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Case of the blues for Rhythm & Hues! Starz and Sony renew vows.

February 12, 2013|By Joe Flint
  • The company behind the special effects in "Life of Pi" has hit a rough patch.
The company behind the special effects in "Life of Pi" has hit… (20th Century Fox )

After the coffee. Before getting my own output deal with Starz.

The Skinny: If I knew the pope was stepping down, I would have gotten my resume together. It's never too late for a career shift, right? Tuesday's headlines include the challenges that actors who specialize in commercials are facing, a big special effects firm filing for Chapter 11 protection and Starz and Sony signing a new long-term agreement.

Daily Dose: Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, who four years ago said he wouldn't sell any of his company's stock, unloaded $7.6 million worth of Viacom B shares last week. Of course, the B shares are the non-voting stock, so this isn't about loosening his grip on the company. Maybe he just needed some walking-around money.

Tough times. Given all the new platforms that have advertising, one might think that this is a great time to be an actor working in the commercial side of the business. Guess again. Not only is more A-list talent cutting into work that in the past would go to working actors, more companies are spending their money on cable TV, where the rates and residuals are lower. The Los Angeles Times looks at the pinch actors are feeling on the eve of negotiations between their unions and the big advertising agencies for a new contract.

Cover your eyes. Rhythm & Hues, a big visual effects company whose recent work includes the hit movie "Life of Pi," is heading for bankruptcy and laying off staff. The moves come after an effort to merge with India's Prime Focus fell short. It is another blow to Southern California's production community, although Rhythm and Hues brass has indicated it hopes its stay in Chapter 11 is a short one. Details from the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Seeing Starz. Pay-TV channel Starz struck a new deal to keep movies from Sony Pictures on its channel. For Starz, holding on to product from Sony was crucial because late last year its other big supplier of movies -- Walt Disney Co. -- signed a long-term pact to sell its content to Netflix instead. That put Sony in the driver's seat because Netflix wanted those movies too. Starz had to pony up some more dollars to keep content flowing through the pipeline. More on the deal from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

Fusion fever. Univision and ABC News have come up with a name for their new channel. It's Fusion. I guess that's better than confusion. The channel is aimed at English-speaking Latinos and will be a news-and-lifestyle channel. Although the channel will be primarily in English, ABC News is offering its staff free Spanish lessons. The network is set to launch in the summer and will initially have a reach of at least 20 million homes, officials said. Additional coverage from the New York Times.

Fade out. After almost 20 years as president of Oprah Winfrey's film company, Harpo Films, Kate Forte was shown the door. The move comes because Harpo Films has become less of a priority for Winfrey now that there is a whole cable channel to program. One might wonder why Harpo Films isn't being utilized for that platform, but the focus there is on reality and sitcoms and not so much on original moves. Details on the demise of Harpo Films from Deadline Hollywood.

Piling on. It's no secret that NBC is having a pretty disappointing winter. New shows such as "Deception," "Do No Harm" and "1600 Penn" have been tanking, and the return of "Smash" failed to light a spark. Making this more painful is that the Peacock Network had a strong autumn. Of course, much of that was due to "The Voice" and "Sunday Night Football" giving something of an artificial lift to what otherwise were weaker shows. The New York Post weighs in on NBC's woes.

Play ball. Pitchers and catchers are getting ready to report to spring training, and Major League Baseball is working on ways to boost ratings. With pricey new long-term TV contracts in place, now is not the time for a slump for baseball and the networks that carry the sport (Fox, Turner, ESPN). Tim Brosnan, Major League Baseball's executive in charge of TV, talks with Broadcasting & Cable about how the league plans to boost its performance with a few enhancements. 

Inside the Los Angeles Times: "Silver Linings Playbook" aside, stories touching on mental health often cause headaches at the box office.

Follow me on Twitter to a life without regret. @JBFlint.

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