‘Rocketman’ Producer Developing Comedy ‘Inward Bound’ (EXCLUSIVE)
By Dave McNary LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Brian Oliver’s New Republic Pictures, the company that co-financed and produced “Rocketman,” is developing a female ensemble comedy “Inward Bound.” The announcement comes on the heels of Universal’s “Good Boys” becoming the first R-rated comedy to open in first place at the North American box office in three years, as well as the biggest opening for an original comedy this year. “There is a large theatrical market for ensemble comedies, especially one as funny and, yes, as raunchy as ‘Inward Bound,’” Oliver said. “It’s got a great set of roles for talent and we’re eager to see this on the big screen.” Written by stand-up comedian Stefanie Kahn, the “Inward Bound” script follows a divorced mother’s trip to a “romance rehab” staffed by hunky guides to service more than the women’s camping needs. Brought into New Republic Pictures by head of development John Hilary Shepherd, the original screenplay is a cross mix between “Bridesmaids” and “Girls Trip.” Kahn is a native New Yorker who began her career in entertainment starring in the first national tour of the Tony-award winning musical “Annie.” She starred opposite Judd Hirsch and Kate Nelligan in “Without a Trace” and with Paul Dooley in HBO’s “A Wilder Summer.” Oliver received a best picture Academy Award nomination for “Black Swan.” His other credits include “Everest,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Black Mass,” and the upcoming “1917.” He launched New Republic in 2017. New Republic’s development slate includes “The Creed of Violence,” the Will Packer-proudced urban drama “Green Rush” and a Zelda Fitzgerald biopic starring Jennifer Lawrence. Kahn was represented in the deal by Nick Gladden with Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner & Gellman. The deal was negotiated for New Republic by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
The Fantasy Footballers Podcast Lands SiriusXM Live Weekly Show
By Todd Spangler LOS ANGELES (Variety) – The three guys from Arizona behind popular podcast The Fantasy Footballers are coming to SiriusXM with their own two-hour, live weekly show. Launching ahead of the 2019 regular season, “The Fantasy Footballers on ” will feature the podcast’s hosts — Andy Holloway, Jason Moore and Mike Wright — analyzing the gridiron fantasy-sports landscape and taking calls from listeners seeking advice on their draft picks. The show will debut Aug. 22, airing every Thursday (5-7 p.m. ET/2-4 p.m. PT) exclusively on the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio channel. In addition, The Fantasy Footballers’ independently produced podcast will be broadcast on the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio channel — the first podcast to air on the channel — each weeknight at 1 a.m. ET/10 p.m. PT, starting Monday, Aug. 19. “The Fantasy Footballers are trusted experts in the game, and we’re excited to give our subscribers a leg up in their leagues with exclusive access to Andy, Jason and Mike on their new, weekly SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio show,” said Steve Cohen, SiriusXM’s SVP of sports programming. In another new pact with the NFL, The Fantasy Footballers are participating in “NFL Fantasy League One,” a new short-form video series premiering Tuesday, Sept. 3, which will connect NFL fantasy experts and NFL Network personalities with celebrities who love the game. With participants divided between “expert” and “celeb” divisions, “NFL Fantasy League One” will stream four shows per week and feature segments updating viewers with the latest fantasy news, as well as League One updates from both the celebrity and expert divisions. “NFL Fantasy League One” content will be distributed via the new NFL Fantasy app, NFL.com and the NFL app. Segments will also be featured within “NFL Fantasy Live” on NFL Network and across the NFL’s fantasy social accounts. In addition, this season, Fantasy Footballers’ Wright will be the voice of Amazon Web Services NFL Next Gen Stats national TV campaign. The Fantasy Footballers podcast debuted in 2014, after the three had become friends when they worked for a Scottsdale, Ariz., tech startup producing Facebook games. Initially, it was just a fun sidelight: “Andy and Mike started a podcast just ragging on the other guys in our fantasy-football league,” Moore said. It became a hit, and they soon quit their jobs to turn The Fantasy Footballers into a business. In 2018, the podcast topped 100 million downloads, making it the largest fantasy-football podcast in the U.S. Their YouTube channel has over 140,000 subscribers. The show won the “best sports podcast” category at iHeartMedia’s first Podcast Awards in January 2019. The podcast is available to listen to free at to thefantasyfootballers.com and on platforms including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify. At the outset, “We felt there was an opportunity to bring something new: a fantasy-football show that spans the full year,” Holloway said. “We knew we had to be accurate, and we had to be entertaining — there are some fantasy shows that are like reading from a spreadsheet.” The business is profitable and last year generated $2.7 million in revenue, according to Holloway. The team produces the podcasts and YouTube videos from a studio in north Phoenix, and the company has three full-time employees and 12 contract writers. Especially in the early days, The Fantasy Footballers relied on fan contributions via Patreon, where they provide their members extra content. So far, they’ve remained independent and haven’t taken on any debt or outside investment. “We’re lucky we got in when we did,” said Holloway. The recent gold rush into podcasting and resulting content explosion, he said, “makes it more difficult for independent podcasts to break in today.” The Fantasy Footballers also sell “The Ultimate Draft Kit” digital guide (available in two editions, priced at $30 and $60), which they market through the podcast, and the trio went on a five-city tour earlier this year. In addition, they have committed to philanthropic efforts, partnering with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital this year to support its mission to end childhood cancer. The Fantasy Footballers are represented by Amplify Management and are signed with WME. Pictured above (l. to r.): Mike Wright, Jason Moore, Andy Holloway
Spotify Announces Upgrades to Family Plan, at No Charge in U.S. and U.K.
By Jem Aswad LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Just days after reports emerged that Spotify is aiming to increase the price of its family plan in its home market of Scandinavia , the streaming giant announced an upgrade to the plan — with no price increase in the U.S. and U.K., where it remains at $14.99 and £15, respectively. A rep for the company did not immediately respond to Variety’s questions about whether other markets, such as Scandinavia, will see a price increase for the plan. The upgrade is currently available in Ireland and will roll out in all markets that offer the Premium Family plan at an unspecified date in this fall. While there is no mention of price in the U.S. blog post announcing the plan, a rep for the company confirmed that the price will remain the same. The plan will offer access to “Family Mix” playlists and the ability to manage all of the family plan members in a single place, including parental controls on explicit content; the plan still allows for up to six individual Premium accounts per plan. In Scandinavia, is looking to raise the price of its family plan by about 13%, sources told Bloomberg last week , stressing that the effort is a test and the company has not locked in a price rise in Scandinavia or anywhere. The move was seen by some observers as a test run at increasing prices in other markets: While the subscription prices of all streaming services vary across the globe, the fact remains that even though Spotify is the world’s largest DSP, with nearly 110 million paying customers, it is many years away from turning a profit, with music companies clamoring for a bigger share of its revenue. Unlike Apple or Amazon, music is not a secondary business for Spotify, and it needs to find more routes to profitability. It is not surprising that a price hike in certain markets could be one.
Former Venmo COO Mike Vaughan Joins Stem’s Board
By Janko Roettgers LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Los Angeles-based music distribution and payments startup Stem has appointed former Venmo executive Mike Vaughan to its board of directors. Vaughan was chief operating officer of Venmo from 2011 until earlier this year, and is now executive in residence at Oak HC/FT. “The music industry can benefit tremendously from innovation in the way money flows between the creators, the distributors and the platforms,” said Vaughan in a statement. “Not to mention the impact we can make with offering more accessible financial services that cater to the creators in the music space.” “As we keep building out Stem’s platform capabilities, Mike will provide industry insights and connections that will propel Stem’s artist and label fintech offerings,” added Stem CEO Milana Rabkin Lewis. “The fintech angle perfectly complements our broader mission of being the most reliable way for artists to get paid and to automate accurate payments for all collaborators who helped them create.” Stem’s platform helps bands distribute their music, and then split the resulting revenue among all collaborators. The company has worked with artists including Childish Gambino, Sheryl Crow and Frank Ocean. Stem has raised a total of $12.5 million in funding.
‘Practical Magic’ Prequel Among Three HBO Max Pilot Orders
By Joe Otterson LOS ANGELES (Variety) – HBO Max is continuing to build up its original programming slate with three new projects. Variety has learned that the nascent streamer has given pilot orders to the half-hour dramedy “Generation” and the hour-long drama “Red Bird Lane,” as well as a pilot production commitment for the one-hour drama “Rules of Magic.” All three projects hail from Warner Bros. Television. “Rules of Magic” is based on the novels “Rules of Magic” and “Practical Magic” by Alice Hoffman. “Practical Magic” was previously adapted into a film in 1998 starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Set in 1960s New York City, the series follows three troubled siblings — Franny, Jet and Vincent Owens — who wrestle with “abnormalities” that have kept them isolated. But the tumultuous times unearth the extraordinary discovery that they are, in fact, descendants of a bloodline of witches. The two sisters will become the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in “Practical Magic,” while their brother will leave an unexpected legacy. “Jessica Jones” creator Melissa Rosenberg will write and executive produce via Tall Girls Productions, her first project under her new overall deal with WBTV. Dana Baratta will also write and executive produce, with Denise Di Novi and Nina Tassler of PatMa Productions and Hoffman also executive producing. is currently setting up a writers’ room for the series with a 10 script order. Rosenberg is repped by UTA and 3 Arts Entertainment. Baratta is repped by UTA and Circle of Confusion. “Generation” was created by Zelda Barnz, the 17 year old daughter of Daniel and Ben Barnz. Zelda will serve as the writer and co-executive producer on the project, which follows a group of high school students whose exploration of modern sexuality (devices and all) tests deeply entrenched beliefs about life, love and the nature of family in their conservative community. Daniel will co-write with Zelda in addition to directing. Daniel and Ben will executive produce under their We’re Not Brothers Productions banner, with Lena Dunham also executive producing. Marissa Diaz will produce. Ben and Daniel are repped by WME and Lichter Grossman. Zelda is also repped by Lichter Grossman. “Red Bird Lane” is a YA morality and psychological horror series about eight strangers who arrive at an isolated house—all for different reasons—and quickly realize that something sinister and terrifying awaits them. Sara Gran will write and executive produce. John Wells and Erin Jontow of John Wells Productions will also executive produce, with Dan Halsted serving as consulting producer. Gran is repped by Manage-Ment and attorney Ryan Nord.
James Corden Signs Deal to Host ‘Late Late Show’ Through 2022
By Will Thorne LOS ANGELES (Variety) – James Corden has signed a new deal with CBS which will see him stay on as host of “The Late Late Show” through 2022. The multi-talented Brit had been in advanced negotiations with the studio since May, and the new deal is sure to see him score a substantial bump in pay. The previous deal he inked when he came to the network from the U.K. in 2014 was set to expire at the end of the upcoming 2019-20 television season. Corden’s salary under that previous deal was believed to have started in the $4 million-$5 million range, however, his pay has since climbed in accordance with the success of “The Late Late Show.” 2019 has been a stellar year for Corden, who recently received the most Emmy nominations for any individual performer this cycle with seven, including his fourth in a row for variety talk series. To date, Corden has seven Emmy statuettes to his name. Keeping Corden in the “Late Late Show” hot seat was a top priority for given the recent resurgence of Stephen Colbert, who has jumped to the number one spot in late night, and his ability to generate viral content online. Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” which began life purely as a “Late Late Show” segment, took off and has since spawned a string of primetime specials and a dedicated series for Apple. “ has burned his way to the top of American television with a daring, energetic and inventive broadcast that stands out in the late night space,” said CBS chief creative office David Nevins. “He is a host and performer whose considerable talents shine on every stage, and he has created a cutting-edge comedy factory with shows that have resonated across multiple platforms. James and his shows are a great source of pride to CBS, and it’s exciting to extend our relationship well into the future.” Also worth noting from CBS’ perspective is the fact that Corden’s Fulwell73 producing partner Ben Winston is becoming an increasingly big player at network. The “Late Late Show” exec producer is set to take over Grammy Awards exec producing duties in 2021. Corden debuted as host of “Late Late Show” in March 2015. The British actor-comedian was a gamble for CBS as he came in with limited experience other than hosting the popular sports-related game show “A League of Their Own.” He gained fame in the U.K. for his work as creator and co-star of the cult BBC sitcom “Gavin and Stacey,” which ran from 2007 to 2010 and which he is currently rebooting in the form of an hourlong Christmas special. Corden has become a big presence on CBS outside of “Late Late Show” as a frequent host of special events. He hosted CBS’ Grammy Awards telecasts in 2016 and 2017 and acted as emcee for the Tony Awards both this year and back in 2016. Corden won a Tony in 2012 for his work on Broadway in the play “One Man, Two Guvnors.” He joins Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee in the lineup of late night hosts signed to their respective desks until 2022.
Jay-Z Gets Shade From Kaepernick, Support From Cardi B as NFL Fallout Continues
By Jem Aswad LOS ANGELES (Variety) – UPDATED: If anyone expected the drama surrounding Jay-Z’s deal with the to calm down over the weekend, they were mistaken, as controversy and conversation continued to swirl. The situation grew even more intense late Friday when TMZ reported that J ay is looking to acquire a majority interest in an unspecified NFL team , which would add a whole other level to his deal with the league. However, Jay is an owner of Roc Nation Sports, an agency that represents athletes, so it was not immediately clear whether he would have to divest that interest in order to acquire an ownership stake in an NFL team; one unidentified source close to the rapper reportedly told TMZ that he wouldn’t: “Jay is not an NFL agent and does not take part in the operations of the NFL players in .” Jay gradually sold off his interest in the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets after Roc Nation Sports launched in 2008 to avoid such a conflict. Contacted by Variety, a rep for the rapper declined comment; reps for the NFL did not respond. However, Kaepernick and his friend and former teammate Eric Reid weighed in on the situation. On Sunday, Kaepernick — who rarely posts statements on social media, opting instead to share those of others — posted a photo of Reid and Miami Dolphins’ Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson kneeling, referencing Jay-Z’s statement that “I think we’re past kneeling” during the press conference announcing the NFL deal on Wednesday. “My Brothers @e_reid35 @kstills @ithinkisee12 continue to fight for the people, even in the face of death threats. They have never moved past the people and continue to put their beliefs into action. Stay strong Brothers!!! ” he wrote. Reid went harder, wearing a Kaepernick shirt as he told reporters late Friday, “Jay-Z claimed to be a supporter of Colin, he wore his Jersey, he told people not to perform at the Super Bowl because of the treatment the NFL did to Colin, and now he’s going to be a part-owner,” he said, shaking his head. “He’s sounding despicable.” However, he did get some verbal support from Cardi B, who told TMZ late Saturday, “I think that he can make a change,” she said. “I feel like he went in there like, ‘If you guys want me to work with y’all, then y’all need to bring my people in there and do things my way.’” Asked about Kaepernick, she added, “I feel like Jay-Z could bring back Colin Kaepernick [to the NFL], I feel so, I think he has that power.” On Sunday, songwriter Bryan Michael Cox told hip-hop reporter Karen Civil that Atlanta-based producer/songwriter Jermaine Dupri, who organized several concerts during Super Bowl week in Atlanta early this year, had been offered a deal similar to the one Jay was offered, and Jay advised him to turn it down. Later on Sunday, DJ/radio host Funkmaster Flex said Dupri confirmed that information. Dupri “confirmed that when he was working with the NFL last year he did get a call from Jay-Z asking him ‘How deep are u in with the NFL?,’ Expressing… ‘that might not be a good idea,’” Flex thundered in an all-caps tweet . Of course, the barrage of editorials and commentary from other celebrities on the matter continued. And as a new work week begins, the only certainty is that we haven’t heard the last of this.
Robert De Niro’s Company Files $6 Million Suit Against Ex-Employee
By Gene Maddaus LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Robert De Niro’s company has filed a $6 million lawsuit against a former employee, accusing her of embezzling money and binge-watching Netflix while on the job. Canal Productions, De Niro’s loan-out company, also accuses Chase Robinson of racking up exorbitant hotel and restaurant charges and using millions of De Niro’s frequent flyer miles for her personal trips. According to the suit, filed on Saturday in state court in New York, Robinson was hired as an assistant to De Niro in 2008. She was later promoted to “vice president of production and finance” at the loan-out company, and her 2019 salary was $300,000. She left the company in April, amid growing concerns about alleged “corporate sabotage,” the suit states. The company says she rarely came into the office, and alleges she spent “astronomical amounts of time” watching Netflix during work hours. The company alleges that during a four-day period in January, she watched 55 episodes of “Friends.” On one of those days, she ordered lunch from Caviar San Francisco and had dinner at Paola’s Restaurant, charging both meals on the company card. Over another four-day period in March, she allegedly watched 20 episodes of “Arrested Development” and 10 episodes of “Schitt’s Creek.” “Watching shows on Netflix was not in any way part of or related to the duties and responsibilities of Robinson’s employment and, on information and belief, was done for her personal entertainment, amusement and pleasure at times when she was being paid to work,” the suit alleges. The suit alleges that Robinson made $12,696.65 in unauthorized charges at Paola’s over a two-year period, in addition to $8,923.20 at Dean and Deluca and Whole Foods, and $32,000 for Ubers and taxis. In her resignation email in April, Robinson allegedly brushed off concerns about her spending and other issues as “ridiculous.” She later drafted a recommendation letter for herself, which De Niro refused to sign, the suit states.
Reese Witherspoon, Home Edit Duo Set Lifestyle Series at Netflix
By Joe Otterson LOS ANGELES (Variety) – Netflix has ordered a new lifestyle series that boasts Reese Witherspoon among its executive producers. The hour-long series will follow master home organizes Clea Sherer and Joanna Teplin, the duo behind The Home Edit company. In each episode, Sherer and Teplin will transform the lives of their clients by conquering clutter with their signature style. Each episode features two organizational projects shaped by the pair’s sense of form-meets-function that will entertain and inspire. has ordered eight episodes. Tess Gamboa Meyers will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Witherspoon will executive produce under her Hello Sunshine banner. Other executive producers include Molly Sims, Charlotte Koh, Cynthia Stockhammer, Critical Content’s Tom Forman, Jenny Daly, and Jon Beyer. News of the series comes after Netflix has found success in the lifestyle space with hits like “Queer Eye” and “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Witherspoon also executive produces and stars in the HBO series “Big Little Lies” as well as the upcoming Apple series “The Morning Show,” the latter of which released its first full trailer earlier on Monday. She will also star in and executive produce the upcoming Hulu series “Little Fires Everywhere,” and is executive producing a number of other projects across cable and streaming platforms. (Pictured: )
VH1 Renews Two Series in ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Franchise
By Danielle Turchiano LOS ANGELES (Variety) – “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has been renewed for Season 12 at , the cabler announced Monday. Additionally, the “All Stars” version of the show has been renewed for Season 5. RuPaul made the announcement in a video, which you can see below. The flagship series will welcome a fresh group of drag queens eager to prove to the world that they can lip sync for their lives and have what it takes to be crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” Meanwhile, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” will see the franchise’s “most notable” queens return to prove to host RuPaul why they deserve another crown and a coveted spot in the “‘Drag Race’ Hall of Fame.” The most recent 11th season of “Drag Race” wrapped up in May, with Yvie Oddly winning the crown, title and cash prize. The fourth season of “All Stars” wrapped up in February seeing a tie between Monét X Change and Trinity the Tuck for the win. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” are produced by World of Wonder Productions with Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Tom Campbell, Steven Corfe, Mandy Salangsang and RuPaul serving as executive producers. Tim Palazzola serves as executive producer for VH1 and Jen Passovoy serves as producer. The franchise is currently celebrating 14 Emmy nominations across “Drag Race” and its companion series “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked.” This is a record number of award accolades for the network.