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TCA Roundup: Elizabeth Smart Talks Autobiographical Films, Starz CEO Promotes Skinny Bundles

The Television Critics Association press tour arrived in Beverly Hills on July 25 and will continue through Aug. 9. Each day, Variety will publish a roundup of the most essential news items to come out of the day’s panels.

In today’s roundup, Elizabeth Smart talks about the two movies she is producing on her life, and Lifetime execs discuss its movie on the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

On a panel for A+E Networks, Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her Salt Lake City home in 2002, talked about bringing her story to television with two different programming events. “I Am Elizabeth Smart,” a Lifetime movie, and “Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography,” a two-part documentary special, each come 15 years after Smart became a national story. Both programs will run on Lifetime and A+E. “I have a unique opportunity to share my story because there are so many survivors out there who struggle every day … they feel like no one understands what they’re going through. … I feel like I need to speak out because I can,” she said during the panel.

Flint executive producer Neil Meron said he hopes to draw attention to the unresolved clean water supply issue. Five Michigan officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter over the Flint water crisis in June, and activist Melissa Mays hopes more will be held accountable. The film features real-life activists to tell the story of the residents who drew national attention to the health crisis linked to water that had become tainted following changes to the water supply under the government of Gov. Rick Snyder. “Flint” premieres Oct. 28 on Lifetime.

In tech news, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht gave a breakdown of skinny bundles — low-cost, digitally distributed channel packages — in context of the expanding cable landscape. These packages challenge traditional cable-television products, which are marketed to new or downsizing consumers, Albrecht explained in the panel. Industry mergers, including the recent acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications, will continue to impact new products in the marketplace, he said.

Outlander” showrunner Richard M. Moore said at a panel discussion on Thursday that the show is unlikely to ever run ahead of the books due to author Diana Gabaldon’s prolific writing pace. He added that they aren’t bound to adapt one book per season, and that the focus at the outset is to adapt the novels the best way they can. Star Caitriona Balfe also detailed the process of filming in Jamaica for the upcoming third season, which included shooting on stationary ships and dealing with foul-smelling fake vomit.

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