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 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 346: Critics Are Mixed Up About This Year’s Best Movies

December 5, 2016

With 2016 coming to an end movie critics have begun announcing their picks for the year’s noteworthy releases. As in recent years, critics groups from New York to Los Angeles differ slightly on what the top movie should be. The New York critics group went with the musical “La La Land”, while The L.A. group chose the drama “Moonlight”. To really confuse things the National Board of Review selected “Manchester by the Sea”. What this breadth of selections means is there were plenty of great films to see this year.

Where you see these movies, on the other hand, continues to be a debate, at least for the heads of movie studios. Kevin Tsujihara, the head of Warner Bros., made it known his company would like to release films into the home market soon after their release in movie theaters. He says the studio is having “constructive conversations” with a few cinema operators to make this a reality, but what that really means is anybody’s guess.

There seems to be no confusion however over whether TV networks want to attend the winter press gathering of the Television Critics Association; they don’t. These annual events allow networks to promote new shows while giving journalists a chance to grill the creatives and executive behind them. It looks as if many networks are skipping out on this January’s press tour as the top executives from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC declining their invites.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including DirecTV’s plans to go over the top, Netflix allows users to download movies for offline viewing and the Bee Gees get a new record deal.

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Showbiz Sandbox 343: Teamsters Play a Big Role on Broadway

November 7, 2016

The theater world is presently embroiled in major contractual battles over pay, benefits and credits. The last group you’d ever think would be leading the charge is the Teamsters, who represent a large number of theater, television and film workers, including casting directors. Turns out, if you want to produce entertainment in the United States, you probably have to deal with the Teamsters.

Those working off-Broadway however, are represented by the Actors Equity Association and they are negotiating with the League of Off Broadway Theaters and Producers. Actors are pushing for a historic pay increase claiming their weekly minimum has never kept pace with inflation, let alone the cost of living in the major metropolitan cities where live theater is produced.

Meanwhile the Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T-DirecTV and other pay television providers for colluding in their refusal to carry SportsNet LA, a channel owned by Time Warner Cable. This comes in the wake of AT&T’s bid to acquire the media company Time Warner, which some fear might consolidate to much media power in too few hands.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the noteworthy ratings for this year’s World Series, who was named producers of next year’s Oscar ceremony and a “The Simpsons” is set up to make television history.

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Showbiz Sandbox 342: Box Office Growth in China Begins to Fizzle

October 31, 2016

Hollywood has been talking up China’s explosive box office growth for years and the country is forecast to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world as early as next year. However, the growth in China is slowing with ticket sales down 10% this year from last year’s figures. Ryan Faughnder, a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, stops by to explain some of the reasons for the decline and what it means for major studios.

Faughnder also gives us the lowdown on how some studios, specifically Lionsgate, are turning to YouTube stars in search of their next big hit. Warner Bros. and Disney have similar efforts underway, though none have found the secret to success in transforming online talent into mainstream stars.

Meanwhile politicians and investment analysts have publicly expressed their concern over AT&T’s acquisition of TimeWarner. Some have gone so far as to say the deal can lead to “a whole bunch of different horribles for consumers”. For their part, AT&T is trying to assuage fears by moving head with its virtual cable plan.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the creator of “Mad Men” signed with Amazon for his next series, why viewership of two popular sports has decreased significantly and how the pop group ABBA is reuniting for a live performance… sort of.

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Showbiz Sandbox 336: Telluride and Toronto Reaffirm the Importance of Film Festivals

September 20, 2016

With an ever increasing number of high profile movies competing for awards at the end of each year, film festivals such as those in Telluride and Toronto have never been more important in helping promote a release. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, has just returned from both festivals and gives us a complete rundown of all the films creating the most buzz.

And just as the number of movies worth seeing has grown, so too has the number of television shows. There’s so much good TV these days that in fact, the Emmys are more and more like the Academy Awards, where viewers haven’t even seen most of the Best Picture nominees. Maybe that’s why the Emmys keep honoring the same old shows year-after-year.

Meanwhile, the number of books on offer has grown at least 21% recently thanks to self-publishing. That includes both e-books and print. The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has been responsible for thousands of titles, enough to make them the unofficial fifth largest publisher in North America.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Argentina is sending school-aged children to the movies, how the Rio Olympics proved profitable for NBC after all and the Lady Gaga is booked for the Super Bowl half time show.

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Showbiz Sandbox 334: Music Streaming Wars Heat Up Over Exclusive Releases

September 6, 2016

The competition between Apple Music and Spotify for subscribers has been cutthroat over the past year. Now comes word that Spotify may be retaliating against artists working with Apple. We’ll take a look at how exclusive new releases have raised the stakes in the ongoing battle for streaming music supremacy.

We also explain why it’s time everyone stopped discussing how abysmal North American summer box office was. After all, 2016 box office and attendance is actually up over the previous year, which had record earnings.

And in what might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, China is questioning whether Universal’s acquisition of DreamWorks Animation breaks its antitrust regulation.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Jackie Chan will be awarded an honorary Oscar, Frank Ocean makes history by topping the Billboard charts with a self-released album and Baz Lurmann’s “Moulin Rouge” is being turned into a musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 323: Trends From the 2016 TV Upfronts

May 30, 2016

Each May all the U.S. television networks invite major advertisers and the media to New York so they can pitch all of the new and returning shows on their fall schedules. Known as the upfronts, a good chunk of the prime time advertising inventory is sold during these meetings as promotional buzz about each series commences in earnest. We’ll take a closer look at some of the big trends coming out of this year’s upfronts.

Meanwhile, a much beloved series might be starting a trend of its own by increasing viewership in its 12th season. Usually long-running shows lose audience in their latter years, however “Grey’s Anatomy” is the perfect example of how new technology can boost viewership.

Viacom and CBS are likely to have kept a close eye on the recently completed upfronts, given their dominance in television. CBS was originally a Viacom property, but was spun-off more than a decade ago. Now, amidst leadership turmoil at Viacom, there is speculation the two companies may merge, once more becoming a single entity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is criticizing Disney, Spotify’s big success in helping subscribers find new music and why the next James Bond film is in search of a director.

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Showbiz Sandbox 316: Indiana Jones and the Colonoscopy

March 21, 2016

Last week Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg announced they are grabbing a whip and fedora and planning one more adventure for Indiana Jones with its original director and star. They haven’t set a start date for shooting, don’t seem to have a script or even a setting or general idea for the movie yet, at least not one they’re sharing. But naturally they have a release date. The next Indiana Jones will be coming to a theater near you on July 19, 2019.

If it were up to the Screening Room, you’ll be able to watch the latest Indiana Jones installment from the comfort of your own home. Everyone is weighing in on the new company that wants to make blockbuster movies available in your home the same day they hit theaters.

Meanwhile, CBS is turning off their radios. The broadcaster says they are looking to offload their fabled radio group despite it being a stable long-term business. CBS believes radio doesn’t have sexy growth potential so they apparently wants out.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an explanation of television stacking rights, Mariah Carey gets her own reality series and China cracks down on box office fraud.

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