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 364: Hollywood Averts Another Writer’s Strike With Last Minute Deal

May 2, 2017

Though it came down to the wire and took an all-night negotiating session, Hollywood avoided another costly writer’s strike earlier this week. The Writers Guild of America, which represents upwards of 12,000 movie and television writers, came to a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates on behalf of Hollywood studios and networks. The three year contract reportedly resolves several issues including the WGA health plan, how long a writer can be held by a television series as well as parity for online and cable residuals.

In other breaking news, the nominations for this year’s Tony Awards were announced, but it is anyone’s guess which of the four productions up for Best Musical will come out on top. The same is true of the four plays, each of which is by an American playwright making their Broadway debut. The only sure thing is that Bette Midler will win the Best Leading Actress in a Musical Award for “Hello Dolly!”

Meanwhile, after a 15 year decline in which global recorded music lost 40% of its value, the music industry is showing signs of life. You can thank streaming. For the second year in a row, music sales worldwide have increased – that includes physical product, digital and income from streaming.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including more layoffs at ESPN, “Saturday Night Live” heads to China (sort of) and Ryan Seacrest gets a new television gig.

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Showbiz Sandbox 363: With Bill O’Reilly Gone, Cable News Begins A New Chapter

April 24, 2017

After twenty years as the face of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly was responsible for nearly 20% of the network’s revenue. Even so, Fox made the decision to fire O’Reilly last week after reports that he had paid out settlements over the years to women accusing him of sexual harassment. At least, that’s how Fox spun the story, not wanting to admit the controversial news host was causing the network too look bad and lose advertisers.

O’Reilly wasn’t the first on-air host Fox News has lost over the last year. A string of anchors, including the popular Megyn Kelly left for new deals at other networks. With Fox’s entire primetime lineup upended so suddenly, other media outlets are beginning to make a move to overtake the top cable news network.

Meanwhile, China continues to issue release dates for big Hollywood movies at a rate that will likely surpass their own quota on imported films. One thing is for sure, none of the movies China approves will star Richard Gere. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why it doesn’t matter that Netflix didn’t meet its quarterly subscriber goals, the return of “X-Files” and Kevin Spacey gets tapped for the Tony Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 362: What’s The Flipping Problem With Record Store Day?

April 17, 2017

This year’s Record Store Day is just days away, but what began as a way to support independent record stores has turned into a covert commercial endeavor for those reselling the event’s exclusive vinyl releases at exorbitant prices. Sal Nunziato, a former record store owner himself, joins us to discuss why he’s never been all that fond of the annual promotion.

These days Nunziato is a music blogger and drummer in the band the John Sally Ride. Their new album, “A New Set of Downs” will be released later this year, but in a unique twist, is already available on platforms such as Spotify and Soundcloud. He’ll tell us all about it.

Meanwhile, even though ESPN has lost 12 million subscribers in the past six years, the cable sports network is still very profitable, generating $11 billion per year for its owner, Disney. But with skinny cable bundles and online streaming eating into its subscriber base, ESPN is girding itself for an unknown future.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of YouTube TV, Spotify finally signs a new deal with a major record label, and Harry Potter wins big it at this year’s Olivier Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 361: Forget Release Windows, CinemaCon Proves the Screen is the Future

April 4, 2017

Cinema operators gathered in Las Vegas last week to attend the annual CinemaCon trade show where they were able to preview upcoming film releases and learn about some of the new technology on offer for their theatres. Naturally, box office was a big topic with global ticket sales (barely) hitting a record $38.6 billion. Even with a strong U.S. dollar, international box office still made up 71% of the total.

Another issue on everyone’s mind were theatrical release windows; studios want to introduce a premium video on demand offering that brings new releases to the home sooner, though exhibitors are understandably pushing back.

Meanwhile, there may be no movies to show in cinemas if screenwriters goes on strike. The Writers Guild of America has been meeting with producers and studios, however the sides are far apart in their negotiations and a strike is looking more likely.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Dolittle, why major advertisers are upset with YouTube and Adam Sandler reups with Netflix.

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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 355: Adele’s Big Grammy Victory Is All In the Numbers

February 13, 2017

Though Beyoncé had been predicted to walk off with this years top Grammy Awards for her critically acclaimed album “Lemonade”, she was beat out by Adele who won five top awards for “25”. Rather than being racially motivated, as some would suggest, Adele’s Grammy success was buttressed by an album that sold 20 million copies making it by far one of the biggest albums of the last decade, topped only by sales of her previous release “21”.

Then there was the artist who has never sold a single record yet managed to win three Grammys this year. Chance the Rapper made history when he became the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. “Coloring Book” won the Grammys for Best Mixtape and Best Rap Performance, while Chance the Rapper took home the prize for Best New Artist.

Meanwhile, the struggling entertainment conglomerate Viacom announced how it hopes to turn the company around. The company plans to focus on “silos” of branded properties which can be exploited across multiple platforms. This is the same strategy the Walt Disney Co. has used with great success; however Viacom’s existing properties are hardly as popular as Marvel or Pixar.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including plans to revive “American Idol” on television, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” tops Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” for the first time and Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul music, announces her retirement.

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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 349: How the 2016 Box Office Defied the Odds

January 3, 2017

Apparently political pollsters aren’t the only forecasters whose predictions can be wrong. With fewer high profile blockbusters than 2015, some in Hollywood believed that the 2016 North American box office could surpass the previous year. However, a number of unexpected hits like “The Jungle Book” and “Deadpool” helped box office climb to a record high of $11.4 billion.

Meanwhile in China, the rapid box office growth that saw a 50% rise in 2015 slowed dramatically. In fact, the country’s box office actually fell in the last half of 2016, causing a modest 3% gain, year-over-year. We’ll explain what caused the Chinese box office to cool off so quickly and why there may be some good news buried in the financials.

Our resident theatre expert Michael Giltz will brief us on all the new productions opening on Broadway this spring. He’ll tell us which shows he would invest in (if he had the money) and which might be headed to a town near you when they go out on tour.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, a banner year for cable news networks and how record labels are finally seeing some profits from streaming music revenue.

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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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