TV/STREAMING . . .
'Lord of the Rings' Amazon Series Casts Its Main Villain. 'Game of Thrones' grad Joseph Mawle has joined the cast of the scripted drama project, sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter. Amazon's highly anticipated Lord of the Rings TV series has found its villain. Game of Thrones grad Joseph Mawle has joined the cast of the scripted drama project, sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter. Amazon declined comment. Based on J.R.R. Tolkien's iconic fantasy novels, J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay (Star Trek 4) serve as showrunners on the series that is set in Middle-Earth's Second Age, before the events of the author's primary trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Mawle is believed to be playing a villain named Oren in the straight-to-series effort. He joins a cast that also includes Will Poulter (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) and Australian actress Markella Kavenagh. J.A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is set to direct the first two episodes and will executive produce along with his producing partner Belen Atienza. Writers Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad), Jason Cahill (The Sopranos) and Justin Doble (Stranger Things) are also EPs, as are Lindsey Weber, Bruce Richmond, Gene Kelly and former Amazon head of genre Sharon Tal Yguado. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke said in August that the creative team has been "working for months" on breaking the first season of the show. Production is slated to begin in 2020. Once production budgets, casting, writers, producers and visual effects are factored in, the total cost for the LOTR series could reach as high as $1 billion. Deadline first reported the casting. (Hollywood reporter)
'Watchmen' Premiere Ratings Get Big Streaming Bump. Nearly half of the series debut's audience comes from digital platforms. The premiere of Watchmen on HBO Sunday night scored decent on-air numbers, drawing a bigger audience than any episode of Succession's second season. It also pulled the premium cabler's biggest digital audience for a series premiere in three years. Just under 800,000 people tuned in for the 9 p.m. premiere of the series, which is based on the landmark Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons graphic novel and was created by Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers). That's a 21 percent improvement on the finale of Succession the previous week and the biggest first-airing audience for any HBO series since the Big Little Lies finale (1.98 million) in July. Replays and streaming pushed the total for the night to 1.5 million -- meaning nearly half of Sunday's audience caught the show after its initial airing. HBO says Watchmen had the best series debut on its digital platforms since the premiere of Westworld in 2016. The replay/streaming lift of 87.5 percent for the premiere is bigger than those for Big Little Lies (76 percent), Euphoria (70 percent) or The Righteous Gemstones (42 percent) and not far behind the 96 percent jump for the season two premiere of Succession. Watchmen is set 34 years after the events of the comic and centers on Angela Abar (Regina King), alias Sister Night, a police officer cum masked vigilante. The cast also includes Tim Blake Nelson, Don Johnson, Jeremy Irons, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart and Louis Gossett Jr. (Hollywood reporter)
OBB Pictures Expands Into Podcasting, Branded Content. Newly created parent company OBB Media now will encompass video production, an audio studio and commercial work. Production company OBB Pictures is expanding into podcasting and branded content under newly formed parent company OBB Media. OBB Pictures, the five-year-old company behind Netflix's Historical Roasts and the Kevin Hart-hosted YouTube series Cold As Balls, will continue to produce film, television and digital projects under the OBB Media umbrella with its existing development team in place. But through OBB Sound and OBB Branded, the company will also look to grow its capabilities into burgeoning lines of business. "We've always thought of OBB as more than a production company, and we're excited to be expanding into new realms of content creation," said founder and CEO Michael D. Ratner. "We are in the business of storytelling and supporting storytellers, and we're thrilled to be doing so in many different ways and across all types of media." OBB Media is launching audio division OBB Sound, which already has several projects underway, including The Pursuit of Healthiness with Blake Griffin, set to debut on Audible in 2020, and a show with model Ashley Graham. OBB Sound, which will record out of a podcast studio at the company's West Hollywood headquarters, will develop audio projects that span a variety of genres -- from sports to music to talk -- in scripted and unscripted formats. OBB Branded, meanwhile, will continue the company's work in the commercial space with such brand partners as Airbnb, Pepsi, Lexus and Old Spice. Rounding out the company's new divisions is OBB Cares, which will focus on community impact and charitable work for groups including Project Angel Food, The Rett Syndrome Research Trust, Fuck Cancer, NYU Film School and Reading to Kids. "OBB is a creative platform more than anything and while 'Pictures' remains at our core it has become one key part of a much larger and diverse group of independent businesses," said Ratner's brother, OBB co-founder and COO Scott Ratner. "This all-encompassing umbrella will house our different verticals with the commonality that they each stay true to our core taste." (Hollywood Reporter)
Verizon Customers to Get Year of Disney+ for Free. All unlimited wireless data and new Internet subscribers will get access to the new streaming service, launching Nov. 12, to reward their loyalty. Disney and Verizon on Tuesday unveiled a deal to give the phone giant's wireless and Internet customers a year of Disney+ for free from Nov. 12. The offer of 12 months of Disney+ on Verizon will apply to the phone giant's wireless unlimited customers and new Fios Internet and 5G home Internet customers. Set to launch Nov. 12, the Disney+ streamer will provide movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and more. Disney+ is set to release more than 25 original series and 10 original movies and documentaries, including The Mandalorian, from executive producer Jon Favreau, and Lady and the Tramp, a retelling of the 1955 animated classic. "Giving Verizon customers an unprecedented offer and access to Disney+ on the platform of their choice is yet another example of our commitment to provide the best premium content available through key partnerships on behalf of our customers," said Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg in a statement. Disney is challenging rival SVOD players by bankrolling new original series for Disney+ and by pricing the service below Netflix. Shares in Netflix fell by 2.4 percent to $271.50 in early morning trading on news of Verizon bundling Disney+ with its wireless and Internet hardware. Verizon competitor AT&T owns WarnerMedia, which is set to launch its own streaming service HBO Max. And Apple is offering customers who buy a new device a year of Apple TV+ for free after that streaming service launches Nov. 1. "The launch of Disney+ kicks off a new era of streaming for The Walt Disney Company, bringing nearly a century's worth of content from our iconic studios to consumers directly," added Kevin Mayer, chairman, direct-to-consumer and international at The Walt Disney Company in his own statement. (Hollywood Reporter)