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 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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Showbiz Sandbox 350: Hollywood Has Faith in Religious Marketing

January 9, 2017

Organized religion and the film industry have traditionally not played nicely with one another. Recently however, movie studios have been courting Christian filmgoers, in hopes of increasing audiences for certain titles. Brooks Barnes, a staff reporter for the New York Times, joins us to discuss one of Hollywood’s latest marketing trends.

The Writers Guild and the National Society Of Film Critics have both weighed in with end of the year honors. But will any of their choices matter come Oscar time?

The same question could be asked about the Golden Globes which were held last weekend. “La La Land” and “Moonlight” walked away with the top prizes as they continue to march through awards season as this year’s front runners for a Best Picture Academy Award.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Kodak is bringing back celluloid (sort of), how talk show host Conan O’Brien is going viral and Norway ditches FM radio.

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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 345: Awards Season Kicks Off With the Proper Spirit

November 28, 2016

Despite an endless debate as to precisely when the movie awards season begins each year, everyone agrees that the Independent Spirit Awards are one of the more important events. Though not all of the indie films honored by the Spirit Awards will go on to be nominated for Oscars, each year’s nominees provide a list of worthwhile movies on which to catch up.

With 2016 entering the homestretch Hollywood movie studios have begun releasing titles they hope will win big awards or big box office… or both. Disney continues to fire on all cylinders with it’s latest animated release “Moana” as well as “Doctor Strange” minting money during their record breaking year. And “Star Wars: Rogue One” is still a month off.

Meanwhile the media fallout from the U.S. presidential election continues to make headlines, not all of which are accurate. In fact, Facebook and Google are making efforts to crack down on fake news stories as news organizations begin to look at the role they played in recent political events.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including this year’s International Emmy Award winners, why television networks aren’t canceling this season’s failing shows and animator Hayao Miyazaki comes out of retirement to make another movie.

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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 341: AT&T Deal For Time Warner Makes Vertical Integration Trendy Again

October 24, 2016

Last weekend, in a sudden and unexpected deal, telecommunications giant AT&T agreed to buy the media conglomerate Time Warner for $85 billion. As its current offerings become more commoditized AT&T is looking to add content to its portfolio through picking up Time Warner, a company that counts among its assets networks such as HBO and CNN, not to mention Warner Bros. Pictures. However, this marriage is far from certain will surely come under the scrutiny of antitrust regulators.

As awards season gets underway, studios have begun releasing some of their high profile title in hopes of going after Oscar glory. Historically, that meant opening arty films in a limited number of cinemas before going wide after gaining word of mouth. We explain why that’s happening less often these days.

Meanwhile, the Wanda Group is inviting all of Hollywood, and frankly anyone producing film and TV, to its new movie studios in Qingdao, China. They are offering a 40% incentive in hopes of luring productions to the multi-billion dollar facilities, but will anyone take them up on it?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Bob Dylan might not be interested in commenting on his recent Nobel Prize award, why the “Deadpool” sequel lost its director and Garth Brooks signs an exclusive deal to stream his music on Amazon’s new service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 340: Bob Dylan Is A Poet and We Didn’t Know It

October 18, 2016

When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last week there were cries of joy and jeers of contempt over the decision. Music Journalist Sal Nunziato joins us to ponder whether Dylan’s work is in fact literature. He explains why, out of all the musicians that could have received such an award, it had to be Dylan.

Nunziato explains who out of this year’s 19 nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should actually get in. Will Kraftwerk finally make the cut? Joan Baez seems like a no-brainer and nobody would be shocked if Pearl Jam makes it through on their first attempt, but what about bands like Depeche Mode and hip-hop stars such as Tupac Shakur?

Meanwhile, there’s never been more ways to listen to music thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Now Amazon has entered the world of music streaming and hopes that soon every song request begins with the word “Alexa.”

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an expansion of the latest Harry Potter franchise, Billy Bush reaches a settlement to depart “Today” and Netflix gives comedian Chris Rock a huge payday.

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Showbiz Sandbox 338: CBS and Viacom May Wind Up Together After All

October 4, 2016

After originally splitting 10 years ago, Viacom and CBS may once again become a single organization. While a merger may help save Viacom, it doesn’t necessarily benefit the cash rich CBS. Even so, since the Redstone family owns the controlling share of both companies, it seems inevitable the two will once again be joined whether they like it or not.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission has paused its attempt to wrestle the control of television set-top boxes away from cable providers, delaying a vote in order to clarify some of the rules included in the proposed legislation. That means consumers in the United States will still spend $20 billion for at least the next two years renting cable boxes.

At the box office, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” helped reverse the fortunes of Tim Burton’s latest films and even “Deepwater Horizon” may be not be the disaster some had predicted.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why NBC is dumping its “Mail Order Bride”, Disney plans on making a live-action version of “The Lion King” and a huge chunk of Rolling Stone magazine gets sold off.

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