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 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 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 339: The Slow Death of a Sundance Hit

October 10, 2016

With its racially charged themes striking a timely chord, “The Birth of a Nation” garnered acclaim and a $17.5 million distribution deal at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However after it became known that its director and star was once accused (though acquitted) of rape, a question was raised over whether art can be separated from its creator. Many will argue that the answer lies in the movie’s poor critical reception and tepid box office.

What was touted as a contender for multiple Oscar nominations this year, “The Birth of a Nation” may ultimately break even in theatres before going on to earn most of its money in ancillary markets. If it were up to Reed Hastings though, the film would have been released on VOD and in cinemas at the same time. The Netflix CEO claims theater owners are strangling the movie industry with their insistence on release windows.

Meanwhile, there are calls by some in Congress for the Justice Department to review the growing number of business acquisitions being made by Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate. Having purchased multiple movie theater chains and at least one Hollywood production company, some legislators believe the U.S. is allowing Chinese state-controlled companies to gain too much soft power

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why executives are disappearing from BBC’s Radio 1, how Disney cast a sequel to “Mary Poppins” without a script and what the future may hold for celebrity newscaster Billy Bush.

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Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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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 328: Pokémon Finally Brings Augmented Reality to Life

July 11, 2016

After endless hype everyone is finally getting a chance to experience virtual reality and augmented reality in the best way possible; by playing a game. Pokémon Go was an instant hit when it launched recently for mobile phones. It’s literally and figuratively a game-changer and the first of what’s sure to be many new products making clever use of AR.

Meanwhile, for the first time in years, the Chinese box office is not just slowing down, it’s shrinking. Hollywood movies are dominating the market but that hasn’t stopped the Chinese government from loosening the reins to let in more Hollywood movies just to sell more tickets.

In fact, the deal limiting the number of imported films into China to 34 per year ends in 2017. As Hollywood goes back to the negotiating table with the Chinese government, they will not only be pushing to get more movies into the country, but also a bigger piece of the box office, which is presently limited to 25%, though is often less.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why season seven of “Game of Thrones” is going to be delayed, how music streaming services have surpassed 55 million paid subscribers and the three leads of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton” have taken their final bow.

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Showbiz Sandbox 327: The Academy’s Class of 2016 Gets A Lot More Diverse

July 5, 2016

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences invited a record number of filmmakers, craftsman and executives to join its ranks in 2016, including a record number of women, people of color and international artists. While this helps make its membership more diverse, the Academy itself points out, this amounts to a drop in the bucket.

Meanwhile, the Jay-Z digital music service is generating some of its own headlines, literally. Word leaked out, probably from within the company itself, that the streaming music service was in talks to be acquired by Apple. Even though people are consuming more media than ever, the streaming music business may not be a quick route to profitability.

The Chinese box office, on the other hand, has been growing at an astronomical pace over the past few years; 50% last in 2015 alone. However, those gains might be slowing down, as the growth rate has dropped to 20% so far. Maybe the prediction that China would become the biggest movie market in the world by 2017 were premature.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lawsuit over special effects technology which is causing problems for ongoing productions, a host of “Top Gear” crashes and burns, though not literally, and longtime newscaster Nancy Grace will depart CNN.

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Showbiz Sandbox 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

July 6, 2015

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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