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

March 9, 2015

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 246: The Emmys Have A Hopeless Scheduling Problem

August 26, 2014

It’s bad enough that the Emmy Awards honor the exact same talent and television shows every year. Now, the Emmys are really growing stale by handing out prizes to shows that finished airing before last year’s ceremony. Unfortunately, as television migrates to year round programming, there is no good time to schedule the Emmys which would make them feel more timely or relevant.

The industry-at-large was likely glad to see at least one aspect of the Emmys go unchanged as shows from broadcast and cable networks continue to win the most awards over shows from streaming services such as Netflix, which went home empty handed. There also, thankfully, seems to be a voter backlash against shows positioning themselves in odd categories.

Meanwhile, August has proven to be the cruelest month for show business with the untimely death of actor Robin Williams and the passing of Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, among others.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon public relations battle with Hachette over e-book pricing, Jimmy Fallon comes out on top in the late night television war, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat may see new life on the big screen.

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Showbiz Sandbox 220: Content Owners Can’t Afford Your New 4K Ultra HD Television

January 13, 2014

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas manufacturers stirred up a lot of buzz around 4K Ultra HD television sets. The proven and tested technology promises resolution four times greater than current high definition monitors. The biggest hurdle the industry must overcome for Ultra HD to work are the economics, specifically the high cost of delivering 4K content.

For those consumers who have given up on cable and broadcast television, commonly referred to as “cord-cutters”, the good news is they will now be able to watch wrestling via streaming video thanks to the WWE’s new online only network. However, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether they can continue using Aereo to stream local broadcast channels.

Meanwhile, this year’s awards season continues to chug along as the Golden Globes are handed out and the Director’s Guild of America announced their nominations.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus are too sexy for France, the demographics of last year’s Broadway ticket sales and whether a movie critic’s tweets can be used in advertisements.

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Showbiz Sandbox 216: Last Year’s Unknowns May Be Next Year’s Grammy Winners

December 9, 2013

When the Grammy Award nominations for 2014 were announced last week, they were filled with names of artists and musicians who at this time last year few had ever heard of. One hasn’t even graduated from high school yet. Lorde, country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves and the rapper-producer duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis rose to stardom on a wave of self-distribution, YouTube and social media.

Accolades are also being handed out for some of the year’s best movies. There’s only one problem; nobody can agree on which films to award. One critics group was so divided over Best Picture that it led to a tie for two different movies.

Meanwhile, producer Jerry Bruckhiemer’s year will be ending on an up note. Though he might be on the outs with Disney after the disappointing performance of “The Lone Ranger”, the mega-producer announced a new first-look deal with Paramount Pictures.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Indiana Jones heads to Disney for a reboot, Billy Joel takes up residency at Madison Square Garden and television audiences tune-in en masse for a live performance of “The Sound of Music”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 201: Why CBS Is Winning The Battle (And The War) Over Cable Television

August 12, 2013

For the past two weeks Time Warner Cable has been blacking out CBS networks in New York, Los Angeles and other major markets over a retransmission dispute. Despite losing more than 3 million households ratings on CBS have remained steady giving the network no reason to back down from its demands. With the new television and football seasons set to begin in September Time Warner Cable may have no choice but to cave in to CBS’ terms.

Meanwhile, this summer’s blockbuster movies continue to underperform at the box office with Disney announcing they may have to take a $190 million write down on losses from “The Lone Ranger”. Actor Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have figured out who to blame for the movie’s failure; vengeful American film critics.

After being publicly trashed by George Clooney, activist investor Daniel Loeb was unable to convince Sony to spin-off its entertainment divisions. Even so, Loeb says he’s pleased since the company’s stock price is up and its management more accountable to shareholders.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lost film from Orson Welles, a new ending for the “Finding Nemo” sequel and the surprising new owner of The Washington Post.

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Showbiz Sandbox 196: Hollywood’s Frivolous Five Year Plan

June 24, 2013

Hollywood movie studios have a history of announcing the release date for big tentpole films a year or more in advance. The goal has always been to secure a prime weekend that will force the competition to stear clear. Lately however studios have taken to scheduling releases five years in advance. With some untitled projects yet to start production or even complete a script, it appears that release dates are more important than the movies themselves.

With longstanding geographic monopolies in-place cable companies rarely have to worry about competition, other than from satellite providers. That may be why Time Warner Cable is facing a class-action lawsuit which claims customers, especially non-sports fans, are being forced to pay for the company-owned sports channels to help offset the cost of expensive licensing deals.

Speaking of lawsuits, the government wrapped up its anti-trust case against Apple over the fixing of prices for e-books. While the Justice Department went into the trial looking like a winner, in the end Apple may have proved it was innocent of any illegal activity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Robert Downey Jr.’s deal to play Iron Man in the next two “Avengers” movies, Billboard disses Jay-Z and Warner Bros. shakes up its top executives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 191: The Misunderstood Math Behind Movie Ticket Prices

May 13, 2013

The average cost of a movie ticket dropped to $7.94 in North America during the first quarter of 2013. That’s according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the trade group that keeps track of such figures. Patrick Corcoran, the vice president and chief communication officer of NATO, explains how the average ticket price is calculated and the perennial complaint that such a low amount can’t possibly be correct.

Meanwhile, television networks have been working overtime putting together their schedules for next season. That also means they’ve been making public which shows didn’t make the cut, a.k.a. got canceled. Did your favorite show survive for another season, or did it go the way of series such as “Smash”, which was axed as had long been predicted.

Such bad news isn’t something the Rolling Stones have to worry about. According to the legendary rock group’s concert promoter reports that tickets to shows aren’t selling is completely untrue. In fact, tickets were priced at an exorbitant $600 on purpose to keep the secondary market at bay.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including YouTube’s pay channels, Barbara Walter’s retirement and legislation that calls for a la carte cable offerings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 188: Remembering Roger – Personal Recollections of the World’s Most Famous Film Critic

April 8, 2013

The death of film critic Roger Ebert last week after a lengthy and public battle with cancer was followed by an endless stream of heartfelt appreciations. Arguably one of the most recognized and influential movie critics in the world, few were aware of Ebert’s generosity, especially when it came to fellow critics and journalists.

David Poland of Movie City News and Anne Thompson of Indiewire join our hosts in discussing a few of the personal memories each has of Ebert from spending time with him over the years. For instance, did you know filmmaker Michael Moore credits Ebert with helping spread the word about the his first movie? Or that Ebert was an early investor in a little web startup named Google?

Meanwhile, late night television dominated the entertainment news last week as NBC officially announced they would not be renewing Jay Leno’s contract as host of the “Tonight Show” in order to bring in the younger Jimmy Fallon. The move has been widely hailed as a boneheaded attempt to win ratings in key demos as competition increases, but in the end Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” might still bring in more viewers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” sequel, “American Idol’s” declining ratings and why take-down notices issued by movie studios are actually helping pirates, not hindering them.

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Showbiz Sandbox 187: Does The Justice System Finally Understand Copyright?

March 25, 2013

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States dealt another blow to copyright owners in a landmark ruling that confirmed what most consumer advocates had been saying for years; the first sale doctrine does not have geographic boundaries. The court smacked down publisher J. Wiley & Sons’ copyright infringement lawsuit against Supap Kirtsaeng for reselling textbooks he had purchased at a discount in his native Thailand.

While major entertainment companies and trade groups like the MPAA and RIAA may have been on the losing end with the Supreme Court, an appeals court handed them a major victory by ruling in favor of movie studios who claimed that the operator of isoHunt, a large BitTorrent site, was inducing copyright infringement. The court agreed isoHunt was not eligible for safe harbor.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced 25 new recordings that will be added to its official preservation registry. We’ll fill you in on the grab bag of popular music, radio shows, news reports, opera and other recordings that made the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including NBC’s silly decision to oust Jay Leno from The Tonight Show (again), the booming Chinese box office and “Downtown Abbey’s” record ratings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 186: Bill Carter of the NY Times on Cable Ratings, Jay Leno and the Shifting Television Landscape

March 18, 2013

Bill Carter of the New York Times has been reporting on the television industry for over 30 years. Who better to ask about why nothing seems to make any sense about this year’s television season? For example, cable shows have been pulling in more viewers than any of the networks. Broadcast networks that were topping the ratings just months ago, are now struggling at the back of the pack. As if that wasn’t enough, it looks as if the battle over late night programming is heating up again.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carter touches on everything from the reason networks have been cutting back their original programming to why ratings have become so complicated to tabulate (hint: it has to do with DVRs). He explains all the troubles NBC is having not only in primetime, but also with their morning news programming. Carter literally wrote the book on late night television (actually two of them), so his thoughts about which of the ever growing list of hosts is most dominant, and why, is rather insightful.

Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival announced the selection of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as their opening night film. What stunned many Cannes veterans is that the festival would choose a film which will open theatrically in North America just five days before it premieres on the Croisette this May.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including “Django” in China, “Veronica Mars” on Kickstarter and David Bowie’s return to the music sales charts.

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