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‘American Gods’ and ‘Grand Tour’ Star in Amazon’s U.K. TV Charts

51 minutes ago

American Gods” is among the most downloaded show on Amazon Prime Video in the U.K. this year, with Starz pirate series “Black Sails” and U.S. network offerings “Lucifer” and “Parks and Recreation” and animated children’s series “Peppa Pig,” also all featuring, the tech giant said. “The Grand Tour” was also in the top ten and the company also has high hopes for the second season of the motoring series, as well as for other original programming in Europe and beyond.

Amazon released data on the popularity of its offerings in Britain ahead of Friday, its declared “Download Day,” when it expects more content to be downloaded and stored for offline viewing by customers than any other day of the year. The downloading feature, which the company introduced in 2013 and for Apple and Android phones and tablets in 2015, ahead of arch-rival Netflix, has been “one of, if not the most, successful »


- Stewart Clarke

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Telefonica Reverses Pay-tv Dip in Spain

1 hour ago

Madrid – Telefonica, Europe’s first telecom to move massively into scripted TV production, saw pay-tv subscribers increase at its Spanish operations in the run-up to the launch of its weighty slate of original TV series productions, which hit the market this September with “Velvet Collection.”

After dropping three consecutive quarters from a high point in June 2016 of 3.755 million, pay-tv subs at Telefonica España added 51,000 clients from April to June this year, increasing from 3.615 million at the end of March to 3.666 million on June 30.

The increase was fostered by new customers and migration from low-value options to the Fusion + Ocio bundle launched in April, which had 131,000 clients on June 30, Telefonica said in its second-quarter results announcement Thursday.

A quad-play offer of mobile and fixed telephony, broadband internet and TV, Fusion + Ocio is offered at prices ranging from €60 ($70) for 50Mb Internet speed to €72 ($84) for 300 Mb.

The big question for Telefonica and other telecoms pushing into original production will be »


- John Hopewell

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Sky to Launch ‘Simple and Affordable’ Ott Service in Spain

2 hours ago

Sky is streaming into the Spanish market. Issuing results Thursday, CEO Jeremy Darroch said the European pay-tv operator intended “to launch a simple and affordable Ott service in Spain.”

For the fiscal year ending June 30, Sky said it registered a 5% increase in revenues of £12.9 billion ($16.9 billion) but a 3% slip in Ebita profit of £2.1 billion, as the increased costs of Premier League soccer rights and other investments kicked in. Operating profit, at £1.5 billion, was down 6% year on year for the U.K.-listed company.

Sky also said it will boost its investment in Sky Originals by 25% to give it an edge over Amazon and Netflix. “Local dramas such as ‘Babylon Berlin’ in Germany, ‘Britannia’ in the U.K., and the return of the third season of Italian crime drama ‘Gomorrah’ illustrate our strength in local programming that other Svod providers cannot match,” the company said.

Sky has also entered its first co-production with HBO, a »

- Stewart Clarke

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June Foray, Voice of ‘Bullwinkle Show’s’ Natasha and Rocky, Dies at 99

4 hours ago

June Foray, the voice of “The Rocky and  Bullwinkle Show’s” Rocky the Flying Squirrel and his nemesis Natasha Fatale of Boris and Natasha fame in the early 1960s and a key figure in the animation industry, died Thursday. She was 99.

Her close friend Dave Nimitz, confirmed her death on Facebook, writing “With a heavy heart again I want to let you all know that we lost our little June today at 99 years old.”

Foray was also the voice behind Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel, Nell from “Dudley Do-Right,” Granny in the “Tweety and Sylvester” cartoons and Cindy Lou Who in Chuck Jones’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” among hundreds of others.

The first lady of voice acting, one of the original members of animation organization Asifa-Hollywood and founder of the annual Annie Awards, was also instrumental in the creation of the Oscars’ animated feature category.

“We are all saddened by the news of June’s passing,” said »


- Terry Flores

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5 Things We Learned From TCA: Day 2

6 hours ago

There’s always plenty of surprises, who-knew and they-said-what moments during the parade of TV show panels at the Television Critics Assn. press tour. Day two of the summer tour that runs through Aug. 9 featured presentations from Discovery Channel, Science Channel, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery, Espn and HBO.

Here are five things we learned from Wednesday’s sessions:

Investigation Discovery is taking time out from its steady diet of murders, murders and more murders for a documentary take on the First Amendment and the challenges it faces in the digital era and at a time of rising distrust of the media. The multipart series targeted to debut next year is dubbed “Don’t Stop the Presses.” The panel for Espn’s “30 for 30” documetnary on Ric Flair, the pro wrestler known as “Nature Boy,” provoked a surprising level of excitement among the TCA crowd. Flair told the crowd he would dearly love to get back into the ring »


- Cynthia Littleton

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TCA Roundup: HBO Talks ‘Confederate’ Controversy, ‘True Detective’ Season Three and More

6 hours ago

The Television Critics Assocation press tour arrived in Beverly Hills July 25 and will continue through August 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, Andrew Sodroski and Greg Yaitanes discussed the humanity in Discovery Channel’s “Manhunt: Unabomber” series, Mahershala Ali was confirmed to star in “True Detective” season three, and HBO Original Programming chief Casey Bloys admitted the press release surrounding David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s “Confederate” project was misguided.

Sodroski and Yaitanes, producers of the six-part Unabomber limited series, said they wanted to bring light to certain aspects of a well-known criminal case like FX did with “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” Paul Bettany stars as bomber Ted Kaczynski and Mark Duplass plays his older brother, David, who turned his brother in after recognizing his writing style in the Unabomber’s manifesto published »


- Erin Nyren

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Larry David Reveals How Lorne Michaels and Ari Emanuel Recruited Him to Play Bernie Sanders on ‘SNL’

7 hours ago

Larry David’s stint playing Sen. Bernie Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” began the night of the first Democratic primary debate in 2015.

The comedian and “Seinfeld” creator  spoke about his “SNL” run Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour, where he appeared to promote the upcoming ninth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

“This Bernie Sanders thing,” David said. “During the first debate between Bernie and Hillary, [‘SNL’ creator] Lorne Michaels got emails and calls during the debate, saying that I should be doing Bernie Sanders.”

After the debate, “[Wme-img co-ceo] Ari Emanuel called me up and said, ‘What did you think?’ And every time I watched Bernie Sanders, I would repeat everything that he said, because I know that I can talk like that. So I started talking to Ari, the agent, I started talking to him like Bernie.” Emanuel then told Sanders to post video of himself doing the impression on the internet. “I »


- Daniel Holloway

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‘The Deuce’ Takes Aim at Cultural Impact of Modern Porn Biz

7 hours ago

Who got paid, who got betrayed and how the culture became hyper-sexualized with the rise of the modern pornography industry are the big themes of “The Deuce,” the latest HBO effort from “The Wire” creator David Simon.

The drama, which bows Sept. 10, is set in 1971 at the moment when porn goes from a “paper bag beneath-the-counter” business to a booming industry, Simon said.

“Everybody realizes that the money involved is going to be real,” Simon told reporters Wednesday during the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. The story of how the business evolved and who prospered among the early pioneers is a fascinating tale. But the larger theme that “Deuce” aims to explore is how porn has influenced culture — everything from the marketing of automobiles to the way men and women communicate.

“The product itself is not a normative product — the product is human flesh. It’s objectified women,” Simon »


- Cynthia Littleton

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SAG-aftra Election Ballots Go Out Against Backdrop of Contract Ratification

8 hours ago

About 144,000 SAG-aftra election ballots have started hitting performers’ mailboxes this week — only one week after union members were asked to ratify a three-year successor deal to the master contract.

As a result, the question of whether to ratify the contract is the key issue among presidential candidates. Current SAG-aftra president Gabrielle Carteris, who heads the moderate Unite for Strength faction, has strongly endorsed the deal while Esai Morales and stuntman Peter Antico are pushing for a “No” vote.

The union reached a deal with Hollywood producers on July 4. The new deal, if ratified, provides for $256 million in increased pay over the three years with minimums increasing by 2.5% in the first year, 3% in the second year, and 3% in the third year. Employers will also provide a 0.5% hike in contributions paid to the SAG pension plan and AFTRA retirement fund in the first year of the agreement along with “significant” improvements in the residuals rate paid by streaming platforms »


- Dave McNary

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‘Game of Thrones’: Euron Greyjoy ‘Knows He’s Going to Die,’ Star Pilou Asbæk Says

8 hours ago

Spoiler Alert: Do not keep reading if you have not seen “Stormborn,” season seven, episode two of “Game of Thrones.”

“Stormborn” — Sunday night’s episode of “Game of Thrones” — was a dark moment of triumph for Euron Greyjoy. His enemies are dead, scattered, or taken as prisoners. Their ships are burned. The crazy-eyed madman who showed up last season and took the Salt Throne appears poised to deliver on his promise to bring a unique gift to Queen Cersei Lannister as a token of his affection. Not bad for a “sociopath,” as the actor who created Euron calls him.

Speaking to Variety, that actor, Pilou Asbæk, discussed filming the climactic battle of Season 7’s second episode, Euron’s future, and whether comparisons of the character to President Donald Trump are apt.

Euron seems to have a little more swagger than he did last season. Are you playing him differently?

No, I »


- Daniel Holloway

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Viacom Out of Chase for Scripps Networks

8 hours ago

Viacom Inc. is no longer in the bidding for Scripps Networks Interactive, according to people familiar with the situation, leaving the owner of cable’s Food Network and Hgtv to negotiate exclusively with Discovery Communications, the other media company pursuing a tie-up.

Viacom and Discovery declined to make executives available for comment. A Scripps spokesman said the company declined to comment. Even with Discovery and Scripps in close talks, a sale is not guaranteed, these people cautioned.

Viacom, the owner of MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon, had reportedly made an all-cash bid for Scripps, a move aimed at luring the Knoxville, Tenn., company’s sizable family ownership. But that raised a flag on Wall Street. “Essentially this means Viacom would very likely get downgraded to junk status from its current Bbb- rating, something the company has been trying to avoid for the past few years,” noted Michael Nathanson, a media-industry analyst, in »


- Brian Steinberg

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HBO Chief: Slavery Drama ‘Confederate’ Is ‘Not Whips and Plantations’

9 hours ago

If HBO programming president Casey Bloys could get a redo on last week’s announcement about upcoming drama “Confederate,” he’d take it.

“File this under hindsight is 20-20,” Bloys said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. Bloys faced multiple questions about the new series from “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Picked up to series last week, “Confederate” sparked an immediate backlash over its subject matter — a fictional version of an America where the South successfully seceded from the Union and the institution of slavery thrives.

“Our mistake — HBO’s mistake, not the producers — was the idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive and requires such care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release was misguided on our part.”

Bloys said he realized after the fact that HBO should have had the producers sit with »


- Daniel Holloway

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‘Deadwood’ Movie Update: HBO Exec Praises David Milch’s ‘Terrific’ Script

10 hours ago

Attention “Deadwood” fans: There’s some movement on the prospect of a movie coming to fruition at HBO.

HBO Original Programming chief Casey Bloys told reporters Wednesday that he was impressed by the script delivered a few months ago by series creator David Milch. Bloys said he wanted to ensure that a movie would be accessible to viewers who have not seen the original series, which ran for three seasons from 2004-2006.

“I wanted a script that would stand on its own … I’m happy to say that David totally delivered on that. It’s a terrific script,” Bloys said during the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills.

Bloys quickly cautioned that there are a number of hurdles to clear before the cameras roll.

“If we can do it for a budget that makes sense for us, if we can find a director and we can get the cast together — it’s no easy »


- Cynthia Littleton

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HBO Sets ‘Chernobyl’ Miniseries to Star Jared Harris

10 hours ago

HBO has given the greenlight to a miniseries about the Chernobyl disaster to star “Mad Men” alum Jared Harris.

“Chernobyl” is a five-part look at the scientists and others who sacrificed to spare the world from a broader disaster in April 1986 when a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. Craig Mazin (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) penned the scripts and Johan Renck (“Breaking Bad”) is directing.

The mini is set to begin lensing next year in Lithuania. Harris will play Valery Legasov, the scientist chosen by the Kremlin to investigate the accident.

“From the moment Craig Mazin pitched us the story, we were convinced that this all-too-true tale of horror and redemption needed to be told,” said Kary Antholis, president of HBO Miniseries and Cinemax Programming. “It will engage – and enrage – our viewers, as well as audiences around the world.”

The project marks the first co-production between HBO and Sky Television. It »


- Cynthia Littleton

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Jon Stewart Sets Stand Up Special at HBO

10 hours ago

Jon Stewart will return to stand up comedy in a special for HBO, the former “Daily Show” host’s first such special in over 20 years, it was announced Wednesday at the TCA summer press tour.

“I’m really thrilled to be able to return to stand-up on HBO,” Stewart said. ”They’ve always set the standard for great stand-up specials. Plus, I can finally use up the last of the Saddam Hussein jokes left over from my first special.”

Stewart’s last stand up special, “Jon Stewart: Unleavened,” aired on HBO in 1996. Additionally, this fall Stewart will host the latest “Night of Too Many Stars” all-star benefit for Next For Autism to be presented live from The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on Nov. 18.

The second special will feature stand-up performances, sketches and short films. The comedy event was created by comedy writer and performer Robert Smigel to support autism schools, programs »


- Joe Otterson

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TV News Roundup: Sibongile Mlambo Joins Cast of Freeform’s ‘Siren’

10 hours ago

In today’s roundup, Sibongile Mlambo has joined Freeform’s “Siren” and Fusion TV launched a new non-profit organization.

Casting

Teen Wolf’s” Sibongile Mlambo has been added to the cast of Freeform’s new original drama series “Siren” as a series regular. The ten-episode, hour long drama takes audiences inside Bristol Cove — a coastal town known for its legend of once being home to mermaids. When the arrival of a mysterious girl (Eline Powell) proves this folklore all too true, the battle between man and sea takes a vicious turn as these predatory beings return to reclaim their right to the ocean.  Mlambo will portray Donna, a mysterious and deceptively powerful mermaid. The series also stars Alex Roe, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Ian Verdun, and Rena Owen.

Diversity

Fusion TV announced the launch of Creative Thread Foundation, a non-profit organization that stems from a partnership between Fusion and over 60 other companies, public »


- Erin Nyren

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TV Review: ‘Room 104’ on HBO and ‘The Guest Book’ on TBS

11 hours ago

Hotel rooms offer an escape to people on the run from or toward excitement, possibility, and danger. It’s no wonder a lot of key scenes in the acclaimed drama “The Leftovers” took place in anonymous guest quarters in chain hotels; these spaces offered both neutral backdrops for existential crises and recognizable way stations as characters began the strange and exhilarating task of reinventing themselves.

They take very different approaches — from “The Leftovers” and from each other — but two new anthologized half-hours dive head-first into the possibilities offered by those anonymous spaces full of the dreams and, sometimes, the unsavory detritus of strangers.

Each time someone checks into “Room 104,” all traces of the previous occupants have been erased. But the same slightly downmarket motel room is the setting of each installment of this offering from Jay and Mark Duplass and fellow executive producer Xan Aranda. One episode even dwells on the emotional life of the maid »


- Maureen Ryan

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‘Transparent’ Star Judith Light on Trump’s Transgender Military Ban: ‘It’s Just Very Upsetting’

11 hours ago

Judith Light has been a vocal advocate for Lgbtq equality since the early 1980s, and she’s currently up for an Emmy for her performance in the breakout Amazon hit “Transparent,” playing the ex-wife of the transgender woman played by Jeffrey Tambor. So when Light made a previously scheduled visit to Variety‘s New York offices on the morning that President Trump announced his ban on transgender people serving in the military, the issue was top of mind.

What did you think of the news this morning?

Judith Light: I just heard about it. I don’t know a lot about it yet, or the specifics of it, so I don’t want to go into it in full depth, but I will say the first hit of it was extremely unsettling to me, and very worrisome. Any time there is discrimination poised directly at another group of people, and »


- Gordon Cox

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Discovery Probes the Backstory of Ted Kaczynski in ‘Manhunt: Unabomber’

11 hours ago

The producers of Discovery Channel’s “Manhunt: Unabomber” limited series tried to bring “radical empathy” to the portrayal of Ted Kaczynski and the terror he inflicted through a bombing campaign that lasted more than 20 years.

Andrew Sodroski, writer and exec producer with Greg Yaitanes of the eight-part series that premieres Aug. 1, said the mini tries to explain why the highly intelligent mathematician was motivated to send bombs to people in a twisted effort to protest what he saw as the dangers of technology in the modern world.

Discovery is hoping to stir public interest in a the lesser-known aspects of a notorious modern criminal case in the same way that FX tapped a nerve last year with “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” The cabler aims to turn “Manhunt” into a recurring scripted franchise.

“This is a guy who mails bombs to people he’s never met,” Sodroski »


- Cynthia Littleton

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Britt Robertson to Star in Shondaland Drama ‘For the People,’ Jaina Lee Ortiz to Lead ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Spinoff

12 hours ago

Britt Robertson is set to take over the lead role in the Shondaland ABC legal drama “For the People,” Variety has confirmed.

In “For The People,” Robertson will replace Britne Oldford from the pilot as Sandra, a sensible, intelligent, and independent new public defender who was drawn to work in law because of an injustice inflicted on her family when she was a child. Robertson, who recently starred in Netflix’s “Girlboss,” is repped by Innovative Artists.

For The People” is set in the Southern District of New York Federal Court, known as “The Mother  Court.” Written by Paul William Davies, the show follows new lawyers working on high-profile cases for the defense and the prosecution.

In addition, Jaina Lee Ortiz has landed the lead role in the untitled “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff at ABC. The spinoff will follow a group of heroic firefighters. It is slated for a midseason launch. The »


- Rebecca Rubin

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