Tom Hughes (The Game, About Time) has been cast as Prince Albert in ITV’s upcoming event series Victoria. Jenna Coleman stars in the eight-part drama as the titular queen with Hughes playing her first cousin, suitor and eventual husband. The drama begins with the early life of Queen Victoria, from her acension to the throne through to her courtship with and marriage to Prince Albert. Daisy Goodwin is creator, writer and executive producer on the bio-drama that also stars Rufus Sewell, Alex Jennings, Paul Rhys, Peter Firth, Catherine Flemming, Eve Myles, Adrian Schiller and a host of British talent. Poldark and Endeavor’s Mammoth Screen is producing for air in 2016. ITV Studios Global Entertainment is distributing worldwide.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is further diversifying with an agreement to pay $266M for flagship Hong Kong daily The South China Morning Post. The deal will combine the English-language paper with Alibaba’s digital expertise. A question raised has been how much the Chinese government will exercise pressure on Alibaba to toe the party line. In response, Alibaba Group Executive Vice Chairman Joseph C Tsai wrote in a letter to SCMP readers on Friday, “Some have suggested that ownership by Alibaba will compromise the SCMP‘s editorial independence. This criticism reflects a bias of its own, as if to say newspaper owners must espouse certain views, while those that hold opposing views are ‘unfit.’” The world needs “a plurality of views when it comes to China coverage… In reporting the news, the SCMP will be objective, accurate and fair. This means having the courage to go against conventional wisdom… Day-to-day editorial decisions will be driven by editors in the newsroom, not in the corporate boardroom.” Alibaba’s holdings include Alibaba Pictures which recently branched out into the international movie business, investing in Paramount/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and the upcoming Korean film, Real. Company founder Jack Ma last week teamed with internet giant Tencent and Huayi Bros to develop, produce and finance English language films.
The BBC has ordered a sixth season of period medical drama Call The Midwife — before Season 5 has even begun. The proceedings will kick off with a Christmas special in 2016 followed by eight episodes in 2017. Season 6 will take the nuns and midwives into 1962. Neal Street Productions produces for BBC One; Call The Midwife airs on PBS in the States. The series was this year’s most-watched drama in the UK, averaging over 10M viewers per episode. Season 5 starts this month with a Christmas special and picks up in January. Heidi Thomas leads the writing team with Pippa Harris as executive producer for Neal Street. Executive producer for the BBC is Elizabeth Kilgarriff, with Ann Tricklebank as producer.