Showbiz Sandbox 323: Trends From the 2016 TV Upfronts

Each May all the U.S. television networks invite major advertisers and the media to New York so they can pitch all of the new and returning shows on their fall schedules. Known as the upfronts, a good chunk of the prime time advertising inventory is sold during these meetings as promotional buzz about each series commences in earnest. We’ll take a closer look at some of the big trends coming out of this year’s upfronts.

Meanwhile, a much beloved series might be starting a trend of its own by increasing viewership in its 12th season. Usually long-running shows lose audience in their latter years, however “Grey’s Anatomy” is the perfect example of how new technology can boost viewership.

Viacom and CBS are likely to have kept a close eye on the recently completed upfronts, given their dominance in television. CBS was originally a Viacom property, but was spun-off more than a decade ago. Now, amidst leadership turmoil at Viacom, there is speculation the two companies may merge, once more becoming a single entity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is criticizing Disney, Spotify’s big success in helping subscribers find new music and why the next James Bond film is in search of a director.

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Showbiz Sandbox 300: What is GamerGate and Why Should You Care?

South by Southwest (SXSW) set the tech world and media outlets aflame when they recently canceled two panel discussions on harassment in the gaming community scheduled for their 2016 conference. Organizers quickly reversed their decision realizing it sent the unintended message that the of the annual music, film and interactive festival not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.

SXSW officials claimed they were trying to protect attendees from violence threatening the panels from a group aligning themselves with GamerGate, an angry and misogynistic movement focused on sexism and progressivism in video game culture. Trying to define GamerGate is difficult since it has evolved from a debate raging through social media hashtags to real world death threats against prominent women in the video game industry. We’ll try to unravel the meaning of GamerGate and discuss whether SXSW can fully recover from the controversy it stirred up.

Meanwhile, tickets to hot franchise properties are getting hard to come by. When tickets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” went on sale recently, web ticketing companies were crippled by demand. The same was true when tickets for the London West End production of “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” which promptly sold out a year’s worth of performances.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of “Gilmore Girls”, Internet music service Pandora settles a copyright dispute to the tune of $90 million and a new Star Trek television series is headed straight to online streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 284: Taylor Swift Takes A Bite Out of Apple

When Apple announced its new streaming music service earlier this month certain members of the music industry were quick to voice their dismay over the terms the tech giant was offering. Specifically, indie record labels weren’t happy to see that Apple wouldn’t be paying licensing fees during the three month trial period the company was offering new subscribers. As the chorus of opposition grew louder it was none other than Taylor Swift who pushed Apple to reverse its payment policy.

In an open letter published to her website, the country musician turned pop star criticised the world’s largest music retailer for not compensating writers, producers, or artists during a new subscriber’s three month trial period. She says new artists, young songwriters and independent producers depend on such royalties to survive. In a move that some will argue demonstrates Swift’s influence within the industry, Apple actually relented.

Another entertainment business model currently being disrupted is that of television. With more consumers opting to cut their cable cord for over the top solutions, the NBA announced they would let basketball fans purchase out-of-market games on a per-game and per-team basis. This has huge implications for the broadcast industry as programming continues to slowly become unbundled.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the box office success of “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out”, a big payday for Jennifer Lawrence on her next film and gambling on who will be the next actor to play James Bond.

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Showbiz Sandbox 260: The Race To Build A Bigger, Louder And More Expensive Movie Theater

When it comes to giant screen cinema IMAX is still the most dominant player, but with theater owners building their own premium large format auditoriums new competitors have started to spring up. Dolby, a company known for cinema audio technology, is the latest to enter the fray with their own PLF offering that includes bigger screens, more immersive sound and, of course, a higher ticket price. Whether such offerings will catch on with moviegoers remains to be seen.

The only big news anyone in the entertainment industry wants to talk about right now is the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. Security experts say it’s shaping up to be the largest and most damaging hack against a commercial business in history. Authorities investigating the crime are no closer to catching the perpetrator than when the incident first made headlines two weeks ago.

The Grammy Awards were also making headlines last week. In fact, the annual music awards show tried to stay at the top of the news cycle by announcing nominees via various platforms throughout the course of an entire day. The real story however, turned out to be which musicians actually received nominations and which were overlooked.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the name of the next James Bond film, U2 announces a world tour and CBS gets into another retransmission dispute.

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Showbiz Sandbox 170: Why Star Wars Is Better Off Without George Lucas

Two weeks ago Disney surprised everyone by purchasing Lucasfilm for a pricetag of $4 billion. Like the studio’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009, the move makes perfect sense since Disney can exploit the Star Wars franchise in films, television and theme parks. Given the quality of the prequels, it’s not hard to see why fans were relieved to hear George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars universe, will have a limited role in the sequels Disney plans on releasing.

Speaking of lucrative franchises, the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall” was released to both favorable reviews and huge grosses. The twenty-third installment of the Bond series may earn over $1 billion at the international box office. And all without 3-D ticket surcharges.

Though audiences continue to reject paying a premium for 3-D movies in theaters, consumer electronic manufacturers report that the sales of 3-D capable televisions and Blu-Ray players is on the rise. However just because a TV can play 3-D content doesn’t mean people will take advantage of the technology.

Our former host Karen Woodward joins us for a rundown of all the top entertainment news stories from the past two weeks, including the huge sales figures from Taylor Swift’s new album, Mark Wahlberg signs on for the next “Transformers” film and CBS finally signs up for Hulu.

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Showbiz Sandbox 162: Did The Justice Department Destroy The Literary Ecosystem With E-Book Settlement?

Despite strong opposition from authors, publishers, retailers and the public, the U.S. Department of Justice settled their anti-trust case with three major publishers over e-book price fixing. Even an explanatory comic strip from a well regarded copyright attorney couldn’t prevent a ruling that some industry analysts say will enable Amazon to dominate the market. However, not all involved parties have settled, with Apple, Macmillan and Penguin awaiting trial on the charges.

The headlines weren’t any better for the movie business, where theatrical attendance over the past weekend was the worst on record in more than 10 years. It probably doesn’t help that Fox announced they would make movies available for digital download shortly after they hit theaters.

On the other hand, magazine publishers have a lot to cheer about for a change, especially when it comes to the skyrocketing sales of overseas titles.

Of course we cover all the week’s top entertainment news including the return of ratings powerhouse “Sunday Night Football”, Daniel Craig’s future as James Bond and why the Oscars telecast will be singing a new tune next year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 65: Hollywood’s Love/Hate Relationship With Twitter

Last summer a number of movies had enormous box office drop offs in their second day of release and studios blamed it on what they termed the Twitter Effect. Daniel Frankel from The Wrap joins us to explain how the social media trend that was going to revolutionize word-of-mouth hasn’t demonstrably done so. Platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and even text messaging seem to influence moviegoers more than Twitter. That hasn’t stopped studios from finding modest success on Twitter by purchasing trending topics.

A number of big television news stories broke over the past week thanks to the annual Television Critics Association press tour. Ellen DeGeneres resigned as a judge on “American Idol”, but Fox may be replacing her with Jennifer Lopez. Meanwhile, Stephen McPherson, the president of ABC, abruptly resigned under a cloud of controversy relating to rumored sexual harassment investigations and was promptly replaced by ABC Family topper Paul Lee.

In the music world Kanye West may be hoping the Twitter effect will help boost sales of his upcoming album. The hip-hop star made headlines by opening a Twitter account and turning up at Facebook headquarters to entertain employees.

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Showbiz Sandbox 62: The Secret Behind Hollywood’s Accounting Practices

How is it the last Harry Potter film can gross $938 million but still lose $130 million? Journalist and author Edward Jay Epstein joins us to unravel some of Hollywood’s quirky accounting practices. He’s written two books on the subject; The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies and The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood.

“Despicable Me” topped the box office though the amount it took in from 3D screens was rather low. Could audiences be tiring of paying exorbitant 3D ticket prices? Meanwhile, Miramax finally seems to have found a buyer and Lions Gate is trying to make piece with activist investor Carl Icahn.

The Emmy nominations were announced last week and we’ll fill you in on whose up for the television’s big awards. Over in the world of music Pollstar announced that concert ticket sales are down 15% for the first half of the year.

During our Big Deal or Big Whoop segment we race through a number of top entertainment headlines, including Roman Polanski’s release, Lindsay Lohan’s jail time and Mel Gibson getting dumped by his agency. Maybe Gibson can find some work on YouTube, which plans to offer $5 million in grants to select content partners.

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