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 319: The Changing Tide of Music Distribution

April 25, 2016

Almost three years after Beyoncé made a big splash by releasing a secret album via iTunes, the pop star has snuck up the world once again with her latest work, a video album called “Lemonade”. This time however Beyoncé was strategic in how she distributed her album, premiering it with an HBO special, then exclusively to the streaming music service Tidal, before ultimately turning back to iTunes. More and more, big name acts are controlling how and to whom their music gets distributed.

Multi-genre musician Prince was way ahead of his time when it came to controlling how his music reaches the world. The legendary artist died suddenly last week leaving behind a lifetime of work a great deal of which was never released. We discuss the many fascinating ways the unexpected death of Prince was covered by the media and his sometimes unique distribution methods.

We’ll also take a look at the introduction of a new cinematic camera that has the potential to revolutionize filming and post-production by allowing to filmmakers “to effectively capture the color, direction and placement of every ray of light”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including some behind the scenes drama at the morning talk shows, why China shut down some of the Apple iTunes stores and how Hollywood is making its way to West Africa.

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Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

November 9, 2015

Until the past few years virtual reality felt more like actual fiction, as proponents offered up underwhelming demonstrations which requiring expensive and cumbersome equipment. The days however, the ongoing work by the pioneers developing VR has transformed the technology into a viable platform for more than just the odd hardcore gamer.

As VR products and content make their way into the consumer market, it seems no industry trade show or film festival is complete without addressing the technology in some way. In fact, just last week, the Sundance Institute announced they would begin a residency program in VR and the New York Times launched their own VR initiative. We dive into the hype behind VR and try to make some sense out of what all the fuss is about.

Meanwhile, as the MPAA confirmed a new agreement for film distribution in China, and with the country on track to surpass North America as the world’s largest movie market in 2017, a number of organizations are claiming China isn’t abiding by international trade rules to which it had originally agreed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the nominees from this year’s European Film Awards, Showtime’s plans for the revival of “Twin Peaks” and why a number of police departments are calling for their officers to boycott Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie.

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

November 3, 2015

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 294: As Box Office Grows In China, So Do Claims of Fraud

September 14, 2015

China continues on its torrid pace toward become the number one movie market in the world having already surpassed its record $4.7 billion box office from last year. However, some Chinese distributors, and even some moviegoers, are claiming cinema owners are manipulating reported grosses on behalf of the government.

Recently a propaganda film titled “The Hundred Regiments Offensive” managed to sell more tickets than was possible based on its number of showings and theater count. Industry executives now say releases such as “Terminator:Genisys” are being unfairly robbed of their true earnings. Yet the market is so big, when “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” debuted last week it gave Tom Cruise the biggest box office opening of his career.

Meanwhile, parts of the world are entering autumn, a time when leaves fall from the trees and Broadway shows fall from the marquees to make way for new shows. We’ll tell you which shows have announced closings, which ones will follow soon and take a brief look at some new productions opening soon.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of Stephen Colbert to late night television, the new owner of National Geographic and how the late Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston will perform once again… as holograms.

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

June 22, 2015

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

December 8, 2014

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 185: HitBliss Bets You’ll Watch Ads To Get Free Movies

March 11, 2013

HitBliss is a new streaming video service that enables users to earn credit toward popular movies and television shows simply by watching advertising. The catch is all the targeted ads are shown up-front, and viewers must be paying attention or they won’t get the credits needed to purchase or rent videos.

Sharon Peyer is the co-founder of HitBliss and spent four years helping launch the company. In this interview she explains how the service originated, how it works and what the future of HitBliss might look like. Peyer believes consumers are actually willing to watch ads so long as the messages are relevant and they can get something out of it.

It’s no secret that streaming media services are all the rage these days, yet it remains to be seen whether they can be profitable too. Pandora’s latest earnings (or lack thereof) beat analysts expectations sending its stock price soaring. Unfortunately, the royalties they pay for music might start rising, along with the number of competitors like YouTube and Apple looking to enter the market.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pink Flloyd’s 40 year presence in the music charts, Rupert Murdoch’s plans for a television sports network and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart takes a crack at making a movie.

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

November 12, 2012

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?

September 10, 2012

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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