CBS and Viacom head to court as mogul Leslie Moonves places a last-ditch bet on outmaneuvering Shari Redstone. Kim Masters and Eriq Gardner sort out what’s going on:
Is Shari Redstone the protagonist in a drama that could be titled “Daddy Dearest,” in which her domineering father years ago quietly devised a method to block her from eventually taking control of his media empire?
Or is CBS Corp., which stunned Redstone by suing May 14 to prevent her from forcing a merger with Viacom, just playing the long odds with an audacious legal argument? Has CBS chairman Leslie Moonves calculated that even if his side loses, he’ll be paid handsomely to leave while sparing himself a possibly futile struggle to make a success of the combined companies? The looming questions.
Today in upfronts…
► ABC’s spin: Tuesday’s one-hour, 50-minute presentation did not go light on Freeform, sharing the David Geffen Hall with ABC for the first time. Boss Ben Sherwood insisted that the increased partnership between the brands was a way to keep Disney connected with an audience that spans “From teenagers to baby boomers and everybody in between.” But it kept coming back to Roseanne. Full scorecard I ABC trailers.
► ESPN’s spin: The network’s pitch to advertisers is essentially that sports sells itself. Despite some ratings softening for the NFL regular season, the NBA is up. ESPN, like most cable networks, has seen its subscriber base contract (presently 87 million). OTT service ESPN+ is still in its infancy; after launching last month, analysts have estimated that the platform has about 100,000 subscribers. Full scorecard.
^Netflix may revive Designated Survivor. Sources say the streamer, which is the international SVOD home for the Entertainment One political drama, is mulling a potential third season for the show. A deal, however, is still far from done as the series is an expensive undertaking.
► Viacom chops another 100 jobs. The company had previous rounds of layoffs in March 2015 and September 2017 as part of earlier cost-cutting moves. The latest job losses are understood to impact support staff and not touch content creation.
► Fox settles workplace claims from nearly 20 individuals. Douglas Wigdor, the attorney representing more individuals against 21st Century Fox than anyone else, makes a far-reaching deal, but two of his clients — Rod Wheeler and Scottie Hughes — aren’t ready to drop claims.
► Fox TV Group CEOs ink one-year extension. Gary Newman and Dana Walden, who are in advanced talks for the extension, have already started to pivot the network into a home for procedurals and multicamera comedies.
► Channel 4 casts Benedict Cumberbatch in Brexit drama. In the film, titled Brexit, the Sherlock actor will play Dominic Cummings, the strategist who was the campaign director of the “Vote Leave” campaign.
► YouTube plans A.I. doc series with Robert Downey Jr. The streamer has given an eight-episode order to an untitled docuseries from Team Downey that will explore the impact of A.I. and how it is transforming the way people live and work, both now and in the future.
*R.I.P., Michael Allen Conley. The director, producer and editor who worked on KTLA News and a string of hit TV shows including Blossom and The Golden Girls, has died. He was 73. Full obit.
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