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

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 299: The Gender Pay Gap Lands A Starring Role In Hollywood

Hollywood’s gender pay gap is once again a hot topic of discussion thanks to a frank essay on the subject by Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence. We are joined by Karen Woodward, an entertainment industry social media consultant, who suggests that the crass and angry tone the actress took in her piece helped gain attention for the issue and start a conversation on how to fix the problem.

We’ll hear what Lawrence had to say about being paid less than her male co-stars, specifically how she’s no longer concerned with being “liked” or finding a kinder, gentler way to express her opinion. Now at least one of her frequent co-stars has plans to take up the cause with what could be a very effective strategy.

Meanwhile, with the number of major record labels having already declined to three from what was once six, it appears the industry’s contraction may soon affect music publishing with Sony/ATV looking for a new owner. Could one of the world’s largest music publishers soon merge with a competitor?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Playboy magazine is getting rid of its centerfold, how “The Walking Dead” went global in a big way and Netflix earnings and subscriber growth disappoint Wall Street.

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Showbiz Sandbox 292: There Is Simply Too Much Television

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 255: Better Pixels Not More Pixels – Why You’ll Never Care About 4K or 8K TV

Technology is quickly emerging that delivers enhanced theatrical and home viewing experiences the likes of which audiences have never seen. What remains unknown is whether consumers even notice incremental upgrades such as Ultra HD or care enough to pay extra for them. TV manufacturers sure hope so.

However, at the SMPTE 2014 Technical Conference held last week in Los Angeles, some of the industries smartest engineers agreed that images with a wider contrast and color range (HDR) are preferable to those packing more pixels into every frame (4K). They also questioned if we were technically capable of getting all this enhanced content onto screens both big and small.

China, on the other hand, will take any content they can get their hands. After Hollywood spent years trying to break into the Chinese market, China is now come knocking down Hollywood’s door in search of movies and television programs to show via streaming and subscription services.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Ken Burns scored big ratings for PBS with his latest documentary, why sock puppets are all the rage on Broadway and TLC shows Honey Boo-Boo the door.

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Showbiz Sandbox 253: Nielsen Is Rating TV Shows By The (Wrong) Numbers

The method by which television ratings are collected and tabulated has long been criticized as imperfect. Now Nielsen, the research firm which provides the ratings, admitted this past week it had been reporting inaccurate audience figures to broadcast networks for the past seven months. Turns out viewership of this year’s season premieres was lower than originally thought. We’ll try and explain what the heck is going on here?

Comedian Adam Sandler is back in the news, though this time it’s for a movie which isn’t being made… even by Netflix. And just as she hits her stride as an action star, actress Scarlett Johansson (temporarily) gives up movies to appear in a television mini-series.

Even the world of live theater is a bit bizarre lately, at least according to composer Stephen Sondheim who is working on a new musical based on two surreal movies by the late Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. If that’s not crazy enough, the biggest box office winner on Broadway this fall has been “The Lion King”, a musical that has been running for 17 years.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Katy Perry books a trip to the Super Bowl, e-book software that spies on you and the fifth season of “The Walking Dead” premieres to record numbers… or so we’ve been told.

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Showbiz Sandbox 252: Crouching Netflix, Hidden IMAX and the Myth of Broken Release Windows

The Weinstein Co. stunned the entertainment industry last week by announcing they would distribute the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously on Netflix and IMAX. As Brooks Barnes of the New York Times explains, the plan only has one problem; movie theaters refuse to show any film that opens day-and-date on home video or video-on-demand. This begs the question, if a movie never opens theatrically, was it’s release window really broken?

Netflix continued to make additional headlines later in the week by signing a deal with actor Adam Sandler to make four original movies for the streaming service. We discuss whether Netflix is changing the Hollywood paradigm or simply becoming one more buyer of premium content.

While Netflix is leaning into the future, director Christopher Nolan is taking a more old fashioned approach by releasing his upcoming movie on actual film. Select theaters showing “Interstellar” on analogue celluloid will get the film two days early. But will theater owners, who recently converted to digital cinema, still know how to thread a 35mm projector?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Saturday morning cartoons, why U2 released their latest album on vinyl and how Facebook is helping “Twilight” live on through a series of short films.

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Showbiz Sandbox 205: Awards Season Commences With Stellar Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals

Four of the last five films to win Best Picture Oscars first appeared at the Telluride Film Festival before officially premiering the following week at the Toronto International Film Festival. Anne Thompson from Indiewire attended both festivals this year and fills us in on the big movies everyone will be talking about during the upcoming awards season.

This past week also saw the death of Ray Dolby, the audio pioneer who founded Dolby Laboratories to advance the art of motion picture sound. We debate whether the film industry is now discouraging future inventors from working in the space.

Meanwhile, revenue from digital movies and television shows continues to climb, up 24% this year alone. Unlike theatrical box office though, studios have remained tight lipped when it comes to providing actual sales figures, fearing actors and filmmakers will want a bigger cut.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the big winners at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, a racy Miley Cyrus video that racked up YouTube records and J.K. Rowling spins-off Harry Potter.

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Showbiz Sandbox 201: Why CBS Is Winning The Battle (And The War) Over Cable Television

For the past two weeks Time Warner Cable has been blacking out CBS networks in New York, Los Angeles and other major markets over a retransmission dispute. Despite losing more than 3 million households ratings on CBS have remained steady giving the network no reason to back down from its demands. With the new television and football seasons set to begin in September Time Warner Cable may have no choice but to cave in to CBS’ terms.

Meanwhile, this summer’s blockbuster movies continue to underperform at the box office with Disney announcing they may have to take a $190 million write down on losses from “The Lone Ranger”. Actor Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have figured out who to blame for the movie’s failure; vengeful American film critics.

After being publicly trashed by George Clooney, activist investor Daniel Loeb was unable to convince Sony to spin-off its entertainment divisions. Even so, Loeb says he’s pleased since the company’s stock price is up and its management more accountable to shareholders.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lost film from Orson Welles, a new ending for the “Finding Nemo” sequel and the surprising new owner of The Washington Post.

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Showbiz Sandbox 178: Sex Sells At Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival has a reputation of programming edgy, independent films that often reflect the spirit and sentiment of the country. The festival must think the nation is in a lascivious mood since many of the films at this year’s event are rather racy.

In fact, at least three films at this year’s festival focus on pornography, including “Lovelace” a biopic of the world’s first pornstar. Whether it’s suburban lesbian mothers turning into prostitutes or two best friends having affairs with each other’s sons, Sundance has been hot and steamy.

If the number of distribution deals at this year’s festival is any indication however, Sundance is surely on the right track.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including controversial action figures for “Django Unchained”, Hanks and Spielberg head to war again, and Robert Iger’s big salary raise.

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Showbiz Sandbox 175: Fixing Electronic Oscar Voting In One Easy Step

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would allow electronic voting for this year’s Oscar nominations many industry insiders felt it was long overdue.  However with a median age of 62, the Academy’s membership may not be ready to cast ballots online.  Heck, some members don’t even have computers.

Now reports have emerged that the Academy’s electronic voting procedure has hit a few speed bumps.  Members have had password problems and those that were able to log into the voting system found it difficult and complicated.  Some fear that voting for the Oscars will reach an all-time low.  Yet there may be a very simple way to overcome some of the security concerns the Academy and its members have in casting online ballots.

The National Film Registry cast a vote of their own last week, adding 25 films to its archives in the Library of Congress, declaring them culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.  Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean these films will actually be preserved.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a lucrative holiday box office, big changes for “The Walking Dead” and a historical court ruling for screenwriters.

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