Showbiz Sandbox 360: Can Spotify Come To Terms With Major Record Labels?

March 20, 2017

Even as Spotify has grown into the largest subscription streaming music service in the world, all of the company’s long-term licensing deals have expired and it has struggled to negotiate new ones that will help them lower costs and become a viable business. However new reports have emerged that Spotify may be close to reaching new licensing deals after agreeing to some strict terms from the labels.

Among these are marketing guarantees, the windowing of major releases and only placing full albums on the premium paid tier of their service. Spotify may have no choice but to accept the labels’ offer otherwise their much-anticipated IPO may fall apart once and for all.

Unlike Spotify, Netflix is a subscription streaming company that is at the top of its game and isn’t worried about squabbling with its content partners. Instead, the company has been busy altering its star rating system, restoring and lost Orson Welles film and bad-mouthing movie theaters.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the opening of Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” sets box office records, the head of the MPAA goes M.I.A. at CinemaCon and Saturday Night Live makes plans for prime time segments. Read more

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Showbiz Sandbox 359: Entertainment Workers Put Faith In More Perfect Unions

March 13, 2017

Trade unions and guilds are not a new concept in the entertainment industry, yet they seem to be making headlines lately as more niche craftspeople elect to join them or have them negotiate their contracts. Last week the largest employer of Spanish-language performers in the U.S. voted to join SAG-AFTRA and the United Scenic Artists, which represents set designers on Broadway, was able to sign its first contract with the League of Off-Broadway Theatres & Producers.

One major reason for all this recent union activity is the growing number of entertainment industry workers whose pay falls below a living wage. When the star of a hit telenovela airing on an NBCUniversal network needs to hold a second job as an Uber driver, you know there must be a problem.

Meanwhile, the influx of financing into Hollywood coming from China may be coming to an end. The Chinese government has begun to restrict the outflow of capital from the country to stem what they deem “irrational” foreign investments while at the same time stabilizing local currency. This new regulatory oversight helped kill Wanda’s $1 billion deal for Dick Clark Productions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how a rapper made history by knocking himself off the top of the album charts with his next release, HBO heads to Latin America with original programming and why we’ll have to wait a little longer for those “Avatar” sequels.

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Showbiz Sandbox 358: The Skinny on YouTube’s New Live TV Service

March 6, 2017

With YouTube becoming the latest player to offer an over-the-top subscription streaming service it’s safe to say the the skinny television bundle has officially arrived. For $35 per month, subscribers can now get 40 channels of live TV including major networks and ESPN. YouTube TV also has a virtual DVR with no recording limits.

YouTube is entering an increasingly crowded market with competitors such as Dish Network’s Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Hulu and many others. But YouTube may have an advantage thanks to some powerful artificial intelligence that has helped increase worldwide viewing to over one billion hours per day, nearly as much as traditional television in the United States.

Now normally, two weeks after the Academy Awards we’d already be struggling to remember who won Best Score. But thanks to the most notorious screwup in Oscar history, we’re still talking about the broadcast and its fallout. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the absurd controversy over Disney’s first gay character, Harry Potter tops the Olivier Awards with a record 11 nominations and Spotify reaches the 50 million subscriber mark.

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Showbiz Sandbox 357: Oscars Can’t Win For Losing This Year

February 27, 2017

In a moment that will be discussed for years to come, this year’s Academy Awards ended with the wrong film being announced as the Best Picture winner. Ultimately it wasn’t “La La Land” that took home the prize as many predicted, but rather the socially conscious, racially diverse indie film “Moonlight” that won the award. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, tells us that by choosing “Moonlight” for its top award the Academy was making a statement about who they want to be as an industry.

Thompson also brings us backstage at this year’s Oscars, walking us through how such a huge mistake could actually happen, and what it was like in the press room when the error became apparent. Naturally, we touch on the some of this year’s Oscar winners as well.

Meanwhile, the way movies get distributed continues to be a contentious topic in Hollywood, with studios and cinema owners reportedly in negotiations on an agreement that might see new releases available for home viewing in as little as two weeks.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Netflix continues to book comedians, CBS cancels a brand new series and Beyoncé cancels her Coachella gig.

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Showbiz Sandbox 356: The Future of 4K Ultra HD Streaming Is Upon Us

February 20, 2017

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has a history of voting against raising the standard level of what constitutes high-speed broadband service. Now he’s publicly dismissed 4K video streaming as a figment of the future, so far off it won’t be adopted for many years. Could O’Rielly be correct in his dim forecast about the foreseeable future of Ultra HD? Short answer: no.

The arguments against media technology adoption revolve around the availability of content and devices. However, neither seems to be presently lacking. More and more consumer electronics manufacturers are phasing out HD televisions in lieu of new 4K models, while the likes of Netflix and Amazon offer 4K streaming of movies and television shows.

Meanwhile, we review the latest accolades handed out by the Writers Guild and the Berlin Film Festival as we gear up for next week’s Oscar ceremony by making a few haphazard predictions of our own.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Disney is dumping a YouTube star, the New York Times is ditching one of its longtime theatre critics and the reason Playboy magazine is going all in on nudity.

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Showbiz Sandbox 355: Adele’s Big Grammy Victory Is All In the Numbers

February 13, 2017

Though Beyoncé had been predicted to walk off with this years top Grammy Awards for her critically acclaimed album “Lemonade”, she was beat out by Adele who won five top awards for “25”. Rather than being racially motivated, as some would suggest, Adele’s Grammy success was buttressed by an album that sold 20 million copies making it by far one of the biggest albums of the last decade, topped only by sales of her previous release “21”.

Then there was the artist who has never sold a single record yet managed to win three Grammys this year. Chance the Rapper made history when he became the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. “Coloring Book” won the Grammys for Best Mixtape and Best Rap Performance, while Chance the Rapper took home the prize for Best New Artist.

Meanwhile, the struggling entertainment conglomerate Viacom announced how it hopes to turn the company around. The company plans to focus on “silos” of branded properties which can be exploited across multiple platforms. This is the same strategy the Walt Disney Co. has used with great success; however Viacom’s existing properties are hardly as popular as Marvel or Pixar.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including plans to revive “American Idol” on television, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” tops Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” for the first time and Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul music, announces her retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 354: Why the Entertainment Industry Should Care About Net Neutrality

February 6, 2017

President Donald Trump’s selection of Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission has moved quickly to rollback consumer protection regulations long thought to be settled; specifically net neutrality. Rules put in place to ensure an open internet allowing every company to compete on equal footing could get thrown out for ones that favor four telecom giants. That could mean record labels, movie studios, streaming music and video providers wind up paying much more to reach audiences.

In addition, Pai threw out proposed rules that would have allowed cable subscribers to purchase their set top boxes. Consumers in the United States presently pay $200 or more per year to rent such equipment putting $20 billion annually into the pockets of video providers. Will legislative bodies in other countries take similar stances in the wake of such F.C.C. moves?

This all comes as streaming music revenue has helped slow or reverse years of declining income sales for record companies. Nielsen music reports that streaming platforms provided 38% of total audio consumption in 2016, up from 23% in 2014. In fact, these days a glut of streaming music providers are trying just about everything to differentiate themselves in what has become a crowded marketplace.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Disney’s $100 million anti-poaching settlement with animators, Oprah Winfrey joins “60 Minutes” and which media outlets have backed out of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 353: Streaming Giants Raise Ante at Sundance Film Festival

January 30, 2017

As if it wasn’t difficult enough for distributors to find a commercial title amidst the hundreds of films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival each January, video streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon have entered the bidding causing acquisitions prices to rise for the entire market. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, has just returned from Sundance where she reports most of the films were good, though maybe not good enough to win any Oscars in 2018.

As for this year’s Oscars, the frontrunners became a little more clear with the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild handing out their awards over the weekend. “Hidden Figures” surprised many by taking home the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture during a politically charged ceremony.

Speaking of industry unions, the Directors Guild of America has signed a new contract with producers that gives its members significant raises in subscription video-on-demand residuals. This is welcome news for directors who missed out on sharing in DVD and Blu-ray revenue over the past decade.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of a brand new vinyl record factory, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new venture and streaming music company Tidal finds a new investor.

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Showbiz Sandbox 352: 2017 Academy Award Nominations Launch #OscarsSoDiverse Trend

January 24, 2017

When the 2017 Oscar nominations were announced this week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences managed to avoid a third straight year of controversy over all-white acting nominees. Among this year’s honorees are six African American actors, setting a record for the most in a single year. Hopefully this is a sign more racially diverse films are being produced.

What the Academy did manage to overlook however, were films with huge audiences. Despite nominating nine films for Best Picture Oscars, not a single one has surpassed the $100 million mark (yet).

Meanwhile, in over in the music business, album sales have never mattered less. These days it’s all about music publishing, which can be a true goldmine. Just ask Paul McCartney who is suing Sony/ATV to regain the publishing rights to the Beatles catalogue.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Jerry Seinfeld’s new Netflix deal, the death of 3D television and NBC renews one of its biggest hits for two more seasons.

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Showbiz Sandbox 351: What We Know and Don’t Know About Book Publishing in 2016

January 16, 2017

Looking at how the publishing industry fared over the past year it quickly becomes apparent that there aren’t a lot of hard sales figures thanks to online retailers which don’t publish such data. With e-books accounting for 70% of all adult fiction purchases in 2016 the industry has become impossible to track. One measurable trend however is the record number of e-books being borrowed from traditional libraries.

Meanwhile, the box office has already claimed its first victims of the new year, with three high profile films tanking in their debut weekend. Does this mean Hollywood movie stars can no longer ensure a decent opening weekend?

Maybe moviegoers were simply catching up on all the year end movies that are being hailed during awards season. Nominations were announced last week by the guilds representing directors, producers, cinematographers and costume designers.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including layoffs at Pandora, a Jimmy Buffett musical has plans for Broadway and George Lucas brings his long planned museum to Los Angeles.

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