week in review digest


Khanna takes digi role at NBC Uni Int'l

LONDON — NBC Universal International hired Roma Khanna as president of global networks and digital initiatives this past week (HR 8/2). Khanna joins NBC Universal International from Canadian media company Chum Television, where she was co-head and senior vp content. She will be based in the British capital. NBC Universal International president Peter Smith said Khanna will take up the reins in September. She is charged with generating growth through geographical expansion, local and pan-regional partnerships and new channel creation, with a focus on strengthening the content and identity of the Sci Fi Channel, 13th Street and Universal Channel brands, Smith said.

U.K.'s VMT lands rights to 'Riches'

LONDON — Virgin Media Television has beaten out a host of rival broadcasters in securing exclusive rights to air the U.S. dramedy "The Riches," starring British natives Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver (HR 8/3). VMT acquired the series for its general entertainment channel Virgin 1 from 20th Century Fox Television Distribution in what Virgin described as a "multimillion-pound deal," the company said Thursday. "Riches" airs stateside on FX. The first season will premiere on Virgin 1 in the fall and spearhead its primetime drama schedule.

'Idol' icon tunes up for movie biz

"American Idol" star and reality TV producer Simon Cowell is venturing into features with a music-themed project tentatively titled "Star Struck" (HR 8/2). Inspired by Alan Parker's 1980 film "Fame," "Struck" is set behind the scenes at a TV singing competition in the vein of "Idol" and the Cowell-produced "X-Factor" and follows 10 contestants trying to make it to the top. "We want it to be the musical version of 'Rocky' — an underdog story, a feel-good film," Cowell said. Produced through Cowell's Syco Prods., "Struck" is not yet set up at a studio but has garnered interest from several places.

Quebec opens its arms for Lionsgate

TORONTO — Lionsgate signed a four-year, $400 million financing pact with the Quebec government last week to make movies and TV series in the province (HR 8/2). Lionsgate, based in Vancouver and Los Angeles, said the Societe generale de financement du Quebec (SGF), which invests in Quebec films on behalf of the provincial government, will finance up to 35% of production costs for a film and TV slate in Quebec — an aggregate investment of $140 million. Lionsgate will cover the remaining $260 million in possible local production. The first project from the deal is the next installment in Marvel's "Punisher" franchise.

Medusa pics to stub out smokes

LOCARNO, Switzerland — Films made by Italian media company Medusa could soon become smoke-free zones, if the company's new president, Carlo Rossella, has his way (HR 8/3). Rossella, former director of Mediaset's "TG5" news program, said he wants to remove smoking from Medusa films as a way of educating young people not to pick up the habit. Before the measure can go into effect, it must be approved by Medusa's board.