NBC’s Beatles Miniseries Has Already Hit Potentially Disastrous Snags, Plural

Remember late last week when everybody got really excited about the news that NBC is developing a big fancy miniseries about the Beatles, from the executive producers of The Tudors and Vikings? Yeahhhhh, a few things about that. Small things, really. Don’t even know why I’m bringing them up. Slow news day, probably.

Anyway, according to Billboard

  • NBC has not yet acquired the music rights to the Beatles songs, or the rights from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, or the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison to use their likenesses in the project.
  • Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which is the publisher of almost all of the Lennon/McCartney compositions and owns the rights to them for the next four years (at which point they go back to McCartney), has not been approached by NBC yet, and they apparently have their own competing project in the works that they’re hoping will be helmed by Baz Luhrmann for a premium cable channel like HBO.
  • According to Sony/ATV Music Publishing CEO Marty Bandier, “NBC couldn’t produce a show without the songs, and we can’t produce a show without approaching the Beatles for their likeness rights.”
  • Even tracks from the Beatles catalog that aren’t controlled by Sony have recently come in at a cool $250,000 per, and that was for David Chase’s Not Fade Away, which might have gotten a sweetheart deal thanks to Steve Van Zandt’s music ties. (NOTE: It’s fun to picture him negotiating the rights as Silvio from The Sopranos, all “Ohs” and “Heys” and nervous fidgeting, and calling everybody at the table “Tone” regardless of their actual name.)

So aside from the fact that they don’t have the rights to the music or the rights to the Beatles likenesses, and the fact that the people who control a large chunk of the music rights are working on a competing project with a different network, and the fact that even if they do a workaround to get other songs it will probably cost them multiple appendages, NBC’s Beatles miniseries appears to be going swimmingly.

I think we all see where this is headed. Take us home, Jackie Jormp-Jormp.