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 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 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 330: Rio Olympics Faces Competition for TV Viewers

August 8, 2016

The 2016 Summer Olympics are underway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and there are more ways to watch the games than ever before. In the United States, NBC is broadcasting 6,800 hours of coverage from Rio across 11 television channels and 41 live online streams. We look at the declining TV ratings and whether all the action is happening in primetime or online. And does that even matter?

What didn’t seem to matter at all were the dozens of negative reviews movie critics skewered threw at the latest DC Comics adaptation, “Suicide Squad”. After being universally panned, the film went on to break global and North American box office records when it opened over the weekend.

The Television Critics Association summer press tour has proven to be a hotbed of video streaming news. For instance, Time Warner bought a 10% stake in Hulu and NBC let slip they will be announcing their own streaming plans soon. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Apple wants to build a TV guide to let everyone know how and where there favorite shows can be found.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Oprah’s latest book club pick, the albums nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize and George R. R. Martin books another TV series.

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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 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 306: Deconstructing the 2015 Movie Box Office

January 4, 2016

Few, if any, can rival Paul Dergarabedian when it comes to analyzing the film industry’s global box office. Rentrak’s senior media analyst has been running movie numbers for upwards of 20 years now and is a regularly quoted box office pundit. Dergarabedian joins us to discuss how 2015 turned into a record breaking year at the box office all over the world.

We cover everything from how the winners at last year’s box office left little for the losers to the increasing role social media plays in the fortunes of any given movie, from the importance of international grosses to the record shattering “Star Wars” sequel. One big question is how 2016 could ever top last year’s figures or if that even matters.

We wind up in the music business where lawsuits are always a good indication on the issues affecting the industry. Two big new lawsuits target Spotify and Ticketmaster. We’ll explain what they are all about… and predict if they will actually make it to trial.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why The Beatles agreed to put their music on streaming services, how Taylor Swift’s concert tour topped the charts last year and the sexual assault charge against Bill Cosby.

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

October 19, 2015

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 296: Entertainment Industry Numbers Are Often A Comedy of Errors

September 28, 2015

It is said numbers don’t lie, however in the entertainment business they don’t always tell the truth either. When it comes to box office grosses, television ratings, home video earnings and book sales, numbers can often present misleading or incomplete information which paint an unrealistic, or at times purposefully skewed, financial picture.

Netflix, for instance, released data detailing what they claim is the episode when their customers get hooked on a television series. However, the “hook study” performed by the subscription video streaming service was limited in scope and may simply be an example of how good Netflix is at spinning its numbers into great PR opportunities.

Meanwhile, like every other area of the entertainment industry, the book world has been rocked by the digital revolution. But publishers believe the business is leveling out based on sales figures which leave out large segments of the market. None of this explains why e-books cost more than paperbacks though.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amy Schumer’s big book advance, a lawsuit over the movie “Goodfellas”, which Warner Bros. says was a huge flop, and the Harry Potter origin story will become a two part theatrical production on London’s West End.

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Showbiz Sandbox 295: Thompson Keeps Tabs On Telluride and Toronto

September 21, 2015

Two of the world’s most prominent film festivals are held each September in Telluride and Toronto and, without fail, you’ll find Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, dashing off to both of them. Thompson gives us a feel for what both festivals were like this year, which films created the most awards buzz and which she thinks audiences should be looking forward to.

Thompson also joins us to discuss this year’s Emmy winners. The premium cable network HBO proved it is still at the top of its game, fending off the stiff competition of hot new shows being produced by upstart streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. The network wept away the Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Limited Series categories, winning 14 awards in all.

Meanwhile, in case that seems destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled that copyright owners must take into account the possibility of fair use before sending a takedown notice. Rather than force possible infringers to mount what is known as an affirmative defense, the court is placing the burden on copyright holders to consider whether a work should be considered fair use.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new over-the-top and mobile streaming services being offered by the BBC and Epix, one of the creators of Batman will finally get the credit he has long deserved (though maybe not the money) and Denzel Washington will produce ten August Wilson plays for HBO.

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