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Network Aimed at Rural America Speaks for Population That Feels Underserved by the Media

36 minutes ago

For anyone who wanted to get a handle on the mood among voters in rural America leading up to the presidential election, there was an obvious metric to consult: the price of soybeans. And cattle, corn, hogs, milk, and the other staples that drive the agricultural futures markets. Prices in the past few years have been down across the board. That spelled big trouble for the incumbent party in the White House.

Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of rural-lifestyle and agribusiness-focused cable channel Rfd-tv, saw the revolt against the political status quo coming more than a year ago. So did Donald Trump’s campaign managers. In the final two weeks before Election Day, Trump’s team spent $150,000 to buy every available advertising spot on Nashville-based Rfd-tv. His rival, Hillary Clinton, spent no money on the channel, according to Gottsch.

“You could really see it turning in the last couple of weeks,” Gottsch »


- Cynthia Littleton

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‘The Walking Dead’s’ Danai Gurira: Why ‘Women Must Run’ for Office in Trump Era (Guest Column)

56 minutes ago

I want to thank our new president. I thank him for making it painfully clear that anyone can get into government. It should boost our confidence that there truly are no barriers to entry.

And so, in light of that, I have one thing to say about the coming years: Women. Must. Run. We must work with every fiber we possess to put women in government, to assure that our voices and choices are not stripped away and ignored. We cannot just march; we must organize, and we must run.

Jake Chessum for Variety

When President Obama was elected, we saw a clear response from those who opposed the country’s presidential choice; the Tea Party formed, and within two years it had flooded the branches of government. If we do not see this as a moment where we must galvanize and do exactly the same, we may just deserve what we get.

The »


- Danai Gurira

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TV Ratings: People’s Choice Awards Sag, ‘Speechless’ Wins

1 hour ago

CBS’ People’s Choice Awards brought in some fresh hosting blood with Joel McHale on Wednesday night, but that wasn’t enough to prop up the ailing awards show. The telecast brought in a 1.2 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic and 6.66 million viewers, a low in the demo. That said, it did build on its “Undercover Boss” lead-in, which drew a 1.1 in the demo and 5.86 million viewers.

ABC tried out “Fresh Off the Boat” in the Wednesday anchor spot usually held by “The Goldbergs,” to reasonable success. While it didn’t quite reach the same level as “The Goldbergs,” “Fresh Off” pulled in a 1.5 in the demo and 5.48 million viewers, well above what it’s been drawing on Tuesdays. “Speechless” proved its mettle by drawing a slightly higher demo rating, a 1.6, and just a few fewer viewers, with 5.36 million — the highest demo rating of the night. Following a “Modern Family” repeat, “Black-ish »


- Oriana Schwindt

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Anna Diop Previews Her ‘Strong, Brave’ Character in Fox’s ’24: Legacy’

1 hour ago

Anna Diop moved from Senegal to the U.S. when she was 6 and perfected English in two months by watching “Three’s Company” with her mother. At 16, she moved to New York to pursue acting and modeling, working on campaigns for companies such as Nike and Verizon. She landed her first role in “Everybody Hates Chris” and currently appears in ABC’s “Quantico” and the Own series “Greenleaf.” Up next: Fox’s “24: Legacy,” premiering Feb. 5, after the Super Bowl.

What drew you to “24: Legacy”?

The character and the pilot. I read the pilot and saw how Nicole was such a strong, brave woman. I also knew Corey Hawkins was attached. I had just seen “Straight Outta Compton” and was thinking, “Who is this?” So the character and the cast and the fact that it’s “24,” a staple in American television — bringing it back is really exciting.

What can you say about your character through the »


- Sarah Ahern

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Jane Lynch Joins Discovery’s ‘Manifesto’ as Janet Reno

1 hour ago

Jane Lynch will be playing Janet Reno in Discovery’s scripted drama “Manifesto,” Variety has learned.

The Emmy-winning “Glee” actress and “Hollywood Game Night” host joins a cast that includes Paul Bettany and Sam Worthington in their first major U.S. TV roles, Chris Noth, and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Manifesto” tells the story of how FBI agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Worthington) deployed a radical approach to intelligence gathering to take down Ted Kaczynski (Bettany), also known as the “Unabomber,” one of the most infamous criminal masterminds in the world. Reno, who oversaw Kaczynski’s capture and conviction, was the first woman to serve as Attorney General. On-screen, Lynch will interact most with Noth’s Don Ackerman, the Bay Area Divisional Head of the FBI who supervised the Unabomber Task Force.

Discovery ordered the project to series at the end of March 2016, and production will start in Atlanta on Jan. 30 with an eye toward a premiere later in 2017. Greg Yaitanes »


- Oriana Schwindt

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Three Guest Actors Join J.K. Simmons in Starz Spy Thriller ‘Counterpart’

1 hour ago

Starz announced on Thursday that three actors have been added to the cast of “Counterpart” in recurring guest roles.

Stephen Rea, Richard Schiff and Sarah Bolger will join J.K. Simmons in the espionage, sci-fi thriller about a man named Howard Silk (Simmons) who discovers that the agency he works for is hiding a secret — a crossing to a parallel dimension.

Schiff will play Director of Diplomacy Roland Fancher, a litigator and power negotiator between both dimensions. Fancher is responsible for negotiating the exchange of prisoners between worlds.

Rea will play Alexander Pope, an old-world Englishman. He pulls strings from behind the scenes and knows where all the bodies are buried — sometimes literally. Bolger plays Anna, a mysterious young woman whose appearance threatens Silk.

Counterpart” is created and written by Justin Marks. Executive producers are Morten Tyldum and Marks with Amy Berg, Gary Gilbert with Gilbert Films, Jordan Horowitz, Keith Redmon and Bard Dorros with Anonymous Content. Simmons »


- Seth Kelley

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Sundance: Content Media Acquires International Rights to ‘Legion of Brothers’

2 hours ago

Content Media Corp. has acquired the international rights from CNN Films for the Afghan War documentary “Legion of Brothers.”

The companies announced the deal on the eve of the Sundance Film Festival. “Legion of Brothers,” produced by CNN Films and Passion Pictures, and directed by Greg Barker, will have its world premiere at the festival on Saturday.

Producers are John Battsek, Greg Barker, Peter Bergen and Tresha Mabile. Executive producers are Amy Entelis and Vinnie Malhotra. CNN retains U.S. broadcast rights.

Legion of Brothers” centers on the fewer than 100 Special Forces troops who were deployed to Afghanistan immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, for a secret war initiated by the United States government. In coalition with the rebels of the Northern Alliance, these troops faced off against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, successfully driving both out of power by the end of 2001 without conventional, large-scale military operations.

Despite this victory, the U.S »


- Dave McNary

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Justin Timberlake to Star in Super Bowl Ad for Bai Beverages

2 hours ago

You can’t have a Super Bowl without Super Bowl ads featuring celebrities. So Bai Brands, makers of potables like Bai Bubbles and Antiwater, will throw Justin Timberlake into the mix.

After running a commercial on local TV stations showing the Super Bowl in 2016, Bai is taking to a more costly national Game Day ad, which the company says will feature Timberlake “and a surprise special guest.” The company, which was acquired by Dr Pepper Snapple Group in late 2016, will run a 30-second ad that was developed in-house by a team led by Chad Portas, its chief creative officer.

Timberlake has appeared in a Super Bowl commercial before, helping Pepsi tout a prize campaign known as “Pepsi Stuff” in 2008, but he may be more deeply involved in this go-round. That’s because the actor-musician is the company’s Chief Flavor Officer, a role he took in November of last year. Many »


- Brian Steinberg

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In Frenzied News Cycle, George Stephanopoulos’ Presence on ABC Poised to Grow

2 hours ago

George Stephanopoulos will on Friday be tasked with getting people to watch ABC from “Good Morning America” all the way through to a good portion of the rest of the day – hours and hours of live news coverage. He’s had plenty of opportunity to build up his stamina.

During a two-week stretch in late July, Stephanopoulos anchored ABC’s primetime coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, all the while putting in regular appearances at his two usual roosts, “Good Morning America” and “This Week.” To cap it off, he and a team of producers flew to Colorado for a surprising exchange with then-candidate Donald Trump. In an interview with Stephanopoulos, Trump began to criticize Khizr and Ghazala Khan, two Muslim-Americans whose son was killed fighting for U.S. armed forces in Iraq. The interview would turn out to be a massive blunder for the man who would become President-elect – and Stephanopoulos had the exclusive »


- Brian Steinberg

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Donald Trump’s Election Puts Super Bowl Advertisers on Tricky Playing Field

3 hours ago

Super Bowl advertisers like to aim for the funny bone. If they aren’t careful this year, they may end up smacking potential customers in the face.

As Madison Avenue prepares to pitch soda, beer and gadgets to hundreds of millions of viewers expected to watch Fox’s February 5th broadcast of Super Bowl Li, its residents must tread carefully to the goal line. Even though this annual gridiron classic unites Americans like few media properties can in an age of splintering media usage, the viewership is more divided than ever, marketing experts argue, and audiences remain raw and polarized after the recent election of Donald J. Trump to the office of U.S. President.

“Cutting through the noise is a difficult task for these advertisers, but they’ve got to be a little more careful in terms of taking a position on one issue, because they will have an equal number of people on the other »


- Brian Steinberg

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Univision, Comcast Set New Carriage Pact

3 hours ago

Univision Communications has set a new carriage agreement with Comcast that covers its owned stations and cable channel Galavision.

Setting a deal with the nation’s largest cable operator was crucial for Univision as it is expected to move ahead with an Ipo later this year. Having a long-term pact with Comcast is key to persuading investors that the Spanish-language giant can count on a predictable source of affiliate fee revenue in the next few years.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The pact covers the 17 stations that Univision owns in markets served by Comcast.

“Univision’s renewal agreement with Comcast, one of the largest content distributors in the country, means that our young and influential viewers will continue to have access to our indispensable news, sports and entertainment content, on one of the most sophisticated and robust TV platforms in the market,” said Tonia O’Connor, Univision’s chief commercial officer and president of »


- Cynthia Littleton

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Viacom’s Telefe Clinches Deals on ‘Educating Nina,’ ‘Love After Loving,’ ‘Dear Daddies’

4 hours ago

Chilevision, Turner Broadcasting System’s Chilean broadcast network, has acquired “Educating Nina,” one of the two big fiction hits last year on Argentina’s No. 1 free-to-air broadcaster Telefe, acquired in November by Viacom.

Bowing out with a bang on Dec. 1 when it punched an 18.9 rating, identity comedy “Educating Nina” is produced by Telefe and Sebastian Ortega at top Argentine production house Underground, the company behind Netflix acquisition “El Marginal.”

Chilevision will launch “Educating Nina” in 2017. It stars Griselda Siciliani (“Patito Feo”) as a rough-at-the-edges chanteuse who impersonates her identical twin, a refined but duplicitous woman (also Siciliana), but falls for her supposed husband’s brother (Esteban Lamothe, “The Student”), a brilliant writer who has been swindled by his own brother.

“Educating Nina’s” sale to Chile builds on licensing deals for Argentina’s comedy of the year with Ecuador’s Teleamazonas, Parguay’s Unicanal and Colombia’s Caracol TV.

In further international sales deals announced at Miami »


- John Hopewell

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Amazon Greenlights Neil Gaiman Limited Series Adaptation of ‘Good Omens’

4 hours ago

A six-part adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel “Good Omens” will debut in 2018, Amazon Studios announced Thursday.

Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But follies ensue — Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist.

“Almost 30 years ago, Terry Pratchett and I wrote the funniest novel we could about the end of the world, populated with angels and demons…” Gaiman said. “Three decades later, it’s going to make it to the screen. I can’t think of anyone we’d rather make it with than BBC Studios, and I just wish Sir Terry were alive to see it.”

Good Omens” was Gaiman’s first novel, written »


- Seth Kelley and Robert Mitchell

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BBC Partners with Britdoc Foundation to Fund Documentaries

5 hours ago

The BBC has formed a partnership with nonprofit organization Britdoc Foundation to fund up to four documentaries a year, primarily for the broadcaster’s renowned “Storyville” series.

The co-funding agreement is for three years, the BBC said Thursday. Kate Townsend, commissioning editor for “Storyville,” which normally airs on BBC Four, will serve as the editorial lead for the partnership.

“‘Storyville’ has a proud tradition of showcasing the very best in international film-making and I’m delighted that we will be working with Britdoc to develop a fantastic slate of new films for our audience,” Townsend said in a statement. “Britdoc’s collaborative approach is an opportunity to create new connections with documentary makers in the UK and around the world and bring fresh thinking to ways in which documentary films can reach audiences on new platforms.”

The deal recognizes the BBC as the exclusive U.K. broadcast partner of Britdoc and will allow the BBC to acquire »


- Robert Mitchell

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Sofia Vergara, Luis Balaguer and Emiliano Calemzuk Launch Latino Digital-Media Startup Raze

5 hours ago

Sofia Vergara, media entrepreneur and star of ABC’s “Modern Family,” together with her longtime business partner Luis Balaguer and Emiliano Calemzuk, former president of Fox Television Studios, have formed Raze: a digital media company dedicated to producing “Latin-centered” content spanning scripted and unscripted formats on multiple platforms.

UTA and entertainment law firm Ziffren Brittenham Llp are founding partners and advisers for the Beverly Hills-based startup. Raze has closed a round of Series A funding from UTA, Greycroft Partners and Raine Ventures. With the investments, Brent Weinstein, partner and head of digital media at UTA, and Greycroft partner Mark Terbeek have joined the board of Raze.

Calemzuk, who is Raze’s CEO, declined to provide the funding amount but said it was in the mid seven figures. Raze, whose website is at raze.tv, plans to launch later this year as a mobile- and video-first destination that will be a hub for news, lifestyle »


- Todd Spangler

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Karga Seven Expands Into Turkey With New Production Venture

6 hours ago

L.A.-based production company Karga Seven Pictures has launched a new production venture in Turkey, opening a permanent production office in Istanbul, parent company Red Arrow Entertainment Group announced Thursday.

Karga Seven Turkey will produce original content, including feature films, scripted and factual television, documentaries, game shows, and branded content for mobile and digital platforms. The new operation will be headed by Tamer Uner as president, Ozer Sata as CEO and Todd Cohen as chief creative officer. Cohen previously served with the company as Karga’s executive vice president of development.

“We have a strong and passionate connection to Turkey,” said Karga founding partner Emre Sahin. “I grew up in Turkey, and we’ve produced two feature films there [2015’s “Takim: Mahalle Askina!” and “The Team,” both directed by Sahin] as well as commercials and several non-fiction shows. With the country being the second-largest producer of television dramas in the world, it’s the perfect opportunity for us to enter the Turkish market.”

Karga »


- Robert Mitchell

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Tartikoff Awards Celebrate TV’s Innovators and Influencers

8 hours ago

Miami — “Between Two Ferns” made a surprise appearance at this year’s Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards ceremony.

Josh Sapan, AMC Networks’ president-ceo, delivered a delightfully unconventional spin on a tribute video as he was honored Wednesday night along with YouTube’s Susanne Daniels, Univision’s Randy Falco, multihyphenate Eva Longoria and Fox’s Gary Newman and Dana Walden.

Sapan’s reel for the ceremony, held at the Fontainebleau Hotel as part of the annual Natpe conference, featured the veteran cable executive sitting for an offbeat interview with Zach Galifianakis on the mock talk show that has become a staple of Funny or Die. (AMC just bought a minority stake in the digital comedy service.)

Gale Anne Hurd, exec producer of AMC’s smash hit “The Walking Dead,” presented the kudo to Sapan, calling him a rare example of an executive who combines “a first-rate business mind with the heart of a creative.” Sapan »


- Cynthia Littleton

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of People’s Choice Awards 2017

13 hours ago

Ellen DeGeneres is officially the peopliest person, the “awardiest awardee,” in People’s Choice Awards history, after the daytime host swept the three awards she was nominated for at the 2017 edition, taking her tally to a staggering 20 wins.

As stars and fans packed the Microsoft Theater L.A. Live for the 2017 People’s Choice Awards, hosted by Joel McHale, DeGeneres and her record-breaking moment were the center of attention, trumping the upcoming presidential inauguration. And while Trump jokes and jabs were kept to a minimum, the award winners took time to speak for the power of women in Hollywood, and to express their hope that their films and TV shows might bring a little joy into the current global climate.

However, with the good of DeGeneres’ victory and Blake Lively’s “girl power” speech, there was also the bad of jokes falling flat, and the ugly of the teleprompter breaking down in the middle of Kristen Bell’s »


- Will Thorne

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Soap Opera Writer Courtney Simon to Be Honored by Writers Guild East

19 hours ago

The Writers Guild of America East has selected soap opera writer Courtney Simon as the recipient for its Richard B. Jablow Award for service to the guild.

Simon will be honored at the 69th annual Writers Guild Awards at New York’s Edison Ballroom on Feb. 19. The Jablow award was established in 1978 to recognize service and created in honor of  Jablow, who helped found the WGA East, authored its constitution, and served as its first counsel.

Simon has been a WGA East member since 1980. She has written for 12 different daytime dramas, including “As the World Turns,” “Santa Barbara,” “Guiding Light,” and “All My Children.” She has won seven Daytime Emmy Awards and seven Writers Guild Awards.

Simon has served on the WGA East Council since 2007 and has been active in lobbying efforts to promote a diversity-based tax credit in the state of New York. She co-chairs the Wgae Diversity Coalition, is »


- Dave McNary

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Watch the Cast of ‘Girl Meets World’ Say Farewell (Exclusive)

19 hours ago

Before the final episode of “Girl Meets World” airs on Friday, stars Rowan Blanchard (Riley Matthews), Ben Savage (Cory Matthews) and Sabrina Carpenter (Maya Hart) and creator Michael Jacobs have a special message for followers of the “Boy Meets World” story.

In this exclusive featurette, which you can watch above, the team shares what the series has meant to them and discusses the important messages the series tackles. The cast has become a real family over the years, Carpenter says, and the bonds will last beyond the finale.

“We make a fun show about real issues. We do it in a fun, relatable way and I think people appreciate that,” Savage says in the video.

The show was canceled after three seasons earlier this month. A sequel to the ’90s hit “Boy Meets World,” “Girl Meets World” brought Cory and Topanga back together as parents of student Riley.

“Your adventures were my adventures not very long ago »


- Dani Levy

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