Posts tagged with "Variety"

LeBron James, Maverick Carter’s SpringHill raises $100 million from investors

June 25, 2020

Baller LeBron James and his longtime business partner, Maverick Carter, have raised $100 million from backers—including global investment firm Guggenheim Partners; and the daughter of media titan Rupert Murdoch, Elisabeth Murdoch.

With the funding, James and Maverick are consolidating their trio of media companies into a single entity, SpringHill, which is aiming to serve as a multifaceted platform to empower Black creators and audiences, Variety reports.

The funding was led by Guggenheim; as well as  Sister, the production company founded by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Jane Featherstone; the University of California’s UC Investments; and Jason Stein’s SC Holdings.

The funding closed in March—on the same day the NBA announced the league was shutting down due to COVID-19—but was announced on Thursday, June 24,as first reported by Bloomberg.

James and Carter’s SpringHill Co. brings together their SpringHill Entertainment production firm, digital-media and consumer-products company Uninterrupted, and the Robot Co. marketing agency. SpringHill Entertainment is behind NBC’s “The Wall” game show; as well as the upcoming “Space Jam: A New Legacy” sequel, set to bow in July 2021. Uninterrunpted has partnered with WarnerMedia’s Bleacher Report and produced “The Shop” on HBO.

The new SpringHill Co. is led by James as chairman and Carter serving as CEO. Joining them on the board are Murdoch, Guggenheim CIO Scott Minerd, tennis ace Serena Williams, Apollo Global Management co-founder Marc Rowan, Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, and L.A. investment banker Paul Wachter.

“I’ve always wanted to use the platform of basketball to empower those around me. Now I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to build a company that empowers creators, consumers, and everything it touches,” James, the NBA superstar who is signed with the L.A. Lakers, said in a statement. “The SpringHill Company defines empowerment. You see it in the team we’ve built, the stories we tell, and the community our work will serve.”

Research contact: @Variety

A-Rod and J-Lo retain JPMorgan to raise money for Mets bid

April 22, 2020

After 22 years as a major league player—and nearly four years in retirement—baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez has decided he wants to be back in the game.

He and his fiancé, recording artist and actor Jennifer Lopez, have retained JPMorgan Chase to raise capital for a possible bid on the New York Mets, people familiar with the matter told Variety exclusively this week. .

The celebrity couple is working with Managing Director Eric Menell, the bank’s co-head of North American media investment banking, said the sources, who were granted anonymity because the matter is private. Menell didn’t respond to several requests seeking comment.

Representatives for Rodriguez and Lopez did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Wilpon family, which owns the Mets, said in December they were in talks to sell up to 80% of the Major League Baseball team to hedge fund titan Steve Cohen in a deal that valued the club at $2.6 billion. Under terms of that proposed deal, the Wilpons would’ve maintained control of the franchise for five years.

Negotiations fell apart after Cohen sought to amend the terms. Since then, the Mets have retained Allen & Co.’s Steve Greenberg to oversee the sale process.

According to the Variety report, it isn’t uncommon for an athlete, entertainer or celebrity to hold a limited position in a professional sports team. A-Rod’s former teammate, Derek Jeter, for instance, is a part owner of baseball’s Miami Marlins. The team’s managing partner is venture capitalist Bruce Sherman; while Jeter, who owns about 4% of the club, runs business and baseball operations. Jeter contributed about $25 million to the purchase of the team, which was sold for $1.2 billion.

A-Rod and J-Lo, as the recording artist is known, would similarly require deep-pocketed partners in order to pull off the purchase. Their combined net worth is about $700 million.

As a player, A-Rod entertained signing with the Mets as a free agent in 2000. He ultimately signed a record 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers. He was then traded to the Yankees, where he won a World Series.

J-Lo is from the Bronx, home of the Yankees.

Unlike with Cohen, no preconditions regarding control of the team will be attached to the sale. Cohen holds an 8% stake in the Mets.

The Wilpons assumed control of the franchise in 2002 at a valuation of $391 million. Whoever buys the team will assume annual losses of at least $50 million, Variety said.

Research contact: @Variety

Let your hair down: Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV sequel is casting very hirsute actors

December 30, 2019

If you have hair in places where most people don’t, you might have a shot at a role on a television series! The casting agents behind Amazon’s coming Lord of the Rings production are seeking “hairy, hairy people” with “wrinkles and lots of them, please” to play orcs, who are the foot soldiers of the Dark Lords’ armies, according to a report by Canoe.

The new show—which already is one of the most highly anticipated series in the production pipeline—has already received its season two renewal, Tom’s Guide reports, although there’s no official premiere date yet for season one.

There’s no such thing as a bad hair day on this set: The Independent reports that a casting call said potential actors could be  super short (under 5 feet) or super tall (think: 6-foot-5) with unique “character faces” and “hairy, hairy people of all ages and ethnicities.”

It continues: “HAIR HAIR HAIR – if you have natural red hair, white hair, or lots and lots of freckles.”

In addition, the casting agents would be open to “stocky, mean-looking bikers” and circus performers “who can juggle, Canoe says.

Truck driver Justin Smith told The Wall Street Journal  that he answered the casting call—emphasizing  that he’ “perfect,” because “I’ve got more than missing teeth; I’ve got none. I’m short,and I’ve got red hair.” Smith is still waiting for an audition callback.

Set as a prequel to the film series, the TV show will star Joseph Mawle, Markella Kavenagh, and Ema Horvath. Mawle—likely most well-known for playing Benjen Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones—will have a starring role, Variety confirmed in October.

Research contact: @Canoe

National Lampoon returns with ‘Radio Hour’ podcast, but no Trump jokes

December 18, 2019

The relaunch of National Lampoon—the famed comedy studio for live performances, films, TV, social media, and audio productions—begins in earnest this week with the December 19 debut of National Lampoon Radio Hour, a sketch comedy podcast written and performed by Cole Escola, Jo Firestone, and clutch of rising-star comedians, Variety reports.

On the latest episode of Variety‘s Strictly Business podcast, National Lampoon President Evan Shapiro—hired last May to revive the brand—discusses the guiding principles behind the comeback of a phenomenon that was a primal force in the careers of Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, John Hughes, Christopher Guest, Harold Ramis, Michael O’Donoghue and other heavyweights.

The company founded in 1970 as a humor magazine by Harvard Lampoon alumni—and later, expanded into a radio sketch comedy series, albums, and live stage shows.

As industry legend goes, the founders of National Lampoon turned down the offer from Lorne Michaels to develop the original “Radio Hour” into a TV series. That prompted Michaels to hire away many from the Lampoon stable to kickstart Saturday Night Live for NBC in 1975.

Given National Lampoon’s history with the Radio Hour, a podcast made sense to start a new era for the company. During the interview recorded in the comedy performance space at Brooklyn’s famed Union Hall, Shapiro also shared a clip from the new-model  Radio Hour—featuring a spoof of ABC’s enduring reality series The Bachelorette.

Video of the podcast performers in action on each episode will be uploaded to National Lampoon’s YouTube channel — a precursor to what Shapiro hopes will be a TV development pact for the property, Variety reports. Shapiro sees the podcast and YouTube offshoot as a handy way to “monetize the development process.”

The industry news outlet says the podcast also takes a cue from the Lampoon’s past by offering promising young comedians “a safe haven and format where they can really do anything,” Shapiro says. “It’s a platform to critique and satirize mainstream culture.”

The company now aims to integrate itself back into the cutting-edge comedy world with the podcast, live shows around the country and at a dedicated performance space in New York, and a host of film and TV projects in development.

“We want to be the brand that people want to wear on their chest,” Shapiro said. The live component of the comedy business gives them an opening to become part of what Shapiro sees as “the comedy lifestyle” for hard-core fans of standup, improve, and sketch troupes. “Media brands that have engaged communities, ones that are sustained over time — those are going to be the truly successful media enterprises” of the future, he said.

One thing listeners won’t hear on “Radio Hour,” which is set for an 11-episode initial run as weekly installments, is an avalanche of Trump-related humor. True to the spirit of the company that generated such box office smashes in 1978’s Animal House and the Chevy Chase-led Vacation movie franchise, National Lampoon aims to offer a “twisted mainstream” skewering of contemporary culture. But it will not be overtly political — an edgy choice, given the environment.

“We are going to take on culture, not politics,” Shapiro said. “We’re holding up a mirror to the culture that needs to know that those jeans do make your ass look fat.”

Research contact: @Variety

Disney+ to come out of the starting gates in November

April 15, 2019

Disney’s bold new foray into subscription streaming with Disney+ got a thumbs-up from investors on April 12—pushing shares up over 10% in morning trading ,  while Netflix’s stock was down more than 3%, Variety reported.

The global entertainment and theme park company announced that its Disney+ subscription video on demand (SVOD) service would cost $6.99 per month, which is nearly half the price of Netflix’s standard $13 monthly plan.

Disney is investing heavily in Disney+’s U.S. launch, slated for November 12, the news outlet said. In fiscal 2020, the Mouse House will spend $1 billion in cash on original programming for Disney+, while it will have just under $1 billion in operating expenses, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy told analysts.

The platform will be supported by subscriptions; not advertising. Indeed, Disney’s projections for Disney+ — to reach 60 million-90 million subs by fiscal year 2024—were far above Wall Street expectations. The breakeven point for the SVOD service of FY 2024 also is more aggressive than analysts predicted, Variety said.

Out of the gate, the news outlet reported, Disney+ will be the exclusive U.S. SVOD streaming home for Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm films—starting with 2019 releases, which include “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Aladdin,” “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King,” “Frozen 2,” and “Star Wars: Episode IX.”

All told, Disney+ will include 25 original series, including Jon Favreau’s Stars Wars-set “The Mandalorian” and a “High School Musical” series; along with ten original films and specials. In addition, it will be stocked with 400 library films — including 18 Pixar titles, nearly all Marvel movies and, within the first year, all the movies in the Star Wars franchise — and 100 recent movie releases from the Disney portfolio.

Also, it will feature 7,500 episodes of current a past TV shows; that includes 30 full seasons of “The Simpsons,” which are moving from FX’s Simpsons World app to the new service — one tangible result of Disney’s Fox takeover.

Disney will “likely” intro a discounted bundle of Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, Kevin Mayer, chairman of the company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment said on April 11 — which will give the company additional levers to play with. In addition, Disney’s absorption of Fox’s entertainment assets provides “an unparalleled arsenal of IP to support its streaming services,” Patrice Cucinello, a director at Fitch Ratings, told Variety.

The announcement of the $6.99 monthly price point “generated a collective gasp in the room,” MoffettNathanson principal analyst Michael Nathanson said in a note published Friday. The service “looks like a bargain compared to other entertainment options.” Nathanson reiterated a “buy” rating on Disney stock and boosted his target price to $141 per share (up $7).

Research contact: @Variety