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Hollywood & entertainment industry news
'Lucy' set to soar. Satellite deal gives Fox lots of cash.

After the coffee. Before breaking this heat wave. The Skinny: It's Friday and I have to wear a suit today to tape a TV interview about the Dodgers TV mess. If that's not bad enough, the interview is in Universal City, where it will be even hotter. Yes, you are hearing me gripe about being on TV. I'm too jaded. Today's roundup includes the weekend-box-office preview and a big deal by 21st Century Fox involving its European satellite assets, which will give it more cash to go after Time Warner. Daily Dose: The SEC Network, ESPN's new college-sports channel that will cover the Southeastern Conference, is closing in on full distribution with three weeks to go before launch. On Thursday, it signed a deal with Time Warner Cable, and last week it nailed down Comcast. It currently has 60 million homes locked up. The big holdout is satellite broadcaster DirecTV, which has over 20 million subscribers. With Time Warner Cable, Comcast and satellite service Dish Network all carrying the channel,...

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Murdoch's Fox to sell European TV systems for $9.3 billion

21st Century Fox is selling its interest in pay-TV systems in Germany and Italy as part of a $9.3-billion deal that will give Rupert Murdoch's media company a big pile of cash. Analysts have speculated that proceeds from the sale, which had been expected, could help finance Fox's proposed takeover of media giant Time Warner Inc.  Earlier this month, Time Warner rejected Fox's $80-billion offer, but most people expect the Murdoch family soon will up the ante with a higher bid. Friday's transaction was complicated. Fox agreed to sell its interests in the two European systems -- Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland -- to British Sky Broadcasting, the giant pay TV service in Britain.  The deal is expected to make British Sky Broadcasting a leading pay TV operator in Europe.  Meanwhile, Fox owns 39.1% of British Sky Broadcasting -- a company that becomes even more valuable with the addition of the Italian and German pay-TV systems. Fox said it would transfer Sky Italia, which it wholly owns, and...

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ESPN's SEC Network reaches distribution deal with Time Warner Cable

ESPN's new SEC Network scored another touchdown with Time Warner Cable signing a deal to carry the new network. Set to debut on Aug. 14, the SEC Network is a joint venture between Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and the Southeastern Conference. The channel will carry 1,000 events in its first year including 45 SEC football games and more than 100 men's basketball games. Last week, Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator also reached an agreement to carry the SEC Network. Comcast is in the process of buying Time Warner Cable. Overall, the SEC Network has struck deals putting it in 60 million homes. The major holdout is satellite broadcaster DirecTV, which has more than 20 million subscribers around the nation. Heisman trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow is one of the analysts for ESPN, as is veteran announcer Brent Musberger. In Los Angeles, the SEC Network will be available on Channel 361 in high definition and 279 in standard definition. The channel is being offered...

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Hero vs. superhuman: 'Hercules' to battle 'Lucy' in weekend box office

Greek-hero movie "Hercules” may not out-muscle superhuman “Lucy” in the box office this weekend. “Lucy" is expected to gross $45 million, higher than the $30-million-to-$35-million projection for "Hercules," according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. Meanwhile, the comedy "And So It Goes," also opening this weekend, is expected to draw in less than $10 million. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," the 3-D sequel to the 2011 blockbuster "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," will likely cede the top spot at the box office after ruling domestic cinemas for two weekends in a row.  “Lucy,” distributed by Universal Pictures, follows a party girl turned unwitting drug mule (Scarlett Johansson) who ingests a powerful chemical that transforms her into a superhuman with enhanced abilities. The R-rated film, which costars Morgan Freeman, generated early buzz. At WonderCon, held in Anaheim in April, the film's writer and director Luc Besson revved up the crowd when he screened two...

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TV ratings: 'America's Got Talent' ties with 'Big Brother' in key demo

For the second night in a row, NBC's "America's Got Talent" helped the network win the night in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic. The show, down 4% from Tuesday night's telecast, had a rating of 2.3 in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, tying it with CBS' "Big Brother" for No. 1 in the key demo, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen. More than 10 million people tuned in to watch the end of "America's Got Talent's" "judgment week," in which the top 47 contestants were selected to move on.  The network also aired "Taxi: Brooklyn," which was up 38% in the key demo from last week with a rating of 1.1. "Big Brother," which had about 6.5 million viewers, was up 10% in the key demo from last week's episode.  The privacy-deprivation show helped make CBS the second most-watched network in the key demo and overall total viewers. About 6 million people tuned in to the network, which saw a rating of 1.4 in the 18-to-49 demo. However, "Extant," the new Halle Berry sci-fi series,...

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Sony delays next 'Spider-Man.' Sexual Harassment at Comic-Con.

After the coffee. Before yelling at Obama for Wednesday's traffic mess. The Skinny: It took me forever to get home Wednesday night, all because the president just had to have a party at producer Shonda Rhimes' Hancock Park house. Maybe if they had invited me ... Today's roundup includes a wrap-up of the upfront advertising season. Also, Sony delays the next "Spider-Man" movie, and there are some bad apples attending Comic-Con. Daily Dose: How much should anyone read into a tweet. If it is from California's attorney general, maybe a lot. On Wednesday, Kamala Harris tweeted, "first pitch is in 4 mins. Too bad only 30% of LA baseball fans will be able to watch ... can’t y’all work this out? Sure hope so." She was referring to the deadlock between Time Warner Cable, which distributes the Dodger-owned channel SportsNet LA and area distributors including DirecTV that aren't carrying it yet. So far, politicians and government officials have been reluctant to comment much less get involved...

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TV ad sales fall short of target

TV advertisers are being unexpectedly tight-fisted. Wall Street and TV networks had been banking on an improving economy this year to help drive demand. But the annual "upfront" advertising market, when marketers place their orders for commercial spots for the coming year, was unexpectedly weak. Broadcast networks ABC, CBS and Fox collectively booked $600 million less this summer than during last year's market, according to estimates by network executives and analysts. Cable network executives also struggled to find buyers for their commercial time. Analysts have speculated on various causes, citing the migration of advertising dollars to the Internet and a retrenchment by two major advertisers. Others might be on the sidelines gambling that prices will be lower later in the year. "The broadcast networks took the biggest hit, but cable networks also had trouble getting to their goal," said Ed Papazian, president of Media Dynamics Inc., which has analyzed the TV ad market for more than...

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Chernin Group, AT&T nearing deal for Fullscreen YouTube network

AT&T Inc. and the Chernin Group are nearing a deal to acquire a majority stake in Fullscreen Inc., a popular YouTube video network, a source close to the transaction said.  The deal between Fullscreen and Otter Media, a joint venture of AT&T and Chernin, would put the valuation of the company at $200 million to $300 million, said the source, who was not authorized to comment on the transaction. Founded in 2011, Culver City-based Fullscreen, which has helped boost the popularity of many YouTube stars, has built more than 15,000 channels with 200 million subscribers and gets about 2.5 billion views a month. Chernin is a media group run by the former Fox President Peter Chernin.  Otter Media and a spokesperson at Fullscreen declined to comment.  Earlier this year, Chernin and AT&T formed a venture to invest more than $500 million in online video services. The goal, the companies said, was to invest in advertising and subscription video-on-demand channels and streaming services. ...

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California loses nearly $2 billion in 'runaway projects,' report says

California lost nearly $2 billion in production spending over the last four years, as film and TV projects took their business out of state, according to a new report. In a study released Wednesday, the California Film Commission found that from 2010 to 2014, so-called runaway projects accounted for almost $2 billion in production spending outside of California. The commission, which administers California's film and TV tax credit program, analyzed projects that applied for, but did not receive, a state tax credit due to limited funding. The state allocates $100 million annually in sales and income tax credits to the film industry, but funding is used up on the first day it is available. This year, the state received a record 497 applications for the funds on June 2, the deadline for an annual lottery that is used to divvy up the credits. Only 26 projects made the cut, while the remainder were put on a waiting list. So what happens to the projects that don't win the lottery? The...

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'Weird Al' Yankovic dominates Spotify's viral track charts

There's nothing odd about it -- "Weird Al" Yankovic's new album dominated Spotify's most-shared track charts in its first week in release. Globally and in the U.S., songs from the pop music parodist's "Mandatory Fun" currently hold four of the five most-viral tracks counted by the Stockholm-based on-demand streaming service, according to data released Wednesday. The streaming figures follow the announcement that "Mandatory Fun" -- featuring parodies of Robin Thicke, Lorde and Pharrell Williams -- has hit the top of Billboard's album chart, selling more than 104,000 copies during the week that ended Sunday. That marks Yankovic's first No. 1 album, and the first comedy record to earn the top spot since 1963. "Mandatory Fun's" rollout generated a huge amount of buzz on the Web. For the campaign, the comic musician teamed with online video destinations such as Nerdist, Funny or Die and College Humor to unveil eight music videos over eight days. The video for "Word Crimes," a linguistically...

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TV ratings: NBC tops Tuesday with 'Talent'; 'Food Fighters' soft

Although NBC won Tuesday night's ratings with help from reality show "America's Got Talent," its premiere of Adam Richman's reality show "Food Fighters" didn't fare as well with audiences, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen. "America's Got Talent" continued its intense "judgment week," during which performers compete for a chance to move on to the live shows. Despite a 8% decrease from its most recent non-recap original, the show still had a strong rating of 2.4 among the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic. More than 10 million viewers tuned in to see the make-or-break performances on Tuesday.  With about 4.5 million viewers, "Food Fighters" rounded out the top five in total viewership. The series premiere had an average rating of 1.0 among the key demo, though it managed to increase from its first half-hour to its second. The culinary competition show pits home cooks against professional chefs for a chance to win $100,000. Earlier this month, the Travel Channel postponed the...

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Chinese firm sues Paramount in 'Transformers' product-placement beef

The management of a scenic park in southwestern China featured in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” said Wednesday that it had filed a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures and one of the studio’s Chinese partners seeking about $3.4 million in damages over what it says is a product-placement deal gone sour. Chongqing Wulong Karst Tourism Group Co. claims the studio failed to include the park’s name in the film as agreed in its contract with M1905, Paramount’s go-between on the product-placement deal. As a result, park representatives said, viewers of the movie were left with the mistaken impression that the scenes filmed at the Wulong park are in Hong Kong. The park’s management said it wanted Paramount to include the park’s name and logo in the DVD version of the movie, as well as any versions aired on TV or online. It also is seeking the return of the product-placement fee of about $800,000, another $660,000 for lost revenue during the park’s closure for eight days of filming, and $2...

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