Showbiz Sandbox 323: Trends From the 2016 TV Upfronts

May 30, 2016

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 315: China Becomes A Global Movie Superpower

March 14, 2016

In recent years, Chinese-owned companies have become the film industry’s biggest power players by scooping up production companies and cinema chains. The latest example came when AMC Theatres, owned by China’s richest man Wang Jianlin, announced it will acquire Carmike Cinemas to become the world’s largest motion picture exhibitor.

It’s easy to see why the Chinese are so hot on the cinema business given that their box office surpassed that of North America during the month of February for the second time ever. Yet if you were to ask some financial analysts, Hollywood Hollywood is starting to look like the video game industry before it imploded; bigger budgets, fewer winners and more losers. Is Hollywood about to shrivel up like Pac-Man?

Then there are those like Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster and Facebook, who are trying to convince Hollywood that it’s time to start making big movies available in consumer’s homes the same day they hit theaters. Is there any business model in which that could actually work?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the authors nominated for this year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize, music sales in France plummet and Kevin Spacey won’t be heading up Relativity Media after all.

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Showbiz Sandbox 310: Diversity Makes A Comeback At Sundance

February 2, 2016

This year’s Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend in historic fashion by awarding the dramatic competition grand jury and audience prizes to “The Birth of a Nation”, a historical biopic a Virginian slave revolt. The film made headlines earlier in the week when Fox Searchlight purchased the film for a record $17.5 million after beating out Netflix in a heated bidding war.

We’ll tell you about all the big Sundance awards and continue the Oscar season slog, in which this year’s front runners are as mixed up as a Republican presidential primary. SAG added to the confusion, making “Spotlight” this week’s hero, after “The Big Short” looked like a winner the week before.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is about to vote on ending the monopoly of set top boxes for US cable subscribers, a decision that could have big ramifications for everything from what you watch to the stock prices of numerous tech companies, including Apple and Roku.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Louis CK bypasses television networks and brings his new series directly to viewers, Pope Francis gets ready for his closeup in a feature film and sales of new music were outpaced by catalogue titles over the past year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 306: Deconstructing the 2015 Movie Box Office

January 4, 2016

Few, if any, can rival Paul Dergarabedian when it comes to analyzing the film industry’s global box office. Rentrak’s senior media analyst has been running movie numbers for upwards of 20 years now and is a regularly quoted box office pundit. Dergarabedian joins us to discuss how 2015 turned into a record breaking year at the box office all over the world.

We cover everything from how the winners at last year’s box office left little for the losers to the increasing role social media plays in the fortunes of any given movie, from the importance of international grosses to the record shattering “Star Wars” sequel. One big question is how 2016 could ever top last year’s figures or if that even matters.

We wind up in the music business where lawsuits are always a good indication on the issues affecting the industry. Two big new lawsuits target Spotify and Ticketmaster. We’ll explain what they are all about… and predict if they will actually make it to trial.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why The Beatles agreed to put their music on streaming services, how Taylor Swift’s concert tour topped the charts last year and the sexual assault charge against Bill Cosby.

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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 296: Entertainment Industry Numbers Are Often A Comedy of Errors

September 28, 2015

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 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

July 6, 2015

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

January 6, 2015

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 249: Why Film Festivals Are More Important Than Ever

September 16, 2014

Anne Thompson, an editor at Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire, just spent the past two weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before she heads off to the New York Film Festival. Thompson takes us through some of the noteworthy films we’ll be seeing in coming months and discuss the important role festivals play in creating buzz before a movie’s commercial release.

The competition for landing premieres of noteworthy titles has become so fierce that Toronto switched up its programming this year to give less prominence to any film screening a week earlier at Telluride. One aspect of each festival which is unlikely to change is their reputation for selecting films that go on to win Best Picture Oscars.

While fall festivals might be the talk of the film industry, television executives have been preoccupied with their over-the-top strategies. As audiences switch to OTT offerings from Amazon to Roku, networks are experimenting with direct-to-consumer offerings while contending with increasingly meaningless overnight ratings.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including opting-out of a free U2 album, Microsoft picks up “Minecraft” and Netflix’s invasion of Europe.

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Showbiz Sandbox 242: Supreme Court Fumbles Aereo Ruling

July 1, 2014

Last week the United States Supreme Court ruled that the television streaming service Aereo violated copyright laws by using mini-antennas to deliver broadcast signals to paying subscribers. Denise Howell, an intellectual property lawyer and host of “This Week in Law”, outlines a decision that will have long term and wide-ranging effects for the entertainment and technology industries.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are attempting to alter their demographics by inviting younger, more ethnically diverse artists to join the ranks of those who nominate and vote for the Oscars each year. What’s truly remarkable is some of the legendary veterans who are just now receiving invites.

Meanwhile, as the publishing industry watches Hachette Book Group go to war with Amazon over the price of their books, the country of France is trying to protect its bookstores by passing a law meant to combat the online retailers influence.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the gigantic opening of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, why this summer’s domestic box office is considered anemic and “Community” heads to Yahoo for its sixth season.

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