Showbiz Sandbox 296: Entertainment Industry Numbers Are Often A Comedy of Errors

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 275: TV Casting Isn’t Just Black and White

Thanks to the success of new shows like “How To Get Away With Murder”, “Black-ish”, “Fresh Off The Boat”, “Jane the Virgin” and, of course, “Empire”, Deadline Hollywood reports this year’s pilot season is experiencing an explosion of minority casting. Networks are now writing roles specifically for ethnic actors and demanding series pilots feature a diverse cast. Though long overdue, the suggestion that the “pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction” ruffled a few industry feathers.

In less controversial news, the Library of Congress announced the 25 recordings it will be adding to the National Recording Registry this year. Among them are classics by The Doors and Radiohead, Broadway cast albums and hits by The Righteous Brothers and Johnny Mercer. There are even a few historical wax cylinder recordings dating all the way back to the 1890s.

And just when you thought the awards season was long over, the New York Independent Film Critics held their annual meeting to select the IRA Film Awards. Our host Michael Giltz was on hand to argue, discuss and vote for the best in movies from last year with a prestigious group that believes they have better taste than all those other awards shows. We’ll go over the list of winners.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including who will replace Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show”, the popular television series “Downton Abbey” calls it quits as does Zayn Malik, a now former-member of One Direction.

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Showbiz Sandbox 274: Cord-Cutting Has Never Been Easier, or More Expensive

Cord-cutting has been a growing fear of the television industry for many years. The terrifying possibility that consumers will give up their expensive cable bundles in lieu of online streaming is quickly becoming a reality as numerous services have sprung up to provide over-the-top options. Unfortunately none of these services offers access to all the major networks forcing viewers to spend just as much, or even more, to see all their favorite programs.

When you start adding up the cost of subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu along with newcomers such as Dish Networks Sling TV and HBO Now, cutting the cord may not be the cost savings everyone has been hoping for.

Meanwhile, the music industry has been undergoing its own struggles as existing revenue models have been upended by digital distribution. Last year marked the first time that streaming music earned more than the sale of music on compact discs. This has led to a rallying cry from industry trade groups for artists to be fairly compensated regardless of the platform on which their music is accessed.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how female moviegoers are driving this year’s box office, why John Williams won’t be scoring Steven Spielberg’s next movie and the new math formula determining whether Madonna’s recent release is the top selling album of the week.

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Showbiz Sandbox 272: Why The TV Industry Is Fighting Over Your Viewing Habits

Time-shifting content consumption has grown astronomically over the past several years thanks to technology like streaming and DVRs. Nearly half of all TV viewers no longer watch shows when they are first aired, upending the traditional ratings system used to measure audiences. Networks now want advertisers to pay for all the viewers of a program up to a week after its original telecast.

Presently, advertisers only pay for viewers of a show during the first three days after its broadcast, a timeframe the don’t wish to extend. Complicating the matter is a dramatic increase in the number of shows airing during primetime, fracturing audiences and forcing ad execs to sift through 1,700 programs in which commercials can be placed.

Buying ad time during the Academy Awards ceremony is usually a no-brainer for marketing moguls, however the Oscars telecast has become so predictably dull that it’s audience has begun to shrink. In an effort to boost ratings, the Academy’s Board of Governors is now hinting they may revert back to having only five Best Picture nominees, rather than the potential of ten. We debate why this is not such a good idea.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the high profile court battle over the authoriship of a hit song, NBC goes over-the-top and Bruce Willis heads to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 271: A Brief History of Net Neutrality

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will regulate broadband Internet service and enforce net neutrality. Just in case you’re still trying to decipher the net neutrality news, Jonathan Strickland, a senior writer for How Stuff Works, explains exactly what it is how the issue has evolved over time, starting in the 19th-century with laws designed to govern railroads.

Another hot topic in Hollywood lately has been the executive shuffle taking place at several studios. Former Fox exec Tom Rothman will take over for the recently departed Amy Pascal as head honcho of Sony Pictures, while Paramount begins its own search for a new leader after the departure of Adam Goodman.

Surely all of these moguls would be quick to assure you that Will Smith is indeed a movie star despite a few recent box office duds, yet as his latest film hits theaters news stories abound asking whether the actor can still open a movie.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Blade Runner sequel moves forward, Pee Wee Herman brings his playhouse to Netflix and Disney reboots Ducktales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 269: When Journalists Make Headlines Instead of Report Them

Last week a number of respected journalists who have won praise after decades of reporting the news actually wound up in the headlines themselves. First Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC Nightly News was suspended for six month by the network when allegations arose that he exaggerated his experiences while reporting on the Iraq War. Then, esteemed New York Times media columnist David Carr suddenly died after collapsing in the newsroom leading to an outpouring of condolences.

Ironically, overshadowing both of these events was an announcement from Jon Stewart, a self-professed “fake journalist” that he would be leaving “The Daily Show” after 17 years as it’s host. Such news must have executives at Comedy Central reeling, since it comes on the heels of Stephen Colbert’s departure from the network.

On the other hand, Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to stay at Sony, however will be loaned to Disney for appearances in Marvel’s multi-character movies. The studio also plans to once again reboot the Spider-Man franchise by recasting the role.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the huge opening weekend for “Fifty Shades of Grey”, Netflix heads to Cuba and the latest awards season winners.

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Showbiz Sandbox 268: Going Backstage At The Grammys With David Wild

The Grammy Awards were held last weekend to honor the year’s best music. David Wild, one of the producers and writers of the Grammys telecast (not to mention a contributing editor at Rolling Stone), takes us behind the scenes at the ceremony. He explains what it’s like to get Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj on the same page and the difficulty of describing Sia’s unique stage performance to Stevie Wonder.

Meanwhile, a couple of big media conglomerates announced significant management changes over the past week; Amy Pascal will be stepping down as head of Sony Pictures due in no small part to the recent cyber attack against the company and Tom Staggs is anointed as the most likely candidate to take over for Disney CEO, Bob Iger when the latter steps down in 2018.

Speaking of big name execs, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler finally submitted his proposal for net neutrality, which would regulate ISPs to enforce open internet protections.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why actor Michael Gambon is retiring from the stage, the uproar over news anchor Brian Williams and how Kodak is keeping film stock alive.

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Showbiz Sandbox 267: VOD Helps Heat Up Sundance

Distributors went on a buying spree at this year’s Sundance Film Festival not only due to the quality of the movies, but also because of new-found revenue from VOD services. We give you a rundown of the titles that were acquired, how much was spent on them and whether there is any hope they will ever make that money back for distributors.

Speaking of money, musician Sly Stone could be $5 million richer after winning a court ruling last week against his former manager who he claims withheld royalties.

Singer Sam Smith, on the other hand, won’t be trying to cheat Tom Petty out of royalties for his song, “Stay With Me”. The artist agreed the song was similar to one of Petty’s past hits and added the legendary rocker to the writing credits.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including yet another Super Bowl television ratings record, when we can expect the next “Game of Thrones” book from author George R.R. Martin, and “Empire” is becoming a much needed hit series for Fox.

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