Showbiz Sandbox 311: Oscar Season Remains Uncharacteristically Unpredictable

The movie awards season remains as confusing as ever, with the Directors Guild handing out its top honor to “The Revenant”. Will this have any impact on an Oscar race in which “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” also look like major contenders? No one knows but we’ll try and sort it out.

Meanwhile, it appears Time Warner wants to join Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal as an owner of the streaming service Hulu. There’s only one catch; they’d like Hulu to stop showing all episodes from the current season of a TV series. Maybe they want to buy it so they can shut it down.

Over at Viacom, Sumner Redstone stepped down last week after a court mandated the 92-year-old would submit to a medical exam to determine his competency. Bowing to reality, Redstone resigned from his position as chairman of CBS and Viacom. Leslie Moonves is officially taking over CBS, but after daughter Shari Redstone publicly announced it wasn’t a good idea for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to take over, he did just that.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon plans to enter the retail space, ESPN plans to enter China and Matt LeBlanc is named as the new host of the popular automotive TV program, “Top Gear”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

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 276: Agency Wars Have A Long History in Hollywood

Even in the best of times being a Hollywood talent agent has never been an easy job.  The dog eat dog nature of the agency business has never been more apparent than during the last few weeks when 11 agents suddenly defected from Creative Artists Agency, one of the industry’s leading agencies, to become partners at a rival firm, United Talent Agency. Following in the footsteps of their agents were A-list clients such as Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianiakis, Ed Helms, Melissa McCarthy and Chris Pratt.

This isn’t the first time big shot agents have deserted their agencies for greener pastures and taken their clients with them, nor will it be the last. In fact, CAA was founded in 1975 when Michael Ovitz along with Ron Meyer and several other agents, abruptly departed the William Morris Agency to form their own firm. The now legendary Ari Emanuel did the same thing 20 years later to start Endeavor.

Meanwhile, changes are also afoot in how television networks want advertisers to pay for commercial time. Two major conglomerates, Time Warner and Viacom, are moving away from Nielsen ratings and offering to let advertisers pay for the “impact” their ads have through metrics such as increased brand recognition, increased loyalty program registrations and consumer engagement on social media.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jay-Z makes a streaming media play with Tidal, filmmaker David Lynch backs out of “Twin Peaks” reboot, and NBC selects “The Wiz” as its next live televised musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 255: Better Pixels Not More Pixels – Why You’ll Never Care About 4K or 8K TV

Technology is quickly emerging that delivers enhanced theatrical and home viewing experiences the likes of which audiences have never seen. What remains unknown is whether consumers even notice incremental upgrades such as Ultra HD or care enough to pay extra for them. TV manufacturers sure hope so.

However, at the SMPTE 2014 Technical Conference held last week in Los Angeles, some of the industries smartest engineers agreed that images with a wider contrast and color range (HDR) are preferable to those packing more pixels into every frame (4K). They also questioned if we were technically capable of getting all this enhanced content onto screens both big and small.

China, on the other hand, will take any content they can get their hands. After Hollywood spent years trying to break into the Chinese market, China is now come knocking down Hollywood’s door in search of movies and television programs to show via streaming and subscription services.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Ken Burns scored big ratings for PBS with his latest documentary, why sock puppets are all the rage on Broadway and TLC shows Honey Boo-Boo the door.

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Showbiz Sandbox 250: TV Ratings Have Become Messy, Misleading and Downright Maddening

Picking the winners and losers out of this year’s new television shows has never been more difficult. Just ask Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of TV Media Insights, joins us to explain how DVR’s and on-demand viewing have made overnight TV ratings very problematic. Berman says that these days the number of viewers watching a show when it airs is less important than its total audience during the week that follows.

Those looking for entertainment on a screen larger than the average television can head to movie theaters where they can watch the recently released “Maze Runner” in the new Barco Escape format. The experimental offering wraps three screens around the audience to provide a 270 degree viewing experience.

At the other end of the spectrum there are screens of a less significant size, like those found on the ever increasing number of e-readers. Amazon continues to improve its Kindle line and new the latest gadgets from Apple have excited publishing industry observers. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s $2 billion loss, Stevie Wonder heads out on tour and the twentieth anniversary of the sitcom “Friends”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 227: The Oscars Attract Big Business, Big Ratings and Big Money

If you weren’t surprised by any of the winners at this year’s Oscar ceremony, you may have Oscar prognosticators like Anne Thompson to blame. Indiewire’s editor-at-large was at the big show and joins us to discuss the telecast, the show, and all the money and effort poured into the annual awards season. Thompson also fills us in on her new book “The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System“.

The business side of the film industry isn’t the only aspect of movies that is evolving. The sound accompanying new releases is getting a few enhancements thanks to immersive 3D audio. This has created an industry battle over audio formats.

Speaking of disputes, 19 Recordings, the music label responsible for “American Idol”, is once again suing their partner Sony. This time the argument is over the issue of whether digital tracks are sold or licensed to buyers. There is a huge difference in the royalty paid for each.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Tyler Perry leaves Lionsgate, Paramount is bullied into changing the marketing for “Noah” and Dreamworks Animation takes a write-down on “Turbo”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 219: The Business of Show Was Profitable In 2013

Almost every sector of the entertainment industry saw record grosses during 2013. North American movie ticket sales reached a record $10.9 billion. Television audiences are tuning in to more shows than ever, especially sporting events. The top 20 concert tours made a whopping $2.43 billion. It all helped contribute to the bottom lines of many entertainment companies causing their stock prices to end the year on a high note.

The only category in which revenue declined was the music. Even sales of digital music declined for the first time since iTunes was launched back in 2003. Album sales were down 8.4% overall and some industry insiders concede this might be due to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.

And financial numbers aren’t the only ones increasing in entertainment. So are the sizes of televisions. They’re not only getting bigger, but the consumer electronics industry is pushing Ultra HD with 4K resolution, which is twice that of current HD televisions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of singer Phil Everly, the expansion and increased usage of UltraViolet and the manufactured controversy behind Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

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Showbiz Sandbox 198: One Flop Does Not A Studio Break

Though the media might like to focus on Hollywood’s failures whenever a big blockbuster tanks, the reality is most movie studios can weather a flop or two. Modern-day entertainment conglomerates include music, merchandising, consumer products and travel divisions of which the movie studio is much smaller part. Disney, for instance, made nine times as much revenue in 2012 on its television media holdings than it did with its movie studio.

Even so, without a pipeline of even modestly successful movies, an entertainment company’s entire operation can eventually suffer. That’s why even though mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is in a bit of a dry spell lately, (see “The Lone Ranger”) someone in Hollywood will always be willing to bet on his next project.

The past week also saw a seemingly endless supply of news stories concerning the health of celebrities. Placido Domingo was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism, Randy Travis is in serious condition after suffering a stroke, Elton John canceled a tour after emergency surgery for appendicitis and it was all topped by the untimely death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith at age 31.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Meredith Vieira’s return to television, a Twitter storm over “Sharknado” and Joan Rivers’ dispute with the Writers Guild.

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Showbiz Sandbox 171: Cost Of Sports Could Be Cable’s Unbundling

The rights to broadcast Major League Baseball games through 2021 were recently scooped up by ESPN for a cool $5.6 billion. That’s nothing compared to the $15.2 billion the network will be paying the NFL for “Monday Night Football” over the next eight years. Now News Corp. has coughed up billions for a stake in the New York Yankees network and are on the verge of paying a rumored $6 billion for the rights to air Los Angeles Dodger baseball games for 25-years. Some cable operators are now saying the skyrocketing costs of sports programming is out of control and unrealistic.

Since we’re talking about billions of dollars, we may as well mention Sony Pictures. Thanks to films such as “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Skyfall” the studio has taken in more than $4 billion worldwide this year at the box office. Lionsgate isn’t doing too bad either, earning $1 billion with releases such as “Hunger Games” and “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”.

In fact, the North American box office is on pace to set a new record this year, much like the grosses recorded over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The $290 million was a new high for the four day period.

Of course, we also cover all the big entertainment headlines from the past two weeks including the ongoing sexual abuse scandal rocking Sesame Street, the death of actor Larry Hagman and NBC’s big win during the November sweeps.

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