Execs in shock at DISNEY CEO firing Head of TV biz - the why & why now
Salma Hayek set for Angelina Jolie pic / META's big cost cuts in Products group / Colin Farrell to lead APPLE TV genre series
Mornin! This is Sean McNulty and here’s the Hollywood + Media news to know on FRIDAY June 10, 2022.
Where after an… active 😳 day in the Hollywood executive suite (see THE MEDIA BIZ section), let’s relax with our Friday morning coffee at K-Stew’s Malibu Beach House.
Or well at least her former one - Kristen just sold it for $8.3 Million to AMC NETWORKS new Marketing head Len Fogge. I really gotta get a job at AMC…
ALSO: Congrats to Britney & Sam who got married last night in front of about 60 folks. Mostly townies with names like Paris and Madonna. Her 2 boys were not there, but reportedly said they were "happy" for their mom... via K-Fed’s lawyer.
PLUS: The PGA has indefinitely suspended the 17 golfers who are playing in the Saudi (government) backed LIV golf league (Phil, Sergio, Louis and Dustin among them). This will not affect the US OPEN next weekend as it’s a USGA event. Which ya know, will be on National TV… unlike the LIV.
📽 THE SILVER SCREEN
It’s called “Without Blood” for FREEMANTLE. Currently shooting in ITALY, about “a girl’s quest for revenge and healing in a time of conflict.” /THR
ALSO IN MOVIES
MARVEL sets Jeff Schrier (“Paper Towns”, FX’s “Dave”) to direct “Thunderbolts” movie, currently being written with plans to shoot next Summer. It’s about a group of supervillains who do missions for the government. Wait OK - I know I don’t watch these movies but isn’t that “Suicide Squad”? /Deadline
APPLE TV+ sets first look movie deal with… NIKE 👟 (and producer Brad Weston’s MAKEREADY outfit) for pics to “inspire the next generation of athletes and celebrate the power of sport.” No initial projects indicated and not entirely sure what NIKE is bringing here outside of a paycheck & marketing muscle but… beyond my paygrade. /Deadline
To note - that Damon/Affleck NIKE Air Jordan Shoe Guy movie now shooting is at AMAZON. /Deadline
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📺 THE TV SET
And… absolutely nothing was released about it other than it is “genre bending”, so I’m going with a sex comedy… set in space 👍.
Simon Kinberg (“X-Men” mastermind, APPLE’s “Invasion”) among the producers, Fernando Meirelles (”City of God”) is directing. /Deadline
Pretty much all of them were via streaming (linear premiere got 240k viewers on Sunday), and the streaming audience was +1000% vs the first 3 days for the Series premiere last year.
STARZ’s streaming subscriber base may not be massive at 11.5 million… but they show up - that viewership translates to about 37% of subscribers watching the show. Strip clubs - who knew? 💸 /THR
Jeff Daniels and Maura Tierney both returning, for the PENNSYLVANIA small town sheriff drama series. Deal to get rights to Season 1 currently being worked out. /THR
ALSO IN TV
”Drag Me to Dinner”- drag queen dinner party competition show from NPH & David Burtka.
“Chefs vs. Wild” - 2 chefs cook in the wilderness in a competition series, and whomever attracts bears first wins. Ok I added that last part - but I’d totally watch that show.
“Secret Chef” - Chefs blind taste each other’s food and vote, from David Chang
“Burning Men” - A pepper growers competition show, oddly enough not from COMPLEX.
📝 IN OTHER WORDS
“So, while I will no longer be riding along beside you, I wish you happy trails and hope that our paths will cross again.
Warmly and with gratitude,
- The end of PETER RICE’s farewell email to DISNEY staff after… well, see below although pretty sure you’re up to speed.
💻 THE MEDIA BIZ
It was the axing heard around Hollywood yesterday (though the chatter at my neighborhood Queens bar during intermissions of the RANGERS game last night was nominal at best fwiw).
DISNEY CEO Bob Chapek blindsided longtime DISNEYFOX (nee FOX) Head of everything TV Peter Rice on Monday evening, firing him in a very brief 7 minute meeting - THR really nailing down those specifics in the link - and effective immediately.
Peter’s longtime #2 exec Dana Walden is being promoted to take his place and oversee everything TV (HULU, ABC, TWENTIETH TV, ABC NEWS etc).
Peter’s firing and name in general was barely mentioned in the note about Walden’s promotion, nor was it in the DISNEY Board’s odd statement about supporting Bob Chapek’s management choices (more on that below).
Analysis and chatter seems to fall into these buckets, most of which don’t make a lot of sense:
CULTURAL FIT: Chapek allegedly told Peter he was “not a fit in the new DISNEY culture”.
After being at the company 4+ years post DISNEY-FOX deal closure. And well over 2 years into working directly under Chapek. You’d think that might have come up earlier? 🧐
He was also known as a pretty universally well-liked executive both internally and with Hollywood creatives so… Yeah this tracks.
This is nowhere near an Ovitz at DISNEY in the 90’s situation that a “not a cultural fit” description implies.
FRESH APPROACH: While Peter & Dana’s personal styles & backgrounds are different, Chapek chose someone who… also spent their exec career at the more cutthroat FOX culture before DISNEY, and worked alongside Rice for well over 15 years. So… yeah not exactly a fresh start here.
NOT A TEAM PLAYER: Alex Sherman at CNBC who reports on DISNEY closely said on The Town podcast yesterday that a rationale he heard given was that Rice wasn’t a team player and didn’t share information well with other divisions. I mean maybe… but show me many Hollywood executives who do. And again - why do this now?
A CHANGE IN EXEC STRUCTURE: Chapek announced no other changes other than Peter is fired… so this obvious route was just ignored.
Peter’s contract was also just renewed for 3 years last Summer (he’ll be paid out hansomely), which was 1.5 years into Chapek’s tenure so… hard to believe Chapek all of a sudden discovered anything here about how he wants to run the company.
THE MOST OBVIOUS ANSWER IS USUALLY THE RIGHT ONE
There is definitely still more reporting to come here… but the simplest explanation at this point is that Chapek saw Rice as an increasing threat to take his job, and chose to act (in an extremely clumsy way) before more bad news came in.
The 1 thing that is true about this timing - it’s right before DISNEY is quite likely about to lose their DISNEY+HOTSTAR IPL Cricket rights in INDIA next week, which would very likely kick off a period of sizable losses in the overall DISNEY+ subscriber count (almost 1/3 of the DIS+ total is in this region), starting in Q3 and extending into 2023. At minimum it could cause some bad press beginning mid-next week if DIS+HOTSTAR doesn’t prevale. So I guess Bob wanted to get a jump start?
TO NOTE: The start of the next IPL season is in March 2023, right after Bob’s contract is up in February.
ALTHOUGH: Paying the likely $1 Billion+ a year pricetag for IPL rights is hard to justify at DISNEY, given that DISNEY+HOTSTAR’s 43 Million INDIA subscribers generate only about $500 to $750 Million in total revenue each year.
Still - explaining the nuance of a streaming subscriber count drop to Wall Street is just not gonna go well. #NetflixQ1
SO: Peter Rice is now on the market, with great experience across both TV & Film, and both SVOD and AVOD streaming businesses.
WBD is already a no (Peter had talks there last year but reportedly didn’t want to report into Zaz), so let the speculation begin… hopefully after the weekend.
Either way - From the THR coverage last night and DEADLINE piece rounding up (un-attributed) external exec reactions… this is generally being seen as a huge WTF, and another example of how Chapek still just doesn’t get how Hollywood works.
BOB CHAPEK’S FIRST 2 YEARS ON THE JOB:
Generally seen as giving 🖕 to Bob Iger in his last year at the company
The Kareem Daniels re-org that still confuses everyone 2 years in 🤔
ScarJo Black Widow lawsuit disaster 🙇♂️
Firing one of your most talented and liked top execs with little explanation #MoraleInTheToilet 🤦♂️
Let’s not forget the “Star Wars” movie franchise has come to screeching halt during his tenure. Sure, the series are great (so I’m told), but it’s going to be at least 5 years between 2019’s “Rise of Skywalker” and Taika Waititi’s TBD pic in 2024 (🤞).
Oh right! The DISNEY Board note - Chapek did get a vote of confidence in his overall management skills from the DISNEY Board yesterday in a very unusual statement… a Board who also hasn’t chosen to renew his contract less than 8 months before it expires.
A lot riding on the next 3-4 months if this 👇 doesn’t get turned around.
DIS stock ended the day down about 4% at $103.30, its lowest price in 4 years (except for the brief Mar 2020 crash).
OVER IN THE WBD EXECUTIVE SUITE
Will oversee all of (essentially TURNER’s) sports rights for MLB, NBA, NHL and MARCH MADNESS.
Will not oversee WBD European sports efforts.
It does not appear that Luis has… much Sports business experience - he previously worked with Zaz in DISCOVERY Int’l Content where Sports (via their EUROSPORT network) fell under his purview… but he’s never had a pure Sports job like this, and has no experience in the US Sports marketplace. /THR
WBD brings back Steve Spira as Prez of Business Affairs. He had a 35 year run there that ended in 2020, and will report into both Zaz and DeLuca & Abdy. /THR
AND AT SONY…
SONY PICTURES TV head Jeff Frost is leaving after 15 years at SONY. Sounds like he was just ready to do something else - he’s staying til Sept as the exec search begins. Like a normal executive transition. /Deadline
MONEY TIGHTENING IS GETTING REAL AT FACEBOOK
FACEMETA is drastically scaling back plans for their own line of AR glasses, as the Metaverse isn’t going to build itself people! The launch version of the glasses was slated for 2024 release, but:
Instead that version will now just be a “prototype”… with a commercially available product not expected for “several years”. Oh hi APPLE 😎. /The Information
META also pretty much but the kibosh on a smartwatch they were making as well. /Bloomberg
PORTAL is also done-for this Summer as a consumer product. It’s estimated they only sold about 800k in 2021. /The Verge
FACEBOOK is likely going to end their payments to news publishers program too (except in countries that legally require it). /WSJ
🏦 STOCK NOTES:
ROKU -9% ($92.37)
SNAP -7% ($14.10)
WBD -6% ($15.63)
PARAMOUNT -5% ($29.15)
NETFLIX -5% ($192.77)
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👩💻 THE FSS FEED:
(new Stuff to Watch this weekend, Friday - Saturday - Sunday)
WEEKEND READS + LISTENS
What’s MICHAEL FASSBENDER been up to? Becoming a racecar driver apparently. He’s racing in the infamous 24 LE MANS race this weekend after seemingly using his pandemic to dive hardcore into training, pursuing a lifelong dream. Now there’s a smart addition to Brad Pitt’s F1 movie at APPLE TV…
UNI “Jurassic World: Dominion” - ONLY IN THEATERS, also hits CHINA (or whatever theaters are open there).
NETFLIX “Dirty Daddy: The Bob Saget Tribute” - STREAM HERE
ABC NBA Finals Game 4 - 8p
NBC Belmont Stakes - Race is around 645p
CBS TONY AWARDS at 8p, with the pre-game hour with some Awards on PAR+ from 7-8p
PARAMOUNT “Evil” Season 3 - STREAM HERE
STARZ “Becoming Elizabeth” - guessing 9p? Starz.com wasn’t too helpful.
AMC “Dark Winds” - STREAM HERE (also on AMC linear)
🎥 TRAILER HOUSE
UNIVERSAL “NOPE” final trailer - Now with more words! Looking good 👍 - IN THEATERS JULY 22
HBOMAX “Menudo: Forever Young” docu trailer - No Ricky Martin in this… although maybe he participated by didn’t grant promo rights? PREMIERES THU JUNE 23
NETFLIX “Stranger Things” Season 4 vol 2 - 30 second promo. PREMIERES FRI JULY 1
🎧 PLAYING ME OFF
Gonna go with just a really great watch from last week on a tumultuous day like this, with ERNIE JOHNSON writing a “Note to Self” for CBS MORNINGS. Some inspiration, and a lotta heart from one of broadcasting’s all time greats.
If you need some new tunes:
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