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HBO, Starz, FX Pass on 'Kennedys' Miniseries as Search Continues

After History yanked the miniseries amid pressure from the Kennedy family, its producers have limited options.

The Hollywood Reporter
by Matthew Belloni

Will "The Kennedys" find a home? The question is swirling around Hollywood in the wake of A&E Television Networks’ surprise Jan. 8 decision to pull the plug on the lavish eight-part miniseries, which was set to air on History in the spring.

AETN canceled plans to broadcast the controversial miniseries — executive produced by conservative 24 co-creator Joel Surnow and starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes — amid intense behind-the-scenes pressure from the Kennedy family (particularly Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver), whose members had lobbied AETN execs and board members including Disney’s Anne Sweeney and NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker and Jeff Gaspin to kill the project since it was announced in December 2009. Producers Muse Entertainment and Asylum Entertainment are now free to shop the project to another U.S. network, but the same concerns that kept the project off History might make finding a new buyer more difficult.

“Most of the cable nets are part of huge media companies, so they’re all subject to the same pressures,” says media buyer Brad Adgate, TV analyst for the advertising-buying firm Horizon Media. “This might go straight to video.”

Michael Prupas, president of Montreal-based Muse, told the New York Times on Jan. 10 that “there has been interest expressed by several networks” in the project. But few U.S. networks — cable or broadcast — are in the miniseries game these days. Starz, part of John Malone’s media empire, had recent success with mini "The Pillars of the Earth," but The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Starz has passed on the project. FX, part of right-leaning mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., also is not interested. HBO, which often airs pricey miniseries like "The Pacific," has its own Kennedys project in development based on the Vincent Bugliosi book "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy," with Tom Hanks’ Playtone producing. And networks owned by NBC Universal, Disney and Hearst, whose execs sit on the board of AETN and authorized the decision to yank Kennedys from History, also appear to be unlikely buyers. Caroline Kennedy, for instance, has a book deal with Disney’s Hyperion division and is participating in an upcoming book based on interviews with her mother, Jackie. Shriver, a former NBC Uni employee, is friends with Sweeney.