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 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 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 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 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 347: Who Should Perform What at the 59th Grammy Awards

December 13, 2016

When the nominations for the 59th Grammy Awards were announced last week Beyoncé continued her annus mirabilis by picking up no fewer than nine nods including one for album of the year. She’s in the mix with the likes of Adele, Drake, Justin Bieber and Sturgill Simpson. With musical acts that include Rihanna, Kanye West and Radiohead also up for awards, producers have a wealth of talent to choose from when selecting performers for next year’s ceremony.

The Golden Globe nominations were also announced recently and this year the Hollywood Foreign Press Association actually managed to categorize their film entries properly, unlike last year when the space drama “The Martian” won the prize for best comedy.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Black List survey was published on Monday, highlighting some of the best unproduced screenplays from the past year. Nine of the last 18 Best Screenplay Oscars were featured on the annual list, including “Spotlight”, “Juno” and “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the winners of the European Film Awards, why the CBS-Viacom merger collapsed and actress Emmy Rossum demands to be paid as much as her mail co-stars.

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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 344: Did the Media Bungle The 2016 Election?

November 14, 2016

We don’t cover politics on Showbiz Sandbox per se, however we do provide analysis and commentary on the worldwide media and entertainment industries. Thus, we discuss the role, and some might say the culpability, of the news media in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. While there is no doubt some divisiveness over the election of president-elect Donald Trump, there seems to be unanimous consensus that mainstream media blew it… bigly.

We also take a look at the impact the results of this year’s presidential election will have on the entertainment business. Deals currently in the works may have a tougher time getting approved, and decisions that passed years ago may be in danger of being overturned.

China meanwhile has passed a new film industry law intended to crack down on box office fraud and promote “core socialist values”. It weaves a new layer of protectionism into the business by requiring that two thirds of the country’s movie screens be reserved for Chinese films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the why IMDb is going to court over its right to post actors ages, Universal Pictures makes some changes at DreamWorks Animation and Robert Redford’s retirement plans.

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