What's news: Get ready for a clash of moguls as Comcast says it's preparing a "superior" bid to Disney's $52.4 billion deal for Fox assets. Plus: Behind Leslie Moonves' crusade against the CBS-Viacom merger, a close look at TV diversity, and good news/bad news for Solo: A Star Wars Story box-office tracking. — Erik Hayden
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On the cover: Six major TV stars — (clockwise from top left) Elisabeth Moss, Angela Bassett, Sandra Oh, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Claire Foy and Thandie Newton — speak with Lacey Rose about producing, onscreen nudity (male and female) and the better-late-than-never push for gender pay parity.
Q: How much did you know about the pay disparity between you and your co-star before the world knew, and what did it feel like to be at the center of that?
CLAIRE FOY I [could have] kept my mouth shut and said, "I have nothing to say, I'm a robot." I was part of a really incredible show that I'm really proud of and grateful for, but that shouldn't stop me from having an opinion about something that I have been brought into the center of. It would be very different if it was something that I didn't have an opinion on, but it's something that I feel really strongly about and that I had a suspicion of. …
THANDIE NEWTON Is that why it got talked about? Because you had a suspicion?
FOY No, no, no. It came about purely because the producers brought it up [at a conference] as a way of saying, "This is a good thing because in the first two [seasons] this is what happened, but we'll never do that again."
In an era when scale has become the priority for media titans, CBS chief Leslie Moonves is at war to prevent a mega-merger of his own, Paul Bond writes:
If a judge approves Moonves' Hail Mary dilution plan — which one person close to the situation likens to "swatting a fly with a sledgehammer" — the executive will have killed a roughly $12.3B merger that few on Wall Street seem to be advocating to begin with.
Indeed, each time it appears CBS might purchase Viacom, shares of the former drop, and when it seems the acquisition is a long shot, CBS shares rise. But short-term stock movements often are dismissed when negotiating multibillion-dollar mergers, raising the question: What's Moonves really after — or trying to prevent?
In short: He privately considers the Viacom channels (MTV, Comedy Central, VH1 and others) an albatross, sources say, thinks there are better (and cheaper) deals to be made and considers Viacom CEO Bob Bakish a threat. Full story.
Elsewhere in TV...
► Comcast confirms plan to rival Disney's $52.4B bid for Fox. The company is readying a "superior" all-cash bid for large parts of 21st Century Fox, controlled by the Murdoch family, in a challenge to Disney CEO Bob Iger.
► Full statement: "Comcast Corporation confirms that it is considering, and is in advanced stages of preparing, an offer ... Any offer for Fox would be all-cash and at a premium to the value of the current all-share offer from Disney."
► NBC leads 2017-2018 season by large margin. The network just wrapped one of the most boast-worthy runs in broadcast memory, ranking as the highest-rated network for the fourth time in five seasons and coming within a hair of CBS' ever-dependable hold on total viewers. Full story.
+ Adults 18-49: NBC: 2.2 rating CBS: 1.5 rating ABC: 1.5 rating Fox: 1.5 rating CW: 0.6 rating. Total viewers: CBS: 9M NBC: 8.9M ABC: 6.1M Fox: 4.9M CW: 1.7M.
► ESPN finalizes UFC TV deal. The network is close to finalizing a deal to carry the UFC on its linear networks, sources say. The pact follows a $750M digital deal to put UFC fights on ESPN+, the company’s OTT service. The linear pact is valued at $150M annually.
► Univision close to naming new CEO. The company "has tapped media veteran Vincent Sadusky as chief executive, succeeding Randy Falco at the troubled Spanish-language broadcaster," according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Quoted: "First and foremost, if you are angry that I’m working on Watchmen, I am sorry." — showrunner Damon Lindelof, explaining his vision for HBO's comic book pilot in a five-page letter to fans.
TV's new diversity scorecard...
^How broadcast networks compare. Above is how ABC talent stacks up among diverse cast and crew. CBS made the biggest gains to reach more than 50 percent actors of color in new orders — second only to The CW. To see how CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW fared, here's the full chart.
► HBO renews Wyatt Cenac's show. The network said that it has renewed the comedian's topical late-night series Problem Areas for another run as the initial 10-episode order nears its close.
► ABC renews Once Upon a Time creators deal. Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis have inked a sizable four-year deal extension with ABC Studios. They're also going to serve as showrunners on Apple's forthcoming Amazing Stories.
► CBS TV reups deal with Peter Lenkov. The showrunner behind Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver has inked a new overall deal to remain with the studio behind both procedurals. He will create and develop new projects for the studio.
► SyFy renews Superman prequel series. The NBCUniversal-owned cabler has handed out a second season renewal to Krypton. The show is averaging 1.8M total viewers with three days of DVR. Season two is expected to return in 2019.
► A&E plans Jehovah's Witnesses project with Leah Remini. Sources say Remini will produce a special for A&E that focuses on Jehovah's Witnesses to air during a break following season three of Scientology and the Aftermath.
► BBC enlists Richard Gere for rare TV role. In his first turn on the small screen in decades, the actor is joining MotherFatherSon, an eight-part original drama that was written and created by Tom Rob Smith.
Plus: How the Emmy landscape is shaping up. Scott Feinberg is out with his latest heat index on TV contenders, and sees Game of Thrones (HBO), The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu), This Is Us (NBC) and The Crown (Netflix) leading the drama series pack. Feinberg Forecast.
If all goes well, a young Han Solo and his band of outcasts will take out Captain Jack Sparrow and set a new Memorial Day weekend record at the box office, Pamela McClintock forecasts:
Disney and Lucasfilm's spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story is tracking to open to $130 million-$150 million over the long holiday weekend, with $130 million being on the low end of expectations. To date, the Memorial Day record-holder for top domestic launch is Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) with $139.8 million, not adjusted for inflation.
Noted: Unless it comes in ahead of official projections, the origin story will post the lowest domestic opening of the four Disney Star Wars films. Solo is opening in most points around the globe timed to its U.S. launch, including China, for a projected global start of $300 million-plus. Full preview.
Elsewhere in film...
► Netflix plots Ryan Reynolds and Michael Bay film. Reynolds will star in Six Underground, a Bay action pic that is seeing Skydance Media partner with the streaming giant. The deal marks the biggest movie push for Netflix since Will Smith's pricey Bright.
► Sony's Men In Black spinoff enlists Liam Neeson. The actor is in talks to join Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in the F. Gary Gray-directed project. The studio has the film dated for a June 14, 2019 release.
► Amblin Partners inks Jennifer Todd to deal. The Alice in Wonderland producer, who most recently served as president of Ben Affleck/Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Films, has signed a two-year feature production deal with the company.
► Road Pictures nabs Palme d'Or winner for China. The Beijing-based company has acquired China rights to Hirokazu Kore-eda's Cannes favorite Shoplifters and Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, which won the Jury Prize at the fest. Nationwide theatrical releases are planned.
Quoted: "We’d like to commit to GLAAD’s 20 percent inclusion by 2021." — Senior agent Kevin Iwashina announced at WME and Endeavor Content’s first forum on LGBTQ inclusion in film.
^Fox's potential to expand the Deadpool universe. Meg Downey writes: The promo campaign for the movie impressed upon the importance of the X-Force, an all-new team of never-before-seen-in-live-action mutant heroes ready to take the X-Men film universe by storm (and set for their own spinoff). Full story.
► Lionsgate wins bidding war for John Wick director's latest. Chad Stahelski and Ryan Condal, the creator of Colony, are teaming to adapt the sci-fi comic Analog. Lionsgate has won out among multiple offers for the Image Comic property.
► Sony Animation plans Phil Lord and Chris Miller title. The duo will produce The Mitchells vs. the Machines, which Mike Rianda will direct from a screenplay he wrote with co-director Jeff Rowe. Its a family comedy about a tech uprising.
► Fox Searchlight casts Rebel Wilson in JoJo Rabbit. The actress is joining Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson in director Taika Waititi's Nazi Germany satire. Production is expected to begin in late spring.
► Paramount's A Quiet Places crosses $300M globally. The John Krasinski title has become a profit monster for the studio, given its modest production budget of $17M. Overseas, the film has earned $124.2M to date.
*R.I.P., Clint Walker. The actor, who starred in such films as Send Me No Flowers and The Dirty Dozen and in the TV series Cheyenne, died Monday at 90, his daughter told TMZ. Full obit.
With the 2017-18 season wrapping May 27, grosses already have hit a record high north of $1.65 billion, a sizable hike of 14.4 percent from last year, David Rooney writes:
The cautionary note: Admissions are nearly flat, increasing by just 1.6 percent over the previous season, when attendance was pumped by peak Hamilton fever, SRO demand for Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! and hot-ticket entries like Dear Evan Hansen.
Bright spot: That healthy cluster of powerhouse earners includes Broadway's newest MVP, Bruce Springsteen, whose concert memoir, Springsteen on Broadway, has grossed close to $61 million since its October opening, even with hiatus periods and short playing weeks, sometimes with as few as four performances. Full story.
What else we're reading...
— "Philip Roth, the incomparable American novelist." An appreciation: the "literary icon whose novel American Pastoral won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, in 1998, has died, at the age of eighty-five." [The New Yorker]
— "Emilia Clarke’s solo flight." Joanna Robinson's cover story: "If Solo becomes a major hit, it will give Clarke a rare chance to leap cleanly from one spectacularly successful genre franchise to another." [Vanity Fair]
— "Ryan Murphy and Janet Mock on Pose, diversity and Netflix." Philip Galanes' table for three: "Mr. Murphy, the TV creator, and Ms. Mock, the transgender activist, discuss the new FX series about the vogue ball scene in ’80s New York." [New York Times]
— "Apple avoids Amazon’s beauty contest, searches secretly for new campus." Tripp Mickle and Valerie Bauerlein report: "Tech giants take starkly different paths in their searches for cities in which to build new corporate campuses." [Wall Street Journal]
— "Donald Glover fans have taken over a pro-Trump Reddit page." Taylor Lorenz writes: "Normally filled with news and Trump memes, the page is now covered in photos of 'the one true Donald’s' face." [The Atlantic]
*Royal reading: Fox's Empire writer Attica Locke writes that by celebrating nuptials with reverent nods to African-American culture, Megan Markle "raised the roof on St. George's Chapel, obliterating hundreds of years of tradition." Full column.
Today's birthdays: Ryan Coogler, 32, Matt Gourley, 45, Maxwell, 45, H. Jon Benjamin, 52, Drew Carey, 60, Joan Collins, 85.