Posts tagged with "Variety"

Taylor Swift to re-record songs after music catalog is sold to private equity fund for $300M

November 18, 2020

Singer and songwriter Taylor Swift has confirmed a November 16 report that her music catalogue has been sold to a private equity group without her knowledge or consent—or the second time in two years—dashing her hopes of regaining control over her masters after they were controversially acquired by music mogul Scooter Braun last year.

At the time, Swift described Braun’s acquisition of her catalog as her “worst case scenario,” Forbes reports.

Variety, which first reported the story, say the deal is believed to be worth more than $300 million, with Swift confirming that Shamrock Holdings, an investment vehicle for certain members of the Roy E. Disney family, had “bought 100% of my music, videos, and album art” from Braun.

In  statement shared to Twitter and Instagram on Monday, Swift said she had initially welcomed the prospect of working with Shamrock, before discovering that the agreement meant that Braun and his company, Ithaca Holdings, which acquired her catalog last year would “continue to receive many years of future financial reward” from her master recordings, something she “cannot currently entertain.”

“We made this investment because we believe in the immense value and opportunity that comes with her work. We fully respect and support her decision and, while we hoped to formally partner, we also knew this was a possible outcome that we considered,” Shamrock said in a statement. The purchase is the firm’s first major investment in a music catalog.

Swift also shared a letter she wrote to Shamrock Holdings, in which she said she has already begun re-recording her old music—something she acknowledges will “diminish the value” of Shamrock’s investment, and a move she announced she announced last August.

Photo source: @Forbes

They ‘were on a break,’ but Friends reunion episode will film in March

November 16, 2020

After months of delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the hotly anticipated reunion episode of Friends—the popular sitcom that aired from 1994 through 2004 and jump-started the careers of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer—is due to start filming in March 2021.

Matthew Perry, better known as Chandler Bing on the series, made the announcement on Twitter on November 12, saying “Friends reunion being rescheduled for the beginning of March. Looks like we have a busy year coming up. And that’s the way we like it!”

Ben Winston will direct the special and executive produce alongside Friends executive producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. Warner Bros. Unscripted & Alternative Television and Fulwell 73 Productions are behind the program. Aniston, Cox, Kudrow, LeBlanc, Perry, and Schwimmer also are executive producing the special, with Emma Conway and James Longman on board as co-executive producers.

Research contact: @Variety

Kould it be true? ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ is ending after 20 seasons

September 11, 2020

After a 20-season, 14-year run marked by marriages, divorces, births, deaths, affairs, plastic surgeries, gender-change surgery, world travel; and selfies of every variety, as well as tears and laughs, Keeping Up With the Kardashians announced on September 7 that the TV show’s last season on the E! Network is scheduled to start in early 2021.

 “It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians,’ ” the network said in a statement in conjunction with Kris Jenner, the Kardashian siblings (Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and Rob), the Jenner sisters (Kylie and Kendall); and, naturally, Scott Disick. “We are beyond grateful to all of you who’ve watched us for all of these years — through the good times, the bad times, the happiness, the tears, and the many relationships and children. We’ll forever cherish the wonderful memories and countless people we’ve met along the way.”

The family thanked E!, the production team at Bunim/Murray; and Ryan Seacrest, who has been an executive producer on the show since the beginning.

E! released an official statement to Variety, regarding the ending of the monumental show that helped define the network as a destination beyond entertainment news.“E! has been the home and extended family to the Kardashian-Jenners for what will be 14 years, featuring the lives of this empowering family,” the network’s statement reads. “Along with all of you, we have enjoyed following the intimate moments the family so bravely shared by letting us into their daily lives. While it has been an absolute privilege and we will miss them wholeheartedly, we respect the family’s decision to live their lives without our cameras.”

“KUWTK” has been a massive hit globally for the network, which airs repeats of the franchise constantly — and pays a pretty penny for those rights. In 2017, E! inked a mega-deal with the family for a three-year extension, taking the show through 2020, valued at nine figures. At the time, insiders told Variety that the renewal deal was worth “below $100 million,” although other reports stated that the deal was worth up to $150 million.

The show turned the Kardashian-Jenner family into international superstars—with a multimedia empire complete with clothing lines, cosmetics companies, apps and never-ending tabloid interest in their every move. When the show debuted, Kris Jenner, now known as one of the savviest businesswomen in the industry, was known to the public as the ex-wife of O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Kardashian. Her former spouse, Olympian [Bruce] Caitlyn Jenner also ended up starring in her own E! spinoff, “I Am Cait, which documented her transition into a transgender woman.

According to Variety, when the show hit the air, the family was best known for Kim Kardashian-West’s sex tape, which brought worldwide attention to the socialite—whom previously had been Paris Hilton’s sidekick. Today, Kardashian-West is one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, and has taken her power to the White House with her passion for criminal justice reform. Meanwhile, Kendall and Kylie Jenner were just kids when the show first started airing, and now are two of the most powerful—and lucrative—influencers in the world.

At the time of the series’ 10-year anniversary in 2017, Kris Jenner spoke to Variety about the show’s milestones and futures. In that interview, she spoke about when the time might come to end the show, saying, “I used to just joke and say it’ll be when Kylie gets married in 20 years, and here we are 10 years later. Who thought a decade later we would still be going as strong as we are?”

The famous family members posted about the show ending on their social media accounts, which reach hundreds of millions of fans.

Kardashian-West posted to her 188 million followers: “Without ‘Keeping Up with The Kardashians,’ I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has watched and supported me and my family these past 14 incredible years,” she wrote. “This show made us who we are and I will be forever in debt to everyone who played a role in shaping our careers and changing our lives forever.”

Research contact: @Variety

Not so nice? ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’ workplace to be reviewed by WarnerMedia

July 29, 2020

Following rumors that the staff of the daytime talker, “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” has been intimidated, insulted, and otherwise mistreated; WarnerMedia has started an investigation into the workplace environment of the syndicated program, which has been a staple on the air since 2003.

Executives from Warner Bros. Television and the production company Telepictures sent a letter to employees of the talk show last week that outlined the company’s investigation, according to two people with knowledge of the letter, The New York Times reported.

WarnerMedia’s employee relations department, along with representatives from an outside company, will interview current and former staff members about their experiences on the program, the people said.

The decision to start the review followed the publication of articles that included allegations from current and former employees of discrimination and abusive behavior. Warner Bros. Television and a representative for DeGeneres declined to comment.

BuzzFeed News published an article this month that described what it called a “toxic work culture.” In the article, former staff members said they faced “racism, fear and intimidation” and laid most of the blame on three of the show’s executive producers, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner. DeGeneres also is a producer on the show.

Former employees said they were fired for taking time off for medical leave or bereavement. Black employees said they experienced racist comments. One said that one of the show’s writers had told her, “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here.”

In a joint statement to BuzzFeed News, Glavin, Connelly and Lassner said: “For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”

Variety first reported on the WarnerMedia investigation.

Last year, DeGeneres—known as “the Queen of Nice” by her audience— renewed her contract to continue hosting the program through 2022. She also signed a deal to create three shows for WarnerMedia’s streaming platform, HBO Max.

Research contact: @BuzzFeedNews

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