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 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 348: Hollywood Studios Get Serious About Shortening Theatrical Windows

December 19, 2016

Studios have been itching to shorten the theatrical release window for their movies since the moment they learned how much money they could make on home video. Of course, cinema owners aren’t too keen on the idea and refuse to book films that can be viewed at home less than three months after they hit theaters. With reports that Apple is talking to Hollywood in hopes of getting early access to movies for iTunes, have the stakes been raised?

Oscar season is heating up as the guilds begin weighing in. First up was the Screen Actors Guild who announced the nominees for their annual awards helping confirm a few front runners. When it comes to foreign language features, the Academy narrowed the list of eligible contenders down to nine, leaving out a few of this year’s favorites.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced a selection of 25 titles to enter the National Film Registry including silent films starring Buster Keaton, “The Princess Bride”, “Thelma & Louise” and “Rushmore”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive shakeup at Warner Bros. Pictures, Julia Roberts comes to television and Amazon goes global with its video streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 325: Keeping Track of Who’s In Charge at Hollywood Studios

June 20, 2016

It would seem keeping one’s job as a senior executive at a major Hollywood movie studio has become much harder of late. Last year both Paramount and Sony Pictures replaced their studio heads. Now the executive shuffles at Sony and Fox, as well as the turmoil at Viacom, have our heads spinning. We’ll be joined by Anne Thompson of Indiewire who explains why Hollywood is in turnaround.

We also breakdown the past week’s worldwide box office, where a little fish swam a long way. Apparently audiences hadn’t forgotten the forgetful character from “Finding Nemo” and thus turned the Pixar movie “Finding Dory” into a box office smash.

Amazon plans to expand its streaming music service, but will it be worth listening to? Meanwhile, CBS won a potentially significant lawsuit when it argued successfully that a remastered album can in fact be considered a brand new work in terms of copyright.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Tony Awards telecast get a ratings bump, Disney opens a theme park in Shanghai and ESPN devotes itself to soccer (or football, depending where you live).

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Showbiz Sandbox 317: Bundling Cable Networks May Work For Advertisers, But Not For Cable Customers

April 4, 2016

In yet another sign that the difference between broadcast and cable networks is eroding, NBCUniversal announced that it would include all of its cable outlets in their traditional upfront presentation to advertisers for NBC. By combining shows from networks such as Bravo, Telemundo and Oxygen with the big primetime hits on NBC, the Comcast owned media giant is signaling that the best way for advertisers to reach viewers is through aggregating audiences.

Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, is struggling to distribute its own content through different cable providers. Specifically, none of the other pay-TV companies is willing to force their customers to pay for SportsNet LA, the regional sports network owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Could this be an indication that cable operators finally understand that technology will force them to unbundle their basic cable offering?

Meanwhile, short, cheap and entertaining books – once called dime store novels or pulp fiction – are making a comeback. As are serialized novels, short stories and lots of things that don’t fit into the 250 pages or more standard of most books today. Technology and the need to hold the attention of readers are the reasons it’s happening.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the controversial film pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival lineup, the death of comedian Gary Shandling and the porn industry gets into virtual reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 292: There Is Simply Too Much Television

August 31, 2015

Television network executives have begun publicly acknowledging a predicament their audiences recognized some time ago; there is simply too much television. In the midst of what has been dubbed a “golden age” of television, viewers are becoming reluctant to sign up for yet another new or existing series.

In fact, John Landgraf, the head of FX Networks, recently told the Television Critics Association that the glut of TV content means it has become more difficult to “cut through the clutter and create real buzz” when producing a show. With so much programming available, great shows can often go unnoticed or take longer to find an audience.

Then there are countries in which content is being suppressed. In Russia a politically active Ukrainian filmmaker was recently handed a 20 year prison sentence drawing international criticism that the charges were fabricated. Bangladesh meanwhile has banned a banned a new movie because it shed light on the country’s billion dollar garment industry, which is well known for exploiting its workers.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Warner Bros. is headed to China, Spongebob Squarepants is headed to Broadway and how Netflix is about to lose more than 1000 movie titles.

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Showbiz Sandbox 274: Cord-Cutting Has Never Been Easier, or More Expensive

March 23, 2015

Cord-cutting has been a growing fear of the television industry for many years. The terrifying possibility that consumers will give up their expensive cable bundles in lieu of online streaming is quickly becoming a reality as numerous services have sprung up to provide over-the-top options. Unfortunately none of these services offers access to all the major networks forcing viewers to spend just as much, or even more, to see all their favorite programs.

When you start adding up the cost of subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu along with newcomers such as Dish Networks Sling TV and HBO Now, cutting the cord may not be the cost savings everyone has been hoping for.

Meanwhile, the music industry has been undergoing its own struggles as existing revenue models have been upended by digital distribution. Last year marked the first time that streaming music earned more than the sale of music on compact discs. This has led to a rallying cry from industry trade groups for artists to be fairly compensated regardless of the platform on which their music is accessed.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how female moviegoers are driving this year’s box office, why John Williams won’t be scoring Steven Spielberg’s next movie and the new math formula determining whether Madonna’s recent release is the top selling album of the week.

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Showbiz Sandbox 265: This Year’s Oscar Nominations Aren’t Only Racist, They’re Anti-Lego

January 20, 2015

While debating Oscar nomination snubs has become an annual tradition, the criticism over this year’s list of nominees had to do with racial bias and a lack of diversity. Specifically, a film about civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was nominated for Best Picture, but its female director and lead actor, both black, were surprisingly overlooked.

Yet few seemed to notice is that “Selma”, the film in question, is only the twelfth film directed by a woman to receive a Best Picture nomination in the 86 year history of the Academy Awards. On only four occasions has the filmmaker also been nominated for Best Director. And six of these movies were nominated during the last 10 years, pointing towards a positive trend for female helmers.

Also under represented in the Best Picture category at this year’s Oscars are hit movies. Sure, all of the nominees were successful, but only “American Sniper” earned big bucks at the box office. If only Legos were eligible to vote… maybe they’re film would have been nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Barbara Streisand’s latest platinum album, Amazon’s move into theatrical film distribution and why James Cameron is delaying the “Avatar” sequels to 201.

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