The clocks have gone back in the UK, meaning longer, darker nights and the sense summer is long gone. Happily, there’s plenty of news to keep us occupied. Jesse Whittock here taking you through the first Insider of the month. Let’s go.
Roku Gets Down With Weird Al
Eilenberg! Right ahead!: I sat down, albeit virtually, with Roku’s Head of Originals David Eilenberg for an exclusive interview as the free streaming service launched feature Weird: The Al Yankovic Story this week. Roku’s a company that many in the content game are watching closely, as it begins rolling out internationally under the command of former Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier, who unexpectedly made the switch at the end of October. Eilenberg, the former Chief Content Officer of ITV America, has been working on a slate of films and TV shows since he joined earlier this year. “It’s an exciting time to be part of the organization,” he told me. “Roku itself has been around for the past two decades but Roku Originals are only a year old so the fact we’re up and active in four big territories means it’s an exciting time for the channel and my time spearheading originals.” With the digital ad market dipping and the global economy in a perilous place right now, all content companies with big ambitions are assessing their plans but Roku is clearly setting out its stall to be a key player. The fact it held loud and colourful screenings for Weird in London and New York this week points to confidence and Eilenberg was bullish, saying: “If there’s a key statement here, it’s that we’re setting out to surprise and delight viewers.”
Getting FASTer: The advertiser-funded streaming market saw the entrance of Netflix this week, which debuted low-cost tier ‘Basic with Ads’ in 12 territories. Deadline questioned Eilenberg on how much of a threat its new competitor would be, but Roku is taking a more holistic view on the situation, welcoming the development. Eilenberg said SVoD services pushing into AVoD was a demonstration of a wider, longer-term shift of ad spend moving from linear to digital. “There’s been extraordinary growth in FAST channel viewing,” said Eilenberg. “It’s both true for us and across the AVoD sector. Some of it is for news and weather but some is curated show channels. If you know you have enough hours to populate a FAST channel and the viewership who wants it, you’re always interested in doing it.” Sounds like there’s some, well, FAST money to be made. (Sorry, not sorry.)
M&A In A Land Down Under
ITV Studios learns local Lingo: Big breaking news in the M&A space this week came when it emerged ITV Studios had made its first drama acquisition in Australia, paying what sources close to the deal say is an eight-figure dollar amount to pick up the seven-year-old, Sydney-based Lingo Pictures. Having worked with talent such as House of the Dragon’s Milly Alcock in recent years and found work with local and international partners such as Sky, Lingo was a hot property in a country whose drama credentials really are taking off in a way not seen since the Underworld crime drama franchise was selling globally. For ITV Studios, whose own future isn’t clear following the news its broadcaster parent ITV might sell a portion of the successful production and sales division to reverse an ailing share price, the deal demonstrates that its staff are treating everything as BAU, for now at least.
Princess rolls with Boulder: That wasn’t the only acquisitions deal coming out of Australia this week, though. Only Tuesday, I broke the news Melbourne’s Princess Pictures had acquired Boulder Media, the Irish animation studio behind shows such as Go Jetters and animated Transformers and My Little Pony titles. Boulder’s previous parent, Hasbro, has been reviewing its entertainment assets. It’s been speculated even eOne is up for sale, though the Boulder dispersal is the first since Hasbro publicly acknowledged it was considering a strategy change to focus on existing IP such as Transformers. For Princess, which is co-creating Hulu’s Koala Man with Bento Box Entertainment through their joint venture Princess Bento, buying Boulder means bolstered animation capabilities and the chance to help the Irish firm, to this point almost entirely focused on kids content, to move into more adult-skewing genres such as adult animation. The strategic sense here far eclipses widely mocked Tory politician Matt Hancock’s plan to rehabilitate his public image by heading to Australia to appear in I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here — which has already seen him suspended from his party.
Ahead of the Curve: The final international M&A of the week saw Germany’s Night Train Media consolidate the acquisitions of European distributors BossaNova and Eccho Rights by snapping up UK factual producer Curve Media. Deadline had revealed that Salvage Hunters and Our Dementia Choir producer Curve had appointed GothamStreet to explore its options in June. Back then, sources told me Curve was expecting to double its revenues to about £25M ($28M) this year, so the amount Night Train has paid won’t be insignificant if those bullish numbers are coming true. Read on for more.
4 Decades Of Channel 4
Meet… Channel 4: The UK’s beloved (and possibly soon to be sold) Channel 4 turned 40 this week and, to celebrate, the network unveiled a rebrand that left the press and other commentators somewhat bemused. In a bid to bring all C4 products under one brand, VoD player All4 and all portfolio channels are being renamed… Channel 4. Max attended a press briefing with Chief Marketing Officer Zaid Al-Qassab, who it’s fair to say was met with some confused faces when revealing the news. While the logic appears sound, the feeling was that it will be hard for consumers to get their head around all platforms and channels having the same name: how will they be able to distinguish in conversation between watching, say, Bake Off , on linear compared with VoD? But, hey, what do we know? The world thought they would never get used to the previous rebrand (the switch from 4oD to All4) but that eventually ended up seeping into the national psyche. Al-Qassab, who stressed the research that has gone into the rebrand, compared the move to Deliveroo having the same name for its website and app. “We’ve never looked at All4 as a brand in itself,” he said, willing the press pack to understand. More on this in the coming months, with the rebrand coming into effect next Spring.
A very public birthday card: The UK’s punchy, irreverent youth-skewing broadcaster couldn’t miss an opportunity to raise awareness of its (potentially) privatized fate as it turned 40 on Wednesday. Giant 5ft and 2ft cards were delivered to its London and Leeds bases, signed by Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci, Tory MP Peter Bottomley, 40 British production companies and other talent. A reminder of where we are: Legislation for Channel 4 privatization was rubberstamped in May’s Queen’s speech but since then the UK government has collapsed — not once but twice — and the pendulum has swung away from a sale. New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is a friend of Channel 4 and new Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan is now “reviewing the business case” for the proposed £1B ($1.12B) sale, a far cry from where we were a few months ago when Nadine Dorries was claiming it was a done deal and interested parties were preparing bids. Hopes are slowly rising in the halls of Horseferry Road, not doubt even moreso this morning by a report in the FT that Rishi Sunak plans to scrap the plan altogether. Here’s to another four decades of Channel 4!
Kevin Spacey Controversially Receives Italian Honor
Last month, a jury found Kevin Spacey not liable for damages in actor Anthony Sapp’s $40M sexual misconduct lawsuit and there is more good news headed the way of the controversial two-time Academy Award winner. In January 2023, he will present a masterclass at Italy’s National Museu of Cinema, where he will also receive a lifetime achievement award. Some might find that distasteful, will Spacey still facing serious criminal charges in the UK, but museum President Enzo Ghigo said Spacey’s was a “welcome and long-awaited return.” Zac had more.
Opening France’s Windows
Time for new chronology — already?: The long-running debate around France’s controversial windowing rules ratcheted up again this week, after the country’s Minister of Culture said they needed updating less than a year after a major overhaul. The country’s notoriously strict chronology legislation underwent a radical overhaul after hard-fought, decade-long negotiations between all the main stakeholders in the local film and TV industries. The new rules, which came into effect in February, saw the window between a feature film’s theatrical release and its availability via streaming reduced to 15-17 months, against the previous gap of 36. The three-year deal came with an annual review clause and the global streamers are pressing for further reductions. Disney has been publicly leading the charge in this campaign, threatening to forego theatrical releases of its films in France, to put them directly on Disney+. Minister of Culture Rima Adbul Rima told a radio interview this week that the platforms were “legitimate” in their demands, and later told the annual meeting of the directors guild L’ARP that she hoped fresh talks begun in October would result in further updates of the chronology by January and February of next year. Mel and Nancy take you deeper here.
🌶️ Hot One: Max broke the news of Amadeus, a Sky drama series about the beloved composer, with Giri/Haji’s Joe Barton writing.
🌶️ Another One: Raven Banner Entertainment boards Filipino action thriller Trigger, as scooped by our Asia expert Liz.
🌶️ A third One, sure: Louis Theroux told Max about his new doc Lockerbie for Sky. More here.
🔥 One more for luck: Sky is rebootingThe Day of the Jackal as a TV series, with Top Boy‘s Ronan Bennett attached.
🕵️♂️ Returning PI: Viaplay is bringing back Ian Rankin’s grizzly Scottish detective Rebus for the first time in nearly 15 years.
📹 Casting: Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi is to lead an adaptation of Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Narrow Roadto the North.
🤝 Done deal: Samuel Goldwyn Films buys North American rights to Sweden’s Oscar entry Cairo Conspiracy, as Nancy revealed.
🇺🇸 AFM #1: Another look at Johnny Depp in Jeanne Du Barry as Wild Bunch secured deals for the film, as per Mel’s story.
🇺🇸 AFM #2: Metro International launched sales on Indian superstar Samantha Ruth Prabhu rom-com Chennai Story, as Andreas revealed.
➡️ On the move: Initial Co-Managing Director Cat heads to Amazon Studios — one from me.
🆕 All change: Lookout Point CEO Faith Penhale heads for Pathe Productions, with Cameron McCracken moving to a Head of Film position.
Max Goldbart and Melanie Goodfellow contributed to this week’s Insider