Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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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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Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

January 26, 2016

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 297: Television Networks Brace For Media Measurement Mayhem

October 5, 2015

In the digital age the viewership of television content has been difficult to track across multiple platforms and devices. The announcement of a game-changing merger between web analytics firm Comscore and the TV and box office data outfit Rentrak suggests a much needed solution for cross-media ratings may soon be available.

The combination of Comscore and Rentrak would finally create a company with the deep pockets and technical expertise to legitimately take on Nielsen, the uncontested reigning king of television ratings for the last several decades. The industry welcomes such competition at a time when advertisers are clamoring for accurate audience measurement across all screens, including mobile devices.

Thanks to the increase in delayed viewing, television ratings have become near impossible to report in a timely manner. Overnight ratings have long been the standard for touting a television program’s success (or failure), but now such numbers can represent less than half a show’s total audience once DVR data is counted. This has made keeping track of who watched what when and on which devices extremely confusing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the plans to the former hit series “MacGyver” a makeover, “Ghostbusters” gets animated and some of the unnecessary recipients among this year’s MacArthur Genius Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 258: Bill Cosby Gets Schooled In Celebrity Social Media

November 17, 2014

A social media campaign meant to promote Bill Cosby’s Netflix special seriously backfired last week after allegations the comedian sexually assaulted several women resurfaced. Karen Woodward, a leading entertainment industry social media consultant, stops by to explain what went so wrong and how the past can haunt celebrities who carelessly try their hand at social marketing.

Jumping on Twitter or Facebook may look easy, but if not thought out properly a social media campaign can quickly misfire in a major way. Woodward provides pointers on how to avoid the missteps Cosby made and some basic principles for how celebrities should use social media.

We also hear from a movie distributor who educates us on the math used to forecast the box office for a film’s theatrical release. Turns out it’s not easy to open a movie to more than $100 million, but it’s not impossible either. In fact, the long-held belief that lengthy running times present a big obstacle to nine-figure debuts isn’t quite accurate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of YouTube’s streaming music service, Hachette and Amazon settle their dispute over e-books and Sony makes it easier to cut your cable cord.

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Showbiz Sandbox 252: Crouching Netflix, Hidden IMAX and the Myth of Broken Release Windows

October 6, 2014

The Weinstein Co. stunned the entertainment industry last week by announcing they would distribute the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously on Netflix and IMAX. As Brooks Barnes of the New York Times explains, the plan only has one problem; movie theaters refuse to show any film that opens day-and-date on home video or video-on-demand. This begs the question, if a movie never opens theatrically, was it’s release window really broken?

Netflix continued to make additional headlines later in the week by signing a deal with actor Adam Sandler to make four original movies for the streaming service. We discuss whether Netflix is changing the Hollywood paradigm or simply becoming one more buyer of premium content.

While Netflix is leaning into the future, director Christopher Nolan is taking a more old fashioned approach by releasing his upcoming movie on actual film. Select theaters showing “Interstellar” on analogue celluloid will get the film two days early. But will theater owners, who recently converted to digital cinema, still know how to thread a 35mm projector?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Saturday morning cartoons, why U2 released their latest album on vinyl and how Facebook is helping “Twilight” live on through a series of short films.

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Showbiz Sandbox 209: Why Twitter and Facebook Are Watching You Watch TV

October 14, 2013

Facebook and Twitter have entered into a fierce battle to hold sway over the conversations taking place around television shows. The social media giants intend to mine the viewing habits of millions of users for data that might be useful to television networks. Karen Woodward, a leading entertainment industry social media consultant, discusses whether social chatter can lead to higher ratings and more advertising revenue.

Meanwhile, as the end of the year nears everyone is talking about awards season. Thanks to the fall film festival circuit and industry previews, virtually all Oscar hopefuls have already been seen and the handicapping of frontrunners has begun. However, it may take a while to view all entries for Best Foreign Language Film that were submitted by a record 76 countries.

The popular music streaming service Spotify turned five this past week and shared a few figures behind its success. One bit of data revealed that of the 20 million tracks hosted by service, 4 million have never even been streamed… not even once.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the rise of a 16-year-old pop star from New Zealand, “Fifty Shades Of Grey” loses a cast member and the Jonas Brothers cancel their upcoming tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 144: Measuring Media Proves Difficult In The Digital Age

April 9, 2012

Whether trying to figure out how many users the streaming music actually has or why audiences have abandoned television shows in the ten o’clock hour, it turns out keeping track of media metrics often requires fuzzy logic.

In one instance the ratings for CNBC in the 18 to 49-year-old demographic plummeted when three people included in Nielsen’s measurement sampling turned 50. Meanwhile, Billboard’s new formula for ranking singles caused Justin Bieber to narrowly miss hitting the number one spot.

There have been no problems counting money at movie theater and Broadway box offices. “Hunger Games” has helped movie grosses continue their record setting pace for the year and over on the Great White Way, three musicals pulled in over $2 million during Easter break.

Of course, we also cover the top entertainment headlines from the past week, including Ryan Seacrest’s Olympic efforts, Vince Vaughn’s bad timing and YouTube’s confusing relationship with Viacom.


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Showbiz Sandbox 135: Is The SAG-AFTRA Merger Good For Hollywood?

February 6, 2012

After years of humoring the idea it looks as if two of Hollywood’s largest labor unions may actually merge. Detailing the history of SAG and AFTRA, Jonathan Handel, a contributing editor at The Hollywood Reporter and an entertainment attorney, explains the reasons behind why the unions might want to merge and what it all means for the entertainment industry.

The telecast of Super Bowl XLVI proved to be another ratings winner and as in previous years, is expected to be the most watched show of the year, if not all-time. Were audiences tuning in for the game or to watch Madonna’s extravagant half-time show?

Despite gaining a million subscribers last year the minuscule royalties paid by Spotify to independent musicians barely budged at all. Some industry veterans have grown weary of subscription music services and are advising they be used for promotional purposes only.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a new CEO at Sony, why you won’t see Bon Iver perform at the Grammys and how Facebook might turn U2’s Bono into a billionaire.

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Showbiz Sandbox 126: Foot In Mouth Disease Sweeps Through Hollywood

November 14, 2011

Getting publicity in Hollywood can be a very difficult task. If you are an A-list director like Brett Ratner or a hot actor like Ashton Kutcher however, all you need to do is make a bigoted statement or fire off an ignorant Twitter post and you’ll get more ink than you ever wanted. Ratner’s homophobic slur forced him to resign as producer of next year’s Oscars, while Kutcher’s uninformed opinion on current events caused him to rethink his social media participation. Has the entertainment industry become overly sensitive or do its inhabitants just have no class? We try to figure out what all the fuss is about.

The other big news of the week was the sale of record label EMI to Universal Music Group and Sony. EMI’s owner, Citibank, decided to split the record label from its publishing arm in an effort to get the deal passed antitrust regulators. As the music industry contracts from four major record companies to three, what will it mean for indie artists and their fans?

Broadway may also be undergoing some changes soon. Long running musicals such as “Mamma Mia!”, “Chicago” and “Mary Poppins” seem to be fading fast and may need to make way for new productions such as a revival of “Porgy & Bess”, “Evita” featuring Ricky Martin and a stage version of “Bonnie & Clyde”.

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