schut with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes on board to produce. Andrew Form and Brad Fuller will produce with Bay.

    ► Dee Rees to direct An Uncivil War. The Mudbound helmer will helm the drama chronicling the battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which included activist Gloria Steinem and lawyer Florynce "Flo" Kennedy. Casting is underway. 

    Bleecker Street lands On Chesil Beach. The drama stars Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle in Dominic Cooke's adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel, recounting a honeymoon gone wrong. The company will wait until 2018 to release the film. 

    Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios nabs Hostiles. Sources say the Christian Bale drama will get an Oscar-qualifying release in December, followed by a wide January rollout. The Western film was directed by Scott Cooper. 

    ► Amblin Partners taps Jeb Brody as co-president of production. Brody will join current president of production, Holly Bario, with both reporting to Steven Spielberg and co-CEO Jeff Small. Brody comes to Amblin from Secret Hideout. 

  • Working for Hefner

    AP Images

    Hugh Hefner's longtime deputy editor Stephen Randall recalls being employed by a man who was obsessive about details, family and separating business from pleasure. + Full column I Nights at the Playboy Mansion I Pamela Anderson and Playboy

    What else we're reading...

    "Las Vegas massacre: Are music festivals forever changed?" Jason R. Latham, Ryan Parker write: the $10 billion concert industry is grappling with a terrifying fact: "You could not have taken any [safety] measures." Full story.

    "The millennial Walt Disney." Anna Wiener writes: "Maryellis Bunn has a plan for all the storefronts technology left empty: Fill them with fantasy play spaces that look great on Instagram." [New York]

    "The liberation of Kesha." Brian Hiatt's cover story: "Before she could make one of the year's best albums, Kesha had to save her own life." [Rolling Stone]

    "Sarah Silverman wants to pop your bubble." Jason Zinoman's feature: "With her new political variety show, I Love You, America, the stand-up comic aims to unite red and blue. But can TV really change minds?" [The New York Times]

    "Jackie Chan’s plan to keep kicking forever." Alex Pappademas went "to Beijing to interview the king in his castle - a vast martial-arts complex as awesome and over-the-top as Jackie Chan himself." [GQ]

    "David Geffen pledges $150M for new LACMA." Jessica Gelt reports: "Geffen’s pledge raises LACMA’s fundraising total to $450M of the $650M needed to break ground on a modernist Peter Zumthor building." [The Los Angeles Times]

    "Feeling sad with Tom Petty." John Seabrook writes: "Tom Petty was a pleasingly unpretentious rock star, a creature of the seventies, without the big boomer causes." [The New Yorker]

    What else we're seeing...

    + "Kimmel - It's not too soon to talk gun violence." [Jimmy Kimmel Live!]

    Today's birthdays: Dakota Johnson, 28, Melissa Benoist, 29, Liev Schreiber, 50, Russell Simmons, 60, Christoph Waltz, 61, Susan Sarandon, 71.