Showbiz Sandbox 371: Apple and Facebook Get Serious About Original Content

June 19, 2017

Both Apple and Facebook made headlines this week as details of their plans to produce original television content began to emerge. Apple announced the hire of two well-respected development executives to head up their efforts to participate in the golden age of TV, while Facebook closed deals on their first two shows.

It’s a good thing that both Facebook and Apple have deep pockets. If either hopes to upend the television industry the way Netflix and Amazon have, they’ll need to spend billions of dollars on original content, just like these other disruptors.

Spotify is also spending a small fortune to license music as its active worldwide user base suprasses 140 million. They plan on shelling out $2 billion over the next few years, a figure that is sure to rise as the streamer reaches agreements with more record companies.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Yoko Ono finally getting songwriting credit on John Lennon’s biggest solo hit, “Imagine”, why IMAX is downsizing its workforce, and industry response to Sony’s decision to offer “clean versions” for 24 film titles in their back catalogue.
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Showbiz Sandbox 370: Tony Awards Prove Unnecessary For Some Broadway Shows

June 12, 2017

Historically winning a Tony Award can make a big difference in the financial success of a Broadway production. This year’s awards were handed out on Sunday, but some shows may not need to win a Tony to win on Broadway. Ticket sales for “Anastasia”, “A Bronx Tale” and “Come From Away” have been doing just fine without all the accolades.

And when Broadway shows leave the Great White Way to tour the world, they are attracting record audiences. In North America alone 14 million people attended live theatre productions in roughly 200 cities, bringing in $981 million.

Meanwhile, Taylor Swift is making her entire back catalogue available via on-demand streaming services such as Spotify. That she announced this news the same day as Katy Perry released her latest album led many to wonder if this was another round in an old pop-star rivalry.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the Amazon Prime Video app is coming to the Apple TV, satellite radio giant SiriusXM makes a huge investment in Pandora and Bob Dylan finally delivers his Nobel Prize speech.

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Showbiz Sandbox 369: When the Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Comedy

June 5, 2017

Kathy Griffin and HBO’s Bill Maher learned first-hand last week just how easy it is to cross the line wherein one’s jokes and antics go from being humorous to offensive. But after apologies are issued and near-term financial repercussions are suffered, should the careers of boundary pushing comedians really come to an end because of one regrettable mistake?

Meanwhile with Apple introducing a ton of new hardware at its Worldwide Developer Conference, the company is actually reaping more rewards from its content business. In fact, last quarter Apple earned more from selling content than most media conglomerates earned during the same period.

We’ll also tell you why the beloved radio DJ who helped discover acts such as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones is leaving his weekly show after 40 years. (Hint: It wasn’t his decision.)

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including journalist Megyn Kelly’s anticipated return to television, a non-English single tops the Billboard charts and big name musical acts hold a benefit pop concert to raise money for victims of a terrorist attack in Manchester.

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Showbiz Sandbox 368: Virtual Reality is a Big Winner at the Cannes Film Festival

May 29, 2017

This year’s Cannes Film Festival came to an end over the weekend with the Palm d’Or being awarded to “The Square”, a comedy with socio-political overtones directed by Sweden’s Ruben Östlund. Sofia Coppola won the award for Best Director for “The Beguiled”, only the second time in the festival’s 70-year-history the prize went to a woman.

Though critics found the films selected by Cannes programmers to be underwhelming this year, there was unanimous praise for a virtual reality project created by director Alejandro González Iñárritu which was installed at the festival. We’ll take you inside the unique VR experience and tell you why the fuss being made over it is legitimate.

Meanwhile, this year’s upfronts were held over the past two weeks giving us a pretty good picture about the state of modern television. Here’s the question, if we are presently in the era of peak TV, how come all the new shows networks are trotting out seem so boring.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the controversy over a women-only screening of “Wonder Woman,” Katy Perry signs on to judge the “American Idol” reboot and Steven Soderbergh returns to the directing movies… as we predicted.

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Showbiz Sandbox 367: Netflix Makes Waves At the Cannes Film Festival

May 24, 2017

If the Cannes Film Festival’s decision to premiere two Netflix films in competition was controversial when it was announced, it was all anyone could talk about once the festival actually began. It didn’t help that this year’s jury president, director Pedro Almodovar of Spain, made headlines on the first day when he was mis-translated as saying he wouldn’t award films that won’t play in cinemas with any prizes.

Just about every filmmaker and movie star attending Cannes has been asked about their opinion on the streaming versus cinema debate, though most have offered ambivalent answers, realizing that their next paycheck might be coming from Netflix or a similar service. To be sure, the discussion is far from over.

Meanwhile, after recent terrorist attacks throughout Europe, including nearby Nice, security has been tighter than ever for the more than 50,000 attendees in Cannes this year. This has caused delays at festival events for the first time in recent memory, though everyone has been very understanding. Especially this week, after bomb was set off at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England killing 22 people.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how TV networks are learning to take advantage of Ramadan to boost viewership, King Kong will try to tackle Broadway and Jimmy Kimmel will return as the host of next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 366: Shifting TV Viewership is Affecting Ratings, Ad Sales and Future Programming Decisions

May 15, 2017

All the major television networks are preparing their dog-and-pony shows for advertisers at this year’s upfront presentations as they look to sell $9 billion worth of commercial time for the upcoming season. However with viewership continuing to become more fractured, the industry has grown concerned that falling ratings over the past year will lead to lower ad sales. Which raises the question about just how accurate audience measurement is these days.

Networks have begun taking measures to shore up potentially weaker ad sales by demanding harder bargains from production companies, owning more of their own series and making untold fortunes internationally with certain shows. They’re also dabbling more and more with live television specials including musicals such as “A Christmas Story”.

The 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will also begin this week, though not without some controversy over two Netflix titles screening in competition, but not in French movie theaters. This has led Cannes to create a new rule beginning in 2018 that any film selected for the festival must have a theatrical release in France.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Spotify might abandon plans for its IPO in lieu of a direct list o the stock market, Cheryl Boone Isaacs decides not to run for another term as head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Kelly Clarkson joins “The Voice” just as ABC announces the return of “American Idol.”

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Showbiz Sandbox 365: As Cord-Cutting Grows, Media Company Revenue Falls

May 8, 2017

Media company stocks took a beating last week with a one-two punch from cord-cutting and a soft ad market. The first quarter of 2017 saw pay cable subscriptions fall by over 700,000 in the United States, the largest ever such loss. This has caused some concern that cord-cutting has accelerated just as major advertisers have started to spend less on marketing.

However, television networks may just be shifting where revenue comes from. Rather than huge carriage fees and ad rates tied to huge viewership, networks may now be earning money off licensing content to streaming video providers and selling ads on digital platforms. There’s just one problem; such digital platforms pay far less than networks used to getting.

Warner Music Group is also suffering from shrinking revenues thanks to consumer migration to streaming online services. The company signed a new licensing agreement with YouTube, but they aren’t happy with a deal they felt forced into accepting. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the multiple “Game of Thrones” spin-offs planned by HBO, Harry Potter heads to Broadway and the return of “American Idol”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 364: Hollywood Averts Another Writer’s Strike With Last Minute Deal

May 2, 2017

Though it came down to the wire and took an all-night negotiating session, Hollywood avoided another costly writer’s strike earlier this week. The Writers Guild of America, which represents upwards of 12,000 movie and television writers, came to a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates on behalf of Hollywood studios and networks. The three year contract reportedly resolves several issues including the WGA health plan, how long a writer can be held by a television series as well as parity for online and cable residuals.

In other breaking news, the nominations for this year’s Tony Awards were announced, but it is anyone’s guess which of the four productions up for Best Musical will come out on top. The same is true of the four plays, each of which is by an American playwright making their Broadway debut. The only sure thing is that Bette Midler will win the Best Leading Actress in a Musical Award for “Hello Dolly!”

Meanwhile, after a 15 year decline in which global recorded music lost 40% of its value, the music industry is showing signs of life. You can thank streaming. For the second year in a row, music sales worldwide have increased – that includes physical product, digital and income from streaming.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including more layoffs at ESPN, “Saturday Night Live” heads to China (sort of) and Ryan Seacrest gets a new television gig.

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Showbiz Sandbox 363: With Bill O’Reilly Gone, Cable News Begins A New Chapter

April 24, 2017

After twenty years as the face of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly was responsible for nearly 20% of the network’s revenue. Even so, Fox made the decision to fire O’Reilly last week after reports that he had paid out settlements over the years to women accusing him of sexual harassment. At least, that’s how Fox spun the story, not wanting to admit the controversial news host was causing the network too look bad and lose advertisers.

O’Reilly wasn’t the first on-air host Fox News has lost over the last year. A string of anchors, including the popular Megyn Kelly left for new deals at other networks. With Fox’s entire primetime lineup upended so suddenly, other media outlets are beginning to make a move to overtake the top cable news network.

Meanwhile, China continues to issue release dates for big Hollywood movies at a rate that will likely surpass their own quota on imported films. One thing is for sure, none of the movies China approves will star Richard Gere. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why it doesn’t matter that Netflix didn’t meet its quarterly subscriber goals, the return of “X-Files” and Kevin Spacey gets tapped for the Tony Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 362: What’s The Flipping Problem With Record Store Day?

April 17, 2017

This year’s Record Store Day is just days away, but what began as a way to support independent record stores has turned into a covert commercial endeavor for those reselling the event’s exclusive vinyl releases at exorbitant prices. Sal Nunziato, a former record store owner himself, joins us to discuss why he’s never been all that fond of the annual promotion.

These days Nunziato is a music blogger and drummer in the band the John Sally Ride. Their new album, “A New Set of Downs” will be released later this year, but in a unique twist, is already available on platforms such as Spotify and Soundcloud. He’ll tell us all about it.

Meanwhile, even though ESPN has lost 12 million subscribers in the past six years, the cable sports network is still very profitable, generating $11 billion per year for its owner, Disney. But with skinny cable bundles and online streaming eating into its subscriber base, ESPN is girding itself for an unknown future.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of YouTube TV, Spotify finally signs a new deal with a major record label, and Harry Potter wins big it at this year’s Olivier Awards.

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