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 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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Showbiz Sandbox 343: Teamsters Play a Big Role on Broadway

November 7, 2016

The theater world is presently embroiled in major contractual battles over pay, benefits and credits. The last group you’d ever think would be leading the charge is the Teamsters, who represent a large number of theater, television and film workers, including casting directors. Turns out, if you want to produce entertainment in the United States, you probably have to deal with the Teamsters.

Those working off-Broadway however, are represented by the Actors Equity Association and they are negotiating with the League of Off Broadway Theaters and Producers. Actors are pushing for a historic pay increase claiming their weekly minimum has never kept pace with inflation, let alone the cost of living in the major metropolitan cities where live theater is produced.

Meanwhile the Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T-DirecTV and other pay television providers for colluding in their refusal to carry SportsNet LA, a channel owned by Time Warner Cable. This comes in the wake of AT&T’s bid to acquire the media company Time Warner, which some fear might consolidate to much media power in too few hands.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the noteworthy ratings for this year’s World Series, who was named producers of next year’s Oscar ceremony and a “The Simpsons” is set up to make television history.

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Showbiz Sandbox 338: CBS and Viacom May Wind Up Together After All

October 4, 2016

After originally splitting 10 years ago, Viacom and CBS may once again become a single organization. While a merger may help save Viacom, it doesn’t necessarily benefit the cash rich CBS. Even so, since the Redstone family owns the controlling share of both companies, it seems inevitable the two will once again be joined whether they like it or not.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission has paused its attempt to wrestle the control of television set-top boxes away from cable providers, delaying a vote in order to clarify some of the rules included in the proposed legislation. That means consumers in the United States will still spend $20 billion for at least the next two years renting cable boxes.

At the box office, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” helped reverse the fortunes of Tim Burton’s latest films and even “Deepwater Horizon” may be not be the disaster some had predicted.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why NBC is dumping its “Mail Order Bride”, Disney plans on making a live-action version of “The Lion King” and a huge chunk of Rolling Stone magazine gets sold off.

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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 325: Keeping Track of Who’s In Charge at Hollywood Studios

June 20, 2016

It would seem keeping one’s job as a senior executive at a major Hollywood movie studio has become much harder of late. Last year both Paramount and Sony Pictures replaced their studio heads. Now the executive shuffles at Sony and Fox, as well as the turmoil at Viacom, have our heads spinning. We’ll be joined by Anne Thompson of Indiewire who explains why Hollywood is in turnaround.

We also breakdown the past week’s worldwide box office, where a little fish swam a long way. Apparently audiences hadn’t forgotten the forgetful character from “Finding Nemo” and thus turned the Pixar movie “Finding Dory” into a box office smash.

Amazon plans to expand its streaming music service, but will it be worth listening to? Meanwhile, CBS won a potentially significant lawsuit when it argued successfully that a remastered album can in fact be considered a brand new work in terms of copyright.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Tony Awards telecast get a ratings bump, Disney opens a theme park in Shanghai and ESPN devotes itself to soccer (or football, depending where you live).

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Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

May 2, 2016

Comcast announced last week that it would acquire Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, taking another step toward transforming themselves from a cable giant into a full fledged media conglomerate. Meg James, a corporate media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, join us to discuss how, though the deal may not have been anticipated, it makes a lot of sense for both companies.

The purchase is the most recent in a string of acquisitions that have closely mirrored the strategy Disney has executed over the past decade as they gobbled up companies such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Comcast has proven quite adept at turning undervalued assets such as NBCUniversal and Universal Studios theme parks into profitable entities.

Meanwhile, as the Tony Awards season officially kicks off, Broadway is suffering from what is being referred to as The Hamilton Effect. This is a condition in which you open a musical that blends hip-hop and history in a way that not only makes the show a cultural phenomenon, but the inevitable winner of this year’s much coveted Best Musical Tony.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Daytime Emmy winners, why Fox is pulling out of this year’s Comic-Con convention and how French law enforcement is preparing for the Cannes Film Festival.

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