Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Amazon's Programming Head Reveals the Words That Will End a Pitch Meeting for Him


TheWrap, Getty Images
In TheWrap interview series “Office With a View,” Joe Lewis explains his hope to reinvent how we all watch TV
If you want to know what people want to watch, why not just ask the people? Amazon Studios is doing just that by putting the power solely in their viewers’ hands.
“It's important for us to say we don't know all the answers,” Joe Lewis told TheWrap in an exclusive interview.
The young hotshot Head of Programming at Amazon knows what works and what doesn't work for the online streaming media provider simply because he and his team have perfected listening.
“We just put our pilots out there and let the audience decide,” Lewis said.
The online company's latest offering, “Transparent,” debuted its first full season at 12:01 Friday morning. The masses decided that they wanted to watch Jeffrey Tambor as a late-in-life transgender woman when the pilot premiered in February.
Lewis isn't at all surprised by the show's early success. ”‘Transparent’ wasn't pitched because something got canceled or because it was pilot season,” Lewis said. “This was deeply personal to Jill Soloway.”
Soloway, who created the series, is the type of writer Lewis insists on working with. Without passion, there is no chance for a pickup at Amazon, and Soloway showed that the moment she sat down to pitch Lewis her idea.
Jeffrey Tambor stars in ‘Transparent’ on Amazon
 
I'm looking for something that has a real voice behind it and a real point,” Lewis explained. He describes “Transparent” as a show “decades in the making.”
Believing in your show is an absolute must if you want Lewis and co. to consider your project. “Saying, ‘I don't know, what do you want it to be’ is the quickest way to end a pitch meeting.”
Take note, hopeful television writers.
However, the door of Amazon Studios is an easier one to wedge one's foot in compared to other networks. Customers are invited to submit their own scripts online. Other users then judge their work to determine what is worthy of getting the greenlight.
When asked just how many online submissions Amazon has received so far, Lewis estimates, “Somewhere in the thousands.”
Amazon produced the pilot for user-submitted “Those Who Can't” last year. The show came from Denver-based comedy group The Grawlix and featured a trio of high school teachers who team up to teach a bully a lesson.
While the Amazon audience gives the thumbs up or thumbs down to what they're watching online, Lewis is still under pressure to pull the final trigger on what gets made and what doesn't.
“We have to be right most of the time, but it's been going well so far,” Lewis said.
‘Alpha House’ on Amazon
 
“Alpha House,” Amazon's political-satire comedy that first aired in November 2013, was the site's first full series order. The comedy, which stars John Goodman, Clark Johnson and Mark Consuelos as U.S. Senators, was renewed for a second season in February, despite being met with mixed reviews from both critics and Amazon users. “Betas,” Amazon's second series to get a full season order, was not renewed.
Lewis’ first time playing hitmaker came when he was working in development at Comedy Central and co-created “Tosh.0,” the viral video clip show hosted by comedian Daniel Tosh. The series became a hit for the cable channel and has been renewed for at least an eighth season, keeping it on the air until 2016.
Then after a short stint at 20th Century Fox, Lewis had a premonition of what could become of TV and how people watch it.
“I didn't have cable but I was watching a lot of streaming TV,” he said. “There was a one in a million chance that I could create a successful TV channel.”
The stacked odds didn't stop Lewis. He founded his cloud television network Bark in 2010.
It didn't last, but when he was offered to join a similar yet much more sizable venture at Amazon, he jumped at the opportunity. Along with Roy Price, the first person hired at Amazon Studios, Lewis works to not only impress his online audience, he has to impress Jeff Bezos.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (Getty Images)
 
Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, meets with Lewis roughly twice a year to check in on what's being broadcast on the streaming site. The entrepreneur takes a hands-off approach however, leaving the tough programming decisions to Lewis.
 “He's very supportive of what we're doing,” Lewis stated. “We're not micromanaged. We're given a lot of leeway and freedom.”
THE WRAP TV | By Ryan O'Connell on September 30, 2014 @ 6:30 am

PayPal to Split From eBay in 2015

 
AP/Manu Fernandez
American Express' Dan Schulman will head the publicly traded mobile payment service
The mobile payment service PayPal is splitting from eBay and will become a separate and publicly traded company next year.
Almost a year after billionaire Carl Icahn opened a proxy fight and pressured eBay for a spinoff of PayPal, eBay president and CEO John Donahoe announced the split Tuesday.

Donahoe will step down as CEO of eBay after overseeing the separation of the two companies and will not have a management roll in either of the two afterward. He may have a seat on the board at one or both, along with eBay chief financial officer Bob Swan.

EBay, based in San Jose, California, said that the separation was the best path for growth and shareholder value creation for each business.

EBay is an e-commerce site that connects sellers to buyers. PayPal, acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.3 billion, has been its fastest growing segment. In the most recent quarter, PayPal gained 4 million new, active registered accounts, up 15 percent, to 152 million.

Consumers who use PayPal can send and receive payments online, with all transactions backed by prepaid user accounts, bank accounts or credit cards. The service is available in 203 markets worldwide and is on track to process 1 billion mobile payments in 2014.

But major competitors are now getting into the mobile payment sector, including Apple. Last month, Apple Inc. announced a new digital wallet service called Apple Pay that is integrated with its Passbook credential-storage app and its fingerprint ID security system.

There is a push away from traditional credit cards, particularly after a string of high-profile data breaches that have ensnared major retailers like Target and Home Depot. Citibank predicts that the mobile payments business will grow from $1 billion last year, to nearly $60 billion by 2017.

"A thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively," Donahoe said.

Shares of eBay jumped 8 percent to $57.06 before the opening bell, close to its high for the year.

Dan Schulman, an executive at American Express, will be the new president at PayPal, effective immediately. The 56-year-old will become PayPal's CEO once the separation takes place.

Devin Wenig, currently president of eBay Marketplaces, will become CEO of the new EBay Inc. He will lead the eBay Marketplaces and eBay Enterprise businesses.

The Hollywood Reporter by The Associated Press 6:28 AM PST 09/30/2014

U.K. Cable Giant Virgin Media Pushes for Probe of Soccer TV Rights Deals


AP Images/Invision
The company, part of John Malone's Liberty Global, says the costs have risen too much
Cable giant Virgin Media has asked British media watchdog Ofcom to investigate the rising cost of English Premier League soccer TV rights.
BSkyB currently has the rights to most games, with telecom giant BT airing the rest.

Amid debate about rising sports costs in the U.S. and elsewhere, Virgin Media, part of John Malone's Liberty Global, warned that continued increases in the cost of soccer TV rights, there is a risk of "significant consumer harm."

Arguing that the next rights deal, expected to be struck next year, could come at a price tag another 60 percent higher than the current three-year deal, which was valued at $4.9 billion (£3 billion) and meant a 71 percent increase.

Virgin Media has already said that it would not bid for the English Premier League rights anent year. But it has been paying wholesale prices to carry the Sky Sports and BT Sport networks, and those costs could benefit from any curbs on rights cost increases.

"The rapidly rising cost of Premier League live broadcast rights means U.K. fans pay the highest prices in Europe to watch" soccer on TV, Virgin said.

Ofcom said it would likely decide in the next two months if it would investigate the issue, The Guardian reported. BSkyB currently airs 116 matches of the English league, with BT showing 38.

The lowest price for consumers to watch all the available TV matches in the U.K. came to $83 (£51), compared with $41 (£25) in Italy, $34 (£21) in Germany and $29 (£18) in Spain, Virgin Media argued, according to The Guardian. BSkyB declined to comment.

The Hollywood Reporter by Georg Szalai 6:53 AM PST 09/30/2014

William Shatner says he may have a role in upcoming 'Star Trek' film

 
Image Credit: Theo Wargo/NBCUniversal/Getty Images Rights: 2

The original Captain Kirk has confirmed that he might be making a return to the franchise in the upcoming Star Trek film set to be directed by Roberto Orci. Appearing at Wizard World Nashville Comic Con Saturday, Shatner explained that he got a call from J.J. Abrams regarding the project. “He said, ‘I’m calling, Bill, because the director of Star Trek, the next movie, has had an idea where you might be involved. So I’m calling to find out whether you’d be interested,'” Shatner recalled Abrams saying. “I said, well, you know, if it’s meaningful.”
Shatner explained that the notoriously secretive Abrams told him to keep mum, but word got out on the Internet. “So the news is out that they have an idea that they want Leonard and myself—they might want Leonard and myself,” Shatner.
Badass Digest reported last week that “the script for Star Trek 3 includes a scene that reteams Shatner and Nimoy onscreen as Kirk and Spock for the first time in canon since 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” Following that report, however, Shatner pleaded ignorance.
Entertainment Weekly by  Esther Zuckerman on Sep 29, 2014 at 10:18AM

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) Frank Miller Interview

FREE BOOKS MONDAY WILL BE POSTED ON TUESDAY DUE TO TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES.



SoftBank Stock Falls in Tokyo on Uncertainty Over DreamWorks Animation Deal


Japan's SoftBank is in talks to buy Dreamworks Animation
SoftBank stock was down around one percent in Monday afternoon trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, as uncertainty over its $3.4 billion bid for DreamWorks Animation (DWA) led investors to sell the stock even as the overall market moved neared a seven-year high.
As speculation about whether the acquisition of DWA will go ahead increased Monday, SoftBank stock fell back to 7,819 ($71.3) from its closing price Friday, after having been even lower in the morning session. 

Although the DWA bid represents only 10 percent of the $30 billion SoftBank spent on overseas' M&A last year – including the biggest foreign takeover in Japanese corporate history – the lack of clarity about the deal seemed to be spooking investors.

News of negotiations between SoftBank and DWA was broken by The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday, with the story then being picked up around the world. 

A report in Japan's leading business newspaper the Nikkei today quoted an unnamed SoftBank source as saying, "the chances are low" of the deal going through.

The Hollywood Reporter by Gavin J. Blair 11:01 PM PST 09/28/2014