Telefonica, Kinowelt tilt for Artisan stake
Spain’s Telefonica and Germany’s fast-growing distrib heavyweight Kinowelt Medien have emerged as two finalists angling to take a stake in Artisan Entertainment, which has been shopping around a little piece of equity ahead of its planned initial public offering. The mini-major has been in talks with a number of European players for months to take about a 10% stake.
Telefonica has been on a buying spree lately and is making serious doe eyes at the U.S. film biz. The Madrid-based telecom and communications group is in talks to buy a stake in Warner Bros.’ Castle Rock Entertainment. At home, it plans to invest $100 million in 20-30 Spanish co-productions this year. Elsewhere in Europe, it recently bought Dutch TV producer Endemol and is reportedly looking to integrate the company into its Telefonica Media unit, which is planning its own IPO. It’s not clear, however, how the sudden exit of prexy Jose Antonio Rios last week will affect Telefonica’s expansion plans.
Telefonica also bought Terra Networks, the parent of giant U.S. Internet group Lycos — a company USA Networks’ Barry Diller badly wanted to buy last year, but the deal fell through.
Kinowelt, meanwhile, has been very publicly flexing its muscles, too, expanding in every aspect of its business from film and TV to Internet and exhibition.
HBO calls off ‘Night’ games
Rumors regarding the afterlife of ABC’s “Sports Night” may have been greatly exaggerated.
After the Alphabet axed the critically praised half-hour last month, it was widely expected that Imagine/Touchstone skein would end up on one of several pay cable outlets, with HBO the most likely contender. Indeed, “Sports Night” creator/exec producer Aaron Sorkin had already come up with a plan to retool the show to make it almost a new program.
Now, however, industry insiders confirm that the ABC-HBO talks are dead. What’s more, Sorkin has indicated that he’s not interested in producing the skein for any network other than HBO– essentially putting the final nail in the show’s coffin.
It’s unclear exactly what killed the HBO deal, though several sources indicate ABC/Touchstone wasn’t happy with the financial terms being discussed. One insider says ABC simply didn’t want to do a deal; a Disney source insists that’s nonsense. “We’re just not going to do a deal if it’s not in our best interest,” the Mouse House player said.
An HBO rep referred calls on the matter to ABC/Touchstone, which declined comment.
— Josef Adalian and John Dempsey
ABC island hops with ‘Drew’
The tribal leaders at ABC have once again voted “Two Guys and a Girl” and “Norm” off Alphabet island.
Instead, the network hopes to blunt the effect of ratings torch “Survivor” by shipping in its own big kahuna–Drew Carey–for battle. ABC has skedded last-minute repeats of “The Drew Carey Show” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” this Wednesday and next (June 28) at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively.
That means “Two Guys” and “Norm”–both of which tentpole ABC’s retooled Friday night lineup this fall– will return to seclusion for now.
“Two Guys” and “Norm” had just returned to the network last week after disappearing for a long spring break. “Norm” had been off the air for 12 weeks, since mid-March; “Two Guys” hadn’t been seen for six weeks.
“Norm” exec producer Bruce Helford– who also produces “Drew”–said ABC will relaunch the Norm Macdonald laffer later this summer, possibly airing the skein twice a week.
“They don’t want to waste episodes (of ‘Norm’),” Helford said. “And no doubt ‘Drew’ is the more established show. ‘Drew’ maybe has a chance of blunting ‘Survivor’ a little bit.”
Insiders at 20th Century Fox Television, which produces “Two Guys,” said studio execs there are equally happy to have their skein shielded from the “Survivor” juggernaut.
— Michael Schneider