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

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 254: Are HBO and CBS Really Really Becoming Cord-Cutters?

The entertainment industry was stunned last week when Time Warner announced plans for HBO to go over the top. The premium cable channel intends to offer a standalone service in the US come 2015 that won’t require a cable subscription. Legions of cord-cutters rejoiced upon learning the news, but what they weren’t actually hearing about were the details of how the new plan would work.

Just a day later the broadcast network CBS offered a bit more information about their upcoming Access All In streaming service. The network will begin offering their programming directly to viewers via the web and mobile apps at a cost of $6 per month.

Both of these landmark moves are being seen as bellwethers for how television will be distributed in the future and they come with all sorts of ramifications. Will selecting television channels a la carte actually increase our cable bills? What do all these new services mean for net neutrality? What does all of this mean for Netflix? We’ll explain.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon’s deal with Simon & Schuster, Neil Patrick Harris gets tapped to host next year’s Oscars and why pop-star Lorde is persona non grata in San Francisco.

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

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 179: How To Gamble And Win On Broadway

This year alone there are at least 15 new shows being mounted on Broadway including adaptations of movies such as “Diner” and “Big Fish”. At one point or another all were in search of financial backing, however well known productions with big name stars often don’t pay dividends. We review which upcoming stagings smart, experienced Broadway investors should be banking on.

A very successful Sundance Film Festival came to an end last week as distributors left Park City having acquired a dozen or more independent films. We discuss the reason behind the frenzied sales activity and why some films came with steep seven-figure price tags.

Since we’re on the subject of paying out or investing money, it looks as if the cable bill for Los Angelenos will be going up again thanks to the L.A. Dodgers deal with Time Warner Cable for a new sports channel. Does one market really need six sports networks. More importantly, why are the customers in a single market forced to pay for them whether they want them or not.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Warner Bros. new CEO, JJ Abrams signs on to direct the new “Star Wars” and Fox begs viewers to use their DVRs.

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Showbiz Sandbox 154: Understanding Comic-Con’s Tribe Mentality

Last weekend self-professed geeks made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego for Comic-Con. There’s no better person to speak with about the world’s largest pop-culture convention than Los Angeles Times writer Geoff Boucher. His Hero Complex blog has become a must-read for those attending “the Con” and he fills us in on all the big news coming out of this year’s show.

Boucher also had a professional and somewhat personal relationship with producer Richard Zanuck who unexpectedly passed away last week at the age of 77. The executive behind such films as “The Sound of Music” and the producer of movies like “Driving Miss Daisy”, Boucher provides a unique perspective on what Zanuck was really like.

Meanwhile in the world of television, the war over carriage fees has heated up once again. This time Viacom has pulled its 26 networks from DirecTV and AMC has yanked its programming from Dish.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Bruce Springsteen’s curfew, the exodus of judges from “American Idol” and why you should see the “The Dark Knight Rises” in Imax.

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Showbiz Sandbox 139: Why The Music Industry Is More Brutal Than Ever

With nine different streaming services there are more ways than ever to listen to music these days. With the likes of Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, Mog and Pandora all competing for our attention and media dollars, some have argued that there is too much competition in the market and is primed for a major consolidation. Which services will survive and why? Will Amazon, Apple or Google launch there own services? We try to answer all these questions and more.

Meanwhile Harvey Weinstein is once again fighting the MPAA over the ratings for one of his films. Public figures such as Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the chorus of those opposing the R-rating which the Weinstein Company’s school bullying documentary received. Unfortunately, if “Bully” is released without a rating, movie theaters may be forced to treat it as an NC-17 film.

Former co-host Karen Woodward, joins us to run down some of the top entertainment news stories of the week including, James Spader’s departure from “The Office”, Mike Tyson’s Las Vegas show, and Random House trippling the price of e-books for libraries.

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Showbiz Sandbox 102: Why Music Videos Matter (Again)

Music videos rose to prominence in the 1980s to become on of the most important promotional vehicles for new music. As fans grew tired of watching their favorite musicians lip sync their way through elaborate videos MTV and the like stopped showing them. However, with the advent of inexpensive production equipment and the ability to reach a massive global audience via the Internet, musicians have begun churning out a new crop of innovative, and at times interactive, music videos, revitalizing an art form once written off as extinct.

In other music news, Warner Music Group was finally auctioned off for $3.3 billion. Now there is talk that the record labels new owner might scoop up EMI making Warner Music Group even larger than it is already. Meanwhile, in an attempt to reverse declining box office, concert promoters are trying to win audiences back with cheaper ticket prices and high-end acts.

Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes, two of the Internet’s most popular movie sites, were sold to Warner Bros. We debate whether the move will influence some of the reviews and recommendations the websites have become known for.

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Showbiz Sandbox 101: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office

Starting out on the streets of Brooklyn, New York as a drug dealer in the late 1980s, hip-hop star Jay-Z has transformed himself into a recognizable brand encompassing music, clothing, restaurants, nightclubs and an NBA basketball team. Our guest this week is Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg who tells the improbable story of how Jay-Z rose to the top of the business world in his new book, “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office“.

Another brand that has proven their business acumen is home video subscription service Netflix. The company, which reported record first quarter numbers this past week, soon will have a number of competitors, including the likes of YouTube, DirecTV and Comcast.

Maybe Vin Diesel can turn himself into a mega-brand, proving he can still open a film on a global scale with “Fast Five”, the fifth installment in the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise. The film earned mega-bucks this past weekend, despite being up against the summer blockbuster “Thor” in international territories.

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