news digest


Commercials serious business at Firebrand

NEW YORK — Microsoft, NBC Universal, GE's Peacock Equity Fund and Ion Television have invested in Firebrand, a multiplatform destination for TV commercials set to launch next month. Firebrand's programming, dubbed "Commercials as Content," will launch Oct. 22. It will be available weeknights at 11 p.m. on Ion, online at, and and on mobile devices through Apple's iTunes and via MSN. Firebrand was co-founded by CEO John Lack, one of the creators of MTV. It has keyed in on the Generation Y group as its target demographic.

Palm high on Marley docu in N.A., U.K.

NEW YORK — Palm Pictures has acquired all North American and U.K. rights to Stephanie Black's Bob Marley family documentary "Africa Unite," with plans to release it in the winter. The feature revolved around three generations of the Marley family as they take their first trip to Ethiopia for a landmark concert commemorating the singer's 60th birthday. The film features rare footage of the late artist and many of his original recordings on the soundtrack.

London fest gets into biz with market

LONDON — The London Film Festival is growing the business side of the event this year, adding a Production Finance Market. A first for the festival, the two-day market will take place Oct. 22-23 and focus on new private forms of investment, film finance and fresh distribution avenues, the festival's industry office said Tuesday. The office said it expects 120 international and U.K. financiers and established producers to participate in more than 400 face-to-face meetings. In addition, 11 emerging producers have been selected to pitch their projects and attend training seminars at the market.

Davis tapped No. 2 in shuffle at ABC News

NEW YORK — ABC News shuffled its senior management team Tuesday under president David Westin. Dave Davis, president and GM of WABC-TV in New York and a former cameraman, becomes the division's executive vp and second-in-command over all of the network's TV broadcasts. ABC News senior vp Paul Slavin becomes senior vp digital at ABC News, Phyllis McGrady is senior vp creative development, and Paul Mason has been named senior vp politics and will be in charge of election coverage. Bob Murphy will take a new job as vp administration.

Weise lands AFTRA promotion

AFTRA has promoted Joan Halpern Weise to assistant national executive director, entertainment programming. Weise's responsibilities include negotiating for the union nationwide for primetime and non-primetime television programming, cable TV programming and new media. Weise began working for the local Los Angeles AFTRA in 1981 as a television rep. She joined the national staff in 2000.

Moving Pics reels in Milla as publisher

NEW YORK — Maitland Primrose Group has named Jay Milla senior vp and publisher of its Moving Pictures magazine. He will be based out of the company's Los Angeles office, working alongside editor in chief Elliot Kotek on the quarterly film publication. Part of his duties will be hiring a new sales team for the 17-year-old magazine. The executive worked at Filmmaker Magazine. Milla's experience includes advertising, event and management positions with The Hollywood Reporter and Premiere magazine.