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1-20 of 109 items from 2016   « Prev | Next »


Jennifer Saunders Says Her Dream ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ Prequel Would Star Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham

21 hours ago | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

On Wednesday night, being beyond fabulous was obligatory to gain entry into Leicester Square’s Odeon for the world premiere of “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” in London. Drag queens by the dozen littered the golden carpet, blinding fans with sequin reflections and glistening full body latex — a scene that made star and scribe, Jennifer Saunders, and partner in Lacroix-covered crime, Joanna Lumley, look shockingly under-dressed.

To date 2016 has proved a grim year for celebrity survival. So it was joyous news that Kate Moss’ reported demise, having drowned in the river Thames, never to pout again, was merely the plot for the film.

Quarter of a century on from its small screen conception, what made here and now ripe for the resurrection of faux fashionistas, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone? Producer, Jon Plowman, was on hand to explain the team’s simple, killer push. “Part of the reason we did this was, »

- Helen Jackson

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Corey Lewandowski Denies Losing $1.2 Million Book Deal After Donald Trump Fired Him

29 June 2016 9:59 AM, PDT | The Wrap | See recent The Wrap news »

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is denying a Politico report that he lost a $1.2 million offer from HarperCollins to write a book detailing the presumptive Gop nominee’s presidential run. Politico reported that the publisher, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp., backed out because of the non-disclosure agreement that Lewandowski signed when he went to work for the Trump campaign last year. “Once again @politico has their facts wrong and attributed to unnamed sources,” Lewandowski tweeted on Tuesday morning. “Guess journalistic integrity doesn’t rank as a priority there.” Politico and HarperCollins did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. »

- Brian Flood

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Sky’s Now TV Launches Contract-Free U.K. Triple-Play Bundle

29 June 2016 4:53 AM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

London — European pay-tv giant Sky is reaching out to commitment-phobes by launching what it called Britain’s first contract-free triple-play bundle, comprising TV, broadband and telephone, through its Now TV standalone streaming service.

Available from July in the U.K. and Ireland, the Now TV Combo comes complete with a new set-top box, combining a range of live and on-demand TV with up to 35 pay TV channels and more than 60 free-to-air channels. Users can pay for services on a monthly basis without any longer-term commitment.

Prices range from £9.99 ($13.42) to £51.99 ($69.88) depending on which of the four streaming passes are selected. Customers will also pay line rental at $24.16 per month and a onetime set-up fee of $53.75 or $67.20, depending on the broadband speed.

Launched in 2012, Now TV plays a major part in Sky chief Jeremy Darroch’s strategy to offer a wide range of services, from pay-as-you-go Ott offers to high-end pay-tv services. The »

- Diana Lodderhose

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Rupert Murdoch Calls Brexit ‘Wonderful,’ Like a ‘Prison Break’

28 June 2016 11:15 AM, PDT | The Wrap | See recent The Wrap news »

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is very happy about the Brexit decision. In his first public remarks since Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Murdoch called the decision “wonderful.” Murdoch owns several news organizations in the U.K., including The Sun, The Times and Sky News. Murdoch spoke at a Times CEO summit on Tuesday where Ed Conway, editor of Sky News and a columnist at The Times, tweeted some of his boss’ remarks. Also Read: John Oliver Warns American Voters After Brexit: 'There Are No F-ing Do-Overs' “I think it’s wonderful,” Murdoch said of the vote to leave. »

- Brian Flood

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British Notables in Entertainment React to Brexit Vote: ‘Goodbye, U.K.’

24 June 2016 3:45 AM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

“Goodbye, U.K.” That’s how “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling summed up her reaction to the shock of Britain’s vote to withdraw from the European Union.

The results of the referendum dubbed “Brexit” by British media sent notable figures from entertainment and media to social media to express their feelings. The general sentiment among showbizzers vocal on social media tilted toward negative, after a divisive campaign and vote that fell along generational and partisan lines.

Related Content British Prime Minister David Cameron Resigns

The Late Late Show” host James Corden was among those questioning how the decision will impact future generations. “I’m so sorry to the youth of Britain,” Corden said via Twitter. “I fear you’ve been let down today.”

There was much discussion about how the decision would ultimately affect prices and dealmaking for British companies. As actor Hugh Laurie observed via Twitter: “England fans will be paying 25 quid for a bottle »

- Variety Staff

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The 10 Most Powerful People in Hollywood

23 June 2016 9:23 AM, PDT | newser.com | See recent newser news »

For the first time, the Hollywood Reporter has put together a list of the 100 most powerful people in entertainment, though it's what Paste Magazine describes as a list "celebrating the accomplishments of … white guys." Only 19 women and 10 people of color make the cut. THR acknowledges the stat—"We won’t need social media, thanks anyway, to drop an anvil on our heads to realize this"—but says the list reflects currently reality, not what current reality should be. Here's the top 10: Bob Iger, Disney CEO Rupert Murdoch and sons, 21st Century Fox Leslie Moonves, CBS President »

- Arden Dier

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Sky, Bavaria Greenlight $28-Million TV Version of U-Boat Drama ‘Das Boot’

23 June 2016 1:00 AM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

Rupert Murdoch’s German pay-tv platform Sky Deutschland and German production house Bavaria Film have greenlit a 25-million-euro ($28.3-million) TV version of “Das Boot,” the hit 1981 movie about a German U-boat in World War II.

The eight-hour series is based on Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s novels “Das Boot” (“The Boat”) and “Die Festung” (“The Fortress”), which have been adapted by a writing team led by Tony Saint (“Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley,” “The Interceptor”) and Johannes W. Betz (“The Tunnel,” “The Spiegel Affair”). The series will act as a sequel to the film, picking up from events at the end of the pic.

The TV drama primarily focuses on the German perspective of events, but also includes the experiences of French Resistance and Allied forces in the war. Running through all the action is Buchheim’s central theme: the blind fanaticism that drives young men into a senseless war.

Christian »

- Leo Barraclough

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Murdoch Brothers Assert Their Power With Bold Moves at Fox

21 June 2016 12:52 PM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

In the first months after James and Lachlan Murdoch rose to the top of their family’s media empire, change was slow to come — so much so that some observers wondered if, and when, the brothers would step out from their father’s formidable shadow.

But a series of provocative moves at 20th Century Fox — reaching a crescendo last week with their first major management overhaul — underscore the fact that their moment has arrived.

First, in February, the duo engineered a voluntary buyout plan that saw 400 longtime employees leave the company as part of a mandate to slash $250 million of overhead. Then, last week, they orchestrated the ouster of veteran business executive Greg Gelfan. The week concluded with the revelation that the 40-something heirs would usher in new leadership at the movie studio, putting co-chairman Stacey Snider in place to succeed chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos when his contract expires next June. »

- James Rainey and Brent Lang

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As Stacey Snider Ascends at Fox, Hollywood Is in Turnaround

17 June 2016 9:44 AM, PDT | Indiewire | See recent Indiewire news »

At the 2014 New York Film Festival premiere of “Gone Girl,” Twentieth Century Fox Film Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos seemed visibly relieved to have Stacey Snider finally join the studio, after months of speculation that this capable executive would join him from DreamWorks. Now, almost two years later —and after a 25-year career at Fox —the studio has confirmed that Gianopulos’ contract will not be renewed after it expires on June 30, 2017, when he will graduate “upstairs” into an executive role at parent company 21st Century Fox.

This follows a transition for Snider that has not been smooth. While the veteran exec has the right mix of skills to run a studio (and did so at Universal with Ron Meyer), knows how to manage a team of executives, and how to develop, produce, and release movies that are smart and four-quadrant friendly, entering the Fox landscape proved to be a challenge. »

- Anne Thompson

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As Stacey Snider Ascends at Fox, Hollywood Is in Turnaround

17 June 2016 9:44 AM, PDT | Thompson on Hollywood | See recent Thompson on Hollywood news »

At the 2014 New York Film Festival premiere of “Gone Girl,” Twentieth Century Fox Film Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos seemed visibly relieved to have Stacey Snider finally join the studio, after months of speculation that this capable executive would join him from DreamWorks. Now, almost two years later —and after a 25-year career at Fox —the studio has confirmed that Gianopulos’ contract will not be renewed after it expires on June 30, 2017, when he will graduate “upstairs” into an executive role at parent company 21st Century Fox.

This follows a transition for Snider that has not been smooth. While the veteran exec has the right mix of skills to run a studio (and did so at Universal with Ron Meyer), knows how to manage a team of executives, and how to develop, produce, and release movies that are smart and four-quadrant friendly, entering the Fox landscape proved to be a challenge. »

- Anne Thompson

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Fox's Film Studio Politics at Play in Top Executive Shake-up

17 June 2016 6:30 AM, PDT | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Stacey Snider became the first woman to head two major motion picture studios on Thursday, when 20th Century Fox announced she will succeed Jim Gianopulos as the company’s top film executive. Snider, 55, served as head of Universal Pictures from 1999 to 2006 and then spent eight years running DreamWorks Studios with Steven Spielberg before Rupert Murdoch personally wooed her to join Fox as co-chairman just 18 months ago. In the aftermath of the reveal, several top Hollywood insiders expressed to The Hollywood Reporter both immediate surprise at Snider's elevation (especially after questions swirled about her role at the studio) and then a

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- Gregg Kilday

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8 Momentous Deals Tied to Sun Valley

17 June 2016 5:00 AM, PDT | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Viacom rivals Shari Redstone and Philippe Dauman were both invited to the Allen & Co. famous Sun Valley retreat, where media and tech moguls gather each year and sometimes hatch deals. If both attend next month, they'll surely be the talk of the gathering, outshining invited guests like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger and former CFO Tom Staggs, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, Disney board member Maria Elena Lagomasino and 21st Century Fox's James, Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch, along with Chase Carey and CFO John Nallen. Also expected is CBS CEO Leslie Moonves,

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- Paul Bond

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Stacey Snider to Succeed Jim Gianopulos as Fox Film CEO in 2017

16 June 2016 11:41 AM, PDT | The Wrap | See recent The Wrap news »

Stacey Snider will succeed 20th Century Fox Film Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos when his contract expires in 2017. Gianopulous will transition into a larger advisory role, while current Co-Chairman Snider will take his place at the top of the studio, the company announced Thursday. “Jim has delivered year after year, with films that truly soared, spanning ‘Titanic,’ ‘Avatar,’ and most recently the wildly successful ‘Deadpool,'” Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a statement. Also Read: Fox Filmed Entertainment Evp Greg Gelfan to Resign “I am so pleased Jim has agreed to stay on in a new role and have the utmost confidence in. »

- Matt Donnelly

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Stacey Snider Expected to Succeed Jim Gianopulos at Fox Despite Rocky Start (Exclusive)

16 June 2016 10:40 AM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Twentieth Century Fox Co-Chairman Stacey Snider is in position to succeed Jim Gianopulos as sole head of the film studio, where she has yet to make a significant mark after 17 months as his No. 2, Variety has learned.

The power shift was expected to take place next June, when Gianopulos’ contract expires, but it appears that timetable is being expedited, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

The long-gestating transition — that Fox has yet to acknowledge publicly — is causing unease among fellow executives who are loyalists to chairman and CEO Gianopulos. Having been hand-picked for the job by Rupert Murdoch, Snider has failed to define a role for herself on the studio’s Century City lot, which has left many insiders confused, frustrated and in some cases resentful.

Over the years, Snider, 55, had built a reputation as a smart executive with creative chops and strong talent relationships. She’s held top posts from TriStar Pictures to Universal Pictures and most recently had an eight year run at Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks studio. But Fox sources said Snider has not carved out a significant perch at a studio whose multi-division structure already features strong, decisive leaders: Elizabeth Gabler, running Fox 2000; Emma Watts, heading production at the main studio; Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley overseeing Fox Searchlight.

Insiders suggest that seasoned executives at the studio have chafed under the prospect of an outsider calling the shots at an operation that was viewed as well-oiled before her arrival at the studio in November, 2014.

Snider’s hire, orchestrated by Fox supreme leader Rupert Murdoch, suffered from awkward timing. She joined Fox at the end of a year when the studio had won the box office wars for the first time in three decades with a record $3 billion in global ticket sales. Although Gianopulos announced Snider’s hiring and publicly embraced it, he and his lieutenants privately were mystified by her appointment, believing that the studio was running smoothly, sources said.

Even as she was brought on board, a press account quoted an unnamed studio executive asking “Why do we need her?” If more evidence was needed that not everyone wanted a spot on Team Stacey, it came with the revelation that Fox veteran Gabler had no intention of changing the terms of her contract that stipulated she reported directly to Gianopulos.

Snider told people that she would take a year to study the Fox system and ease her way into leadership. She didn’t want to threaten “the finest group of executives and filmmakers in the business,” as she described the Fox incumbents.

Snider has since been scrambling to find an open seat at the Fox table. From the get-go and into recent weeks, Snider has complained to agents and business associates that her role at Fox was undefined and that her underlings have made it difficult for her to assert herself. But, some insiders view that as Snider unfairly playing the victim rather than being more pro-active in landing big projects and making her own mark. Some suggest that perhaps Snider’s lack of assertiveness is a function of her simply biding her time and choosing not to step on her colleagues’ toes, believing that she was poised to replace Gianopulos as head of the studio.

“She was hired by Rupert Murdoch and brought here without a mandate,” said one Fox executive, who declined to be named discussing corporate intrigue that he described as “a minefield.” “She has certain allies who support her. But there is speculation and great fear within this organization that the Murdochs may be unaware (that) she (was) able to sell them a bill of goods that she cannot deliver.”

Rupert Murdoch and his sons and heirs James and Lachlan, who now oversee Fox, declined interview requests.

People at Fox said Gianopulos loves his job and is not ready to be replaced, any more than former Warner Bros. president Alan Horn was ready to pass the baton to a younger generation of managers when Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes pulled the cord on his highly successful 12-year run.

Gianopulos, 65, who may be elevated to Fox parent 21st Century Fox, has been a strong leader from his earlier days building the studio’s international business into the industry gold standard to his 16 years at the helm of Fox. He has guided Fox amidst massive industry changes and technological disruption as the studio’s conduit to Silicon Valley.

Sources said he has been very supportive of Snider’s desire to step up in areas in which she thought the studio was deficient, including franchise development and animation. “She’s been testing the fence throughout the organization to try to find a hole she can get through,” said one Fox insider. Three other executives close to the studio independently offered the same commentary on Snider’s tenure, saying, “I don’t know what she does.”

Some initially viewed Snider as moving slowly and deliberately, like a diplomat navigating a new land, but many of those people say she remains an ambassador largely without portfolio. She has not produced a signature project, acquired significant intellectual property or changed Fox’s world view – as might have been expected for the executive once described as the entertainment business’s “next Sherry Lansing.”

After their own period of becoming more acquainted with the empire built by their father, James and Lachlan Murdoch are now seen as beginning to assert themselves. They pushed for a buyback program at Fox’s film and television units that shed as many as 400 jobs, and recently ousted Greg Gelfan, the studio’s longtime head of the studio’s business affairs, over Gianopulos’ objections, sources say.

The removal of Gelfan was viewed by many as a major break with the old guard. The tough-talking lawyer negotiated many deals with film talent and kept costs low – making him a hero to his overseers inside Fox and an enemy to agents and others who struggled to get top dollar from Fox for their clients. “Nobody knew the business better than Greg,” said one executive intimately familiar with the studio’s operations.

Supporters of Snider say that Fox executives have not done enough to integrate her into the studio’s hierarchy. There are reports that other executives have tried to keep her on the periphery.

“I have utmost respect for her. I think she is a really great manager and leader,” said an executive who has worked with Snider before and has followed the saga closely. “I get the feeling they didn’t want her and they have made it clear they didn’t want her.”

But those arguments cut no ice with other studio veterans.

“She started in an era when just having the chairman’s title meant that everyone rolled out the red carpet. But now you have to be a little more entrepreneurial,” said the executive, who declined to be named. “The chairman’s title, alone, gives you the wherewithal to get things done.”

One agent described his excitement in November, 2014 when Snider arrived at Fox, hoping that the new boss would open avenues for his clients. But he contrasted that with a recent meeting in which Snider agreed he had a good talent prospect but declined to find a project at Fox that suited the newcomer. Instead, Snider told the agent he should work through production chief Watts. The agent remains hopeful that Snider’s powers will expand. “It’s sad in that it’s been a year and half and there is not one movie that has been a ‘Stacey movie…at least that I know of,’” he said.

“That is so frustrating,” he added. “If Stacey can’t drive something forward herself and has to work through Emma then she seems like a lame duck at the studio. And she has been.”

There has been no love lost between the two executives, according to multiple sources at the studio. Watts’ future prospects at the studio under a Snider regime remain unclear. Speculation among insiders ranges from Snider promoting her and bringing in her own production chief to showing her the door.

Snider’s style has also irked people on and off the lot. Even as she tried to delegate decision-making to staffers, her notes to filmmakers and her constant invocation of Spielberg (“Steven would have done it this way”) have rubbed some top directors the wrong way, according to two insiders. Those sources said there was a lot of tension between Snider and “Independence Day” director Roland Emmerich, which he denies.

“It’s not accurate,” Emmerich told Variety. “Me and Stacey are a lot in sync.” He added that he’s known her for 25 years and considered her a friend.

Emmerich credited Snider with helping him remain calm during a difficult “Independence Day: Resurgence” shoot. The film scrambled to make its summer 2016 release date, requiring crew members to spend the final month of production completing a massive 1,000 visual effects shots.

“We got greenlit a little bit too late,” said Emmerich, adding, “I looked at the schedule and went ‘my god we’re missing two months.”

Snider, Emmerich said, was “my cheerleader,” and kept telling him, “you’re going to make it. You can do this.”

Director Ridley Scott’s publicist Simon Halls refuted a rumor that his director client had a run in with Snider over “The Martian.”

“Stacey, in my opinion, is one of the brightest, most talented executives in the business,” said Halls. “I have known and admired her for years.  She worked very closely with us on ‘The Martian’ and she was extremely effective in her efforts to help the studio mount a robust and, ultimately effective, Oscar campaign for the film.”

To be sure, Snider has many fans in the creative and business circles, not the least of which are her former bosses, Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

“I have no idea about the gossip in town but I can tell you it’s not very valuable,” said Geffen by phone Thursday from Italy.  “It’s laced with envy or jealousy or whatever. She is an extraordinarily talented executive. I worked with her for years and I can tell you, she is as good as it gets.”

He said that DreamWorks suffered financial challenges, like many companies, during the Great Recession but that the studio’s principal,Spielberg, remained so high on Snider that he would not let her out of her contract, when Fox came calling. “I don’t know if these other people talk to Rupert Murdoch and Jim Gianopulos, but I do frequently,” added Geffen. “and I only get great reports about Stacey from them.”

Any recriminations would have been hard to imagine at the storybook opening of Snider’s Hollywood career. She was the rare executive who managed to be both a canny player of studio politics and a favorite in the creative community. The combination helped her, while still in her early 30s, to drive Universal from an also-ran to near the top of the box office heap.

However, her years as the top executive at DreamWorks were much shakier. Snider had a decidedly mixed track record with her movie slates. Films such as “Lincoln” and “The Help” — which had notable partners including Fox and Participant Media — connected with audiences, but they were weighed down by laggards such as “Delivery Man,” “Need for Speed,” and “The Fifth Estate,” all of which hemorrhaged millions.

Time will tell what Snider’s ultimate measure of success will be during her tenure at Fox. What does seem certain is that her ascension to No. 1 will not be without a lot of tumult and further executive changes before the dust settles.

»

- Brent Lang and James Rainey

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Time Warner Chief Jeff Bewkes Fights the Industry’s Urge to Merge

14 June 2016 10:00 AM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

Jeff Bewkes doesn’t hide his amusement when asked whether Time Warner is a takeover target. Sitting at a large circular table in a conference room on the 11th floor of the Time Warner Center, the chairman/CEO ticks off the reasons why the company is well-positioned to keep thriving in its current configuration. He’s brought along a yellow legal pad with handwritten notes to ensure he doesn’t overlook any salient points.

Bewkes, 64, really doesn’t need any reminders. He’s the one who wrote the script for the new-model Time Warner. During his tenure as chief executive, it has been winnowed from the sprawl following the AOL merger 15 years ago to a three-pronged content company focused on TV, movies, and digital across HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros. Now, at a time of immense industry upheaval, Bewkes favors a strategy of holding steady with Time Warner’s formidable assets as they stand today. As talk swirls about potential merger options — Apple? CBS? — Bewkes steadfastly insists he likes the hand he’s playing.

Justin Metz for Variety

“After all the failures of Time Warner 10 years ago and 20 years ago [HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros.] finally have the experience and shared interest to help each other succeed,” Bewkes says. “We have the brands, we have the money, we have the distribution platform support, and we have the program supply. We have better access to movies and TV shows than any other company probably other than Disney. We can use our scale together, or not, and that balance is one of the biggest advantages of our company.”

But within entertainment circles, the conventional wisdom about Time Warner is different. There is strong sentiment that it is long past time for Bewkes to make a move to expand the company’s horizons. Disney and its decade-long buying spree of blue-chip brands (Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm) is the standard by which all entertainment content companies are judged.

At Time Warner, the recent emphasis on cost containment, stock buy-backs, delivering its promised double-digit earnings growth, and raising the dividend has signaled to some a lack of ambition. “They have been too timid,” says a former Time Warner investor. “It’s like [Jeff] has given up trying to build the company.”

Time Warner was, of course, deeply scarred by the economic devastation of its union with AOL in 2001. Bewkes gets credit even from his critics for helping the company recover from that mess. A year later he started his climb up the corporate ladder from HBO chief to chairman of Time Warner’s entertainment and networks group, and then to chief operating officer. He took the CEO reins from Richard Parsons in January 2008.

The company’s financial track record under Bewkes speaks for itself. Shareholder earnings grew at a compound rate of 17.3% from 2010 to 2015. In that same time frame, Time Warner returned some $29.1 billion to shareholders in the form of stock buy-backs and dividends.

“We have the brands, we have the money, we have the distribution platform support, and we have the program supply. We have better access to movies and TV shows than any other company probably other than Disney.” Jeff Bewkes

However, some fault Bewkes for failing to use Time Warner’s strong balance sheet to take big swings — such as moving more aggressively into premium streaming video via HBO when Netflix was in its infancy, or combining with a broadcast network, or expanding Warner Bros. through acquisitions. (WB execs in recent years floated the idea of buying DreamWorks Animation and at least one major video game company, to no avail.)

Now, as the company’s core businesses fight industrywide headwinds, Time Warner is facing the perception that management is in caretaker mode until the right buyer comes along. The heightened attention to spending, even behind the velvet rope of HBO, has fueled speculation that the objective is to make the books look as good as possible for prospective suitors.

All of this sounds plausible — until you spend five minutes with Bewkes talking about Time Warner’s future. He does not sound like a CEO who is focused on his exit package. He’s engaged in the challenge of navigating the company through choppy waters as the industry sorts through disruption in the economic structures that have powered film and TV for decades.

“We’ve spent a long time getting our company down to a nimble, focused, must-have group of capabilities that we think is very well suited to all these evolutions,” says Bewkes. “First and foremost, in program development, we think we have the right people and processes in place to get breakthrough content made at HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner. And we think we have exactly what we need for optimal positioning in global distribution.”

Bewkes’ streamlining of Time Warner could make it an attractive takeover target for a well-heeled suitor seeking enviable assets at a time when industry observers believe consolidation among content companies is poised to accelerate. The notion of an Apple-Time Warner union was even briefly considered last year after the two companies worked closely together on the launch of the HBO Now broadband service. The what-if discussion came up in the context of Apple’s pursuit of its TV channel bundling and navigation guide initiatives, but it didn’t advance to the level of Bewkes or Apple CEO Tim Cook, sources say.

Still, Apple’s interest underscores that Time Warner is seen as a prime M&A target, in part because its operations have been so intensively streamlined. Within CBS Corp., speculation about what a Time Warner merger might look like has increased in the past year, given the natural fit of the broadcast network with Warner Bros. and Turner.

Just a month after Time Warner completed the last piece of Bewkes’ slim-down campaign (the 2014 spinoff of the Time Inc. magazine group), 21st Century Fox came knocking with its $80 billion buyout bid.

source: company reports, rbc capital markets, excludes intersegment eliminations in revenue + ebitda and excludes corporate costs in ebitda

Bewkes and his board barely broke a sweat batting down Rupert Murdoch’s overture as greatly undervaluing the company. Fox’s $85-per-share offer set a benchmark for Time Warner to demonstrate that it would be more valuable to shareholders to go it alone. Yet amid the broader market volatility, Time Warner shares haven’t closed above $80 since August.

Bewkes shakes his head with a knowing smile at the suggestion that the company has faced pressure from major shareholders to consider new options, such as a spinoff of HBO. That’s been a source of chatter in financial and media circles — but not from actual shareholders, Bewkes insists, and he meets with them regularly.

“There has been no formal approach, no demands, which is exactly what we expected,” he says.

Cool and unflappable, Bewkes says there’s no strategic piece missing from Time Warner, and he has no wish list of potential acquisitions.

He had some fun with the constant “What will Time Warner do next?” speculation on the company’s May 4 first-quarter earnings call. A snafu at the call-hosting service caused participants to hear a few seconds of a pre-recorded earnings call for Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical.

Bewkes was quick to joke as his investor relations chief, Michael Kopelman, started in with the usual earnings-call preamble about forward-looking statements. “Are you going to tell them about our big merger with St. Jude Medical?” Bewkes interrupted. “Catheters are up!”

Joking aside, industryites shouldn’t hold their breath for a mega-deal. More than anything else, the chief exec wants the company to execute on its content-focused strategy.

Those who know Bewkes well praise his decisiveness and incisiveness.

“He’s got really good brain power,” says Bob Miron, the former head of Advance/Newhouse Communications, and current non-executive chairman of Discovery Communications. Bewkes impressed Miron decades ago when they collaborated on a complicated deal involving ownership of the E! channel. Bewkes was then a mid-level executive in finance at HBO, but he was the one who sorted out thorny issues among various owners.

“He knows how to find a happy medium to reach a deal,” Miron says.

Wall Street respects Bewkes for his attention to earnings growth and return on invested capital. His deconstruction of AOL Time Warner has been good for business, and complex divestitures and spinoffs of Time Warner Cable and AOL (both in 2009) and Time Inc. (2014) required a lot of financial advisers. But in the end, those companies proved to be worth more as stand-alone entities than they were valued under the Time Warner umbrella. All of this contributes to Bewkes’ view that bigger doesn’t mean better. Even the talk of Time Warner joining Disney, Fox, and NBCUniversal as an equity partner in Hulu has been overstated, although his interest in being part of Hulu’s nascent channel bundle is not.

“We’ve been talking to them since the beginning of Hulu,” Bewkes says.

Bewkes’ vision for the leaner Time Warner will be tested in coming months as each of its units pursues business-transformation efforts. “With all the paranoia about cord-cutting, the company needs a new growth narrative,” says a Time Warner alum.

Big Influence: Jeff Bewkes opened the 2014 Time 100 gala at Time Warner Center in New York.

Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan/Sipa USA

“Jeff in his heart believes it’s wrong to break it into pieces until all the other paths of internal growth are exhausted, or until someone comes along and offers a huge premium.”

Bewkes sees a bright future ahead for Turner thanks to the emergence of digital channel packages from Hulu, YouTube, and possibly Apple, as well as the early entrants of Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. The CEO wants Time Warner channels on all of those systems, so long as they’re willing to pay market rates.

The hope is that those alternative services will take root during the next few years while Turner is guaranteed rich rate-card fee increases from its traditional MVPDs, thanks to deals that were completed several years ago before the erosion of traditional pay-tv subscribers became noticeable.

In a skinny-bundle environment, it may have been wise for Time Warner to have nurtured a half-dozen dominant channels — HBO, CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, TCM — that demand to be in any smaller cable bundle, rather than developing tonnage à la Disney’s Espn in sports or Viacom in MTV- and VH1-branded offshoots.

Alexia Quadrani, senior media analyst at Jp Morgan, has confidence in Bewkes’ approach to the changing landscape. “Time Warner could get bigger, but it doesn’t need to,” she says. “They are not at the top of the list of media companies to be concerned about. I think they have more tailwinds than they have had in a while.”

But even the best-laid plans hit unexpected hurdles. HBO is undergoing a major executive transition on the West Coast, with programming president Michael Lombardo being replaced by Casey Bloys. Turner is just beginning a risky effort to refurbish its TNT and TBS motherships with an edgier brand of younger-skewing original series. And the sports rights, notably professional basketball and baseball games, which are crucial to keeping TNT and TBS must-haves in any bundle, are only growing more expensive.

Warner Bros. TV’s production business is formidable and growing in its international scope. But the prevailing trends in the U.S. of the largest networks producing more shows in-house will challenge the studio’s tried-and-true model of spending big on talent and producers to command the richest fees from networks. In this environment, the Warner Bros.-Turner relationship becomes more important.

The current Warner Bros. movie division continues to struggle with more flops than hits — a sharp contrast to the “We’re No. 1” swagger of earlier regimes. The studio’s first salvo in its enormous bet on the DC Comics vault to launch the next decade of franchise films, “Batman v Superman,” was widely considered a creative misstep despite its financial success.

Nothing is more central to Bewkes’ growth plan than embracing the widening world of video-on-demand and over-the-top distribution. That explains why Time Warner in February bought the Korean subscription VOD service DramaFever, which specializes in Korean TV shows and movies.

source: company reports, rbc capital markets, excludes intersegment eliminations in revenue + ebitda and excludes corporate costs in ebitda; *stock price adjusted for splits and dividends

At first, industry observers were scratching their heads over the acquisition. But the 7-year-old, New York-based company has grown into a decent little business, with service available in multiple languages in more than 20 countries. Even more attractive to Time Warner was its technology and the streaming-video know-how of DramaFever founders Seung Bak and Suk Park.

The DramaFever deal came about six months after Turner acquired a majority stake in an even larger streaming platform, Las Vegas-based iStreamPlanet. (Warner Bros. just this month set up the Warner Bros. Digital Networks division to house DramaFever, its digital ventures with Ellen DeGeneres and LeBron James, and its investment in Machinima.)

“We want to make sure we expand our capabilities for new, alternative distribution,” Bewkes says. That’s a measured way of saying that Time Warner wants the firepower to be able to go direct-to-consumer with its biggest networks if the need arises.

Bewkes sees the new virtual bundles as providing both a fresh source of revenue and a competitive spur for the old-guard MVPDs to improve their bundle offerings, from a pricing, technology, and marketing perspective. He and others believe that long-overdue innovation will help MVPDs preserve the traditional pay-tv ecosystem that remains the single-biggest driver of earnings for the largest media congloms.

Bewkes, like many of his media-ceo peers, is frustrated that the old-guard MVPDs were generally slow to respond to the changes in consumer viewing habits that allowed Netflix to storm onto the scene. He knew the appeal of on-demand viewing options because HBO blazed the trail back in 2001 with the launch of its cable-based HBO on Demand service.

In 2009, Bewkes and Comcast chief Brian Roberts sought to galvanize the industry around the concept of “TV Everywhere,” in which cable operators would offer subscribers streaming-video access to the channels for which they were already paying. Only Comcast really expanded its offerings in a significant way — through its Xfinity platform — which is a big reason Comcast boasts the industry’s leading subscriber-retention rates.

“They bungled it,” Bewkes says. “By and large, the incumbent distribution system was too slow to give the consumers what had already been invented. They had the programming; they could have offered it in an effective way to consumers who would have watched. Instead, [MVPDs] let consumers go to alternatives for the very same programming they already had, because consumers wanted it on VOD and with a great interface.”

Since April 2015, HBO Now, the $15- per-month streaming-only service, has been Time Warner’s canary in the Ott coal mine. It’s an effort to reach subscribers who don’t have traditional cable service or are put off by the high price of taking basic service plus the premium fee for HBO. For the first time in its nearly 45-year history, HBO can be purchased as a stand-alone channel. That’s a breakthrough that amounts to Time Warner leading the charge in offering consumers à la carte cable. (Showtime and Starz followed HBO’s lead within months.)

Bewkes and HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler have told Wall Street that HBO Now will be transformative. With just under 1 million subscribers to date, the streaming service’s growth trajectory is on target, Bewkes says (although he would not confirm that number). “It’s doing pretty much exactly what we wanted. It’s delivering the right sub numbers, the right viewing, and the right retention numbers.”

source: company reports, rbc capital markets estimates

HBO Now is also a cudgel that Time Warner is holding over the head of Big Cable to get operators to work harder to sell HBO to their subscriber bases. The premium network’s wholesale model incentivizes operators to sell subscriptions, giving them a slice of the monthly fee paid by every new subscriber.

But Time Warner is convinced that HBO has room to grow in homes with traditional cable service if only operators are more aggressive in marketing the service. Time Warner Cable, HBO’s former corporate sibling, is seen as the biggest offender. Bewkes points to the fact that HBO’s penetration within Comcast’s cable footprint is nearly twice as high as in Tw Cable’s. (There’s hope that will improve now that Charter has swallowed up Tw Cable.)

So Bewkes has a message for cable operators: “Last call.” As HBO ramps up its consumer marketing for HBO Now, cable operators have a final chance to step up the marketing of traditional HBO or partner on selling HBO Now — or stand back and watch the premium network sign up new subscribers in which MVPDs get no cut of the monthly $15 check.

“For the operator who has been sitting on his hands, we’re saying, ‘You’ve got two choices here: Either a house gets HBO Now, or gets it from you. If you don’t do it, we’re doing it.’” he says.

Bewkes believes the leverage is working. In the 18 months since HBO Now was unveiled, the channel overall has added 2.7 million subscribers, its biggest growth spurt in 30 years. And more of them came from traditional cable than from Now.

The HBO Now experience has reinforced Bewkes’ view that Time Warner’s focus on content production and distribution — particularly TV content — is the right one.

“There has never been more interest or vibrancy in television and the relationship that audiences have to it,” Bewkes says. “It really is the Golden Age.”

The exec is equally certain that now is not the time to court a deal with a Facebook or an Apple or a Verizon. Time Warner went the online-partner route once before, and it played like a disaster movie.

Standing in an empty row of seats at the Theater at Madison Square Garden after Turner’s nearly two-hour upfront presentation on May 18, Bewkes is gamely talking shop with a reporter. As workers sweep up confetti, strike the stage, and pack up heavy equipment all around him, Time Warner’s titan sticks around to articulate the central challenge that media giants face in this fraught moment of change.

TV programming is more plentiful, more beloved, and more “at your service” on multiple platforms, as he puts it, than ever before. That’s good news for Time Warner, because demand is only going up. But the economic fundamentals of how all that programming is paid for are very much in flux, leading to nervousness in the executive suites and bearishness on Wall Street.

In Bewkes’ view, all of this quaking and shaking will sort itself out. “Great content,” he says with characteristically patrician delivery, “will carry the day.”

But as seismic changes whirl around him, Bewkes will face plenty of challenges in his steering of the Time Warner ship. It begs the question about a Plan B. Is he biding his time until the right offer comes in? Is he hoping to outmaneuver his rivals? Is he in denial? For now, it’s a cliffhanger worthy of “Game of Thrones.”

»

- Cynthia Littleton

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TV Crews Around the World Descend on France to Cover Euro 2016 Soccer Tournament

10 June 2016 10:30 AM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

The monthlong Euro 2016 soccer tournament, to be held in stadiums across France starting June 10, should mark a leap forward in terms of high-definition broadcasting and multi-platform play. But France’s other national sport — labor strikes — is a potential headache for organizers, fans, and broadcasters, recently disrupting airport and train schedules and the Paris metro. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande has warned of the threat of terrorism, and the Seine has risen to dangerous levels, causing deaths, evacuations, and widespread closures.

Still, soccer mania is unabated, and European TV crews and commentators are descending upon France. Here are some of their coverage plans.

France

France’s leading commercial network, TF1, will broadcast 22 games, five of them in ultra HD for the first time. TF1 had to reach a deal with BeIN Media Group, the Qatari-owned pay-tv platform that holds live rights in France, and will carry all 51 matches. M6, France’s other commercial network, »

- Elsa Keslassy and Nick Vivarelli

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Monica Bellucci to Guest Star on ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ Season 3

3 June 2016 2:28 AM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

Rome — Monica Bellucci is set to  guest star in the third season of Amazon TV series “Mozart in the Jungle.”

The Italian actress with international star power will play Alessandra, an iconic opera singer who will become the next collaborator of Rodrigo, the New York Symphony Orchestra conductor played by Gael Garcia Bernal.

Season three will see Rodrigo and many musicians take their talents on tour to Europe, an Amazon statement said.

“Alessandra is as famous for her passionate performances as she is for her erratic life off the stage,” is how the statement described her character in the show. “After years away from the spotlight, she enlists Rodrigo to conduct her grand return performance.”

Bellucci recently played a Bond girl named Lucia in “Spectre” and will be starring in Showtime’s upcoming “Twin Peaks” reboot TV series, details of which are being kept under wraps.

The third installment of “Mozart in the Jungle, »

- Nick Vivarelli

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Brexit? 'Huh?' 5 Head-Scratching Things We Learned From Donald Trump's Latest Interview

1 June 2016 7:50 AM, PDT | PEOPLE.com | See recent PEOPLE.com news »

The 2016 Gop Convention is officially less than one month away, but Donald Trump is still surprising us. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff, Trump waxed on his friendships ("Rupert Murdoch is a tremendous guy") and his voting record (did he ever vote for Bill Clinton? "I don't want to say."). While Trump makes even more headlines for his veteran's groups donations and gorilla death stance, here are the key revelations from his The Hollywood Reporter sit-down. He only visits his California home once a year - but the freezer is still stocked.Trump's Beverly Hills »

- Lindsay Kimble, @lekimble

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Brexit? 'Huh?' 5 Head-Scratching Things We Learned From Donald Trump's Latest Interview

1 June 2016 7:50 AM, PDT | PEOPLE.com | See recent PEOPLE.com news »

The 2016 Gop Convention is officially less than one month away, but Donald Trump is still surprising us. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff, Trump waxed on his friendships ("Rupert Murdoch is a tremendous guy") and his voting record (did he ever vote for Bill Clinton? "I don't want to say."). While Trump makes even more headlines for his veteran's groups donations and gorilla death stance, here are the key revelations from his The Hollywood Reporter sit-down. He only visits his California home once a year - but the freezer is still stocked.Trump's Beverly Hills »

- Lindsay Kimble, @lekimble

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Upfronts 2016: The Best, Worst and Weirdest Moments of TV’s Marathon Week

20 May 2016 1:27 PM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

TV’s jam-packed marathon week in New York City came to a close in the wee hours of Friday morning, finally shut down by a few stalwarts grooving on the dance floor at CW’s annual private party at Park Avenue Spring.

Ad buyers were wined and dined throughout the week, as network execs did their best to sell their new shows. This year’s Upfronts saw some big changes from last year — some for the better, and some, well, not so much.

Here is the good, the bad and the worst of Upfronts 2016:

Best triple-threat: “Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra opened up ABC’s Upfront presentation with a song-and-dance number that proved she’s an absolute star. The former Miss World may have just launched her “Priyanka for ‘Dancing With the Stars'” campaign.

Worst shoutout: But we couldn’t help but cringe when Chopra kissed up to her »

- Elizabeth Wagmeister

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