Showbiz Sandbox 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

July 13, 2015

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

Read more


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.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 274: Cord-Cutting Has Never Been Easier, or More Expensive

March 23, 2015

Cord-cutting has been a growing fear of the television industry for many years. The terrifying possibility that consumers will give up their expensive cable bundles in lieu of online streaming is quickly becoming a reality as numerous services have sprung up to provide over-the-top options. Unfortunately none of these services offers access to all the major networks forcing viewers to spend just as much, or even more, to see all their favorite programs.

When you start adding up the cost of subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu along with newcomers such as Dish Networks Sling TV and HBO Now, cutting the cord may not be the cost savings everyone has been hoping for.

Meanwhile, the music industry has been undergoing its own struggles as existing revenue models have been upended by digital distribution. Last year marked the first time that streaming music earned more than the sale of music on compact discs. This has led to a rallying cry from industry trade groups for artists to be fairly compensated regardless of the platform on which their music is accessed.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how female moviegoers are driving this year’s box office, why John Williams won’t be scoring Steven Spielberg’s next movie and the new math formula determining whether Madonna’s recent release is the top selling album of the week.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 266: Sundance Becomes A Little More International

January 28, 2015

Though the Sundance Film Festival has long been one of the more important festivals held each year, it was primarily known as a launching pad for American independent films and as such international attendance was minimal. That seems to have changed over the past few years as Sundance selections started receiving Oscar nominations. Now industry professionals from all over the world show up at the festival to find the next “Whiplash”, “Precious” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.

We didn’t have to travel from halfway around the world to attend this year’s Sundance, but we are in Park City and will fill you in on all the buzzworthy films, major acquisitions and festival news.

Meanwhile, the Producer’s Guild Awards muddied the waters in the current race for the Best Picture Academy Award. While everyone assumed “Boyhood” would walk off with the prize on its way to Oscar victory, “Birdman” swept in and unexpectedly stole it. Whether this is any indication as to how Oscar voters will cast their ballots is questionable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is headed to court over his record contract, how James Patterson is promoting his new book and Mrs. Doubtfire is headed to Broadway.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 262: Will “The Interview” Become A Rallying Cry For Freedom?

December 23, 2014

When the U.S. government identified North Korea as the culprit behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the incident quickly became a matter of international security. As the studio halted the release of an upcoming political satire it seemed as if they had acquiesced to the hacker’s demands in what many saw as a direct attack on free speech. Now that Sony has reversed course and will distribute the film, will “The Interview” become a patriotic rallying cry for freedom?

Maybe one day “The Interview” will be selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. This year’s entries include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Rosemary’s Baby” along with many other influential movies.

Meanwhile, an upstart performance rights organization continues to threaten YouTube over more than 20,000 songs for which it says the streaming media giant doesn’t have a license. The details of the dispute get mired down in complicated copyright law, but it just goes to underscore how important streaming revenue is becoming to entertainment companies.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Madonna’s new album gets leaked online, the hit film “School of Rock” is heading to Broadway and why HBO is giving up on overnight ratings.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 215: How Many Music Streaming Services Does It Take To Make A Profit?

December 2, 2013

Just when you thought the online music streaming space couldn’t get any more crowded or competitive, along comes Deezer. The French company already boasts 5 million paying subscribers in 80 countries and now plans to launch in the United States, where Spotify and Pandora are the market leaders. However, none of these companies are actually profitable, which may be why services like Rdio went through a round of layoffs in November and is shuttering.

Profitability seems to be an issue for Sony Pictures too. The movie studio lost $181 million last quarter leading to the announcement of significant cost cutting measures in the wake of some summer box office duds.

Disappointing earnings and a declining subscriber base are also a problem at Time Warner Cable. As telcos and satellite providers continue to erode their market share, rumors have begun swirling that the second largest cable operator in North America might be acquired by one or more of its competitors, including Comcast.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Thanksgiving weekend’s record breaking box office, “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” lowers the curtains on its Broadway run and the mediocre sales figures of Lady Gaga’s latest album.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 174: Is “The Hobbit” A Death Knell for 3D Movies?

December 17, 2012

All of the talk surrounding the release of “The Hobbit” was over high frame rate and whether audiences would reject a crisper image. It may have been more appropriate to discuss whether audiences have already shunned 3D. Only 49% of audiences chose to see the film in 3D over opening weekend. If moviegoers aren’t willing to see a film shot and meant to be seen in 3D, is the format ultimately doomed?

“The Hobbit” was noticeably absent on a number of important year-end top film lists. Nor was it among the nominations for the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, which were announced last week.

The fantasy book from “The Hobbit” is adapted has been a perennial best seller, but with the explosion of e-book readers future generations may not even know what a book is. Can e-books and print co-exist?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including this year’s Rock Hall of Fame inductees, the top grossing concert tours of 2012 and (finally!) an end to loud television commercials.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 144: Measuring Media Proves Difficult In The Digital Age

April 9, 2012

Whether trying to figure out how many users the streaming music actually has or why audiences have abandoned television shows in the ten o’clock hour, it turns out keeping track of media metrics often requires fuzzy logic.

In one instance the ratings for CNBC in the 18 to 49-year-old demographic plummeted when three people included in Nielsen’s measurement sampling turned 50. Meanwhile, Billboard’s new formula for ranking singles caused Justin Bieber to narrowly miss hitting the number one spot.

There have been no problems counting money at movie theater and Broadway box offices. “Hunger Games” has helped movie grosses continue their record setting pace for the year and over on the Great White Way, three musicals pulled in over $2 million during Easter break.

Of course, we also cover the top entertainment headlines from the past week, including Ryan Seacrest’s Olympic efforts, Vince Vaughn’s bad timing and YouTube’s confusing relationship with Viacom.


Read more

Showbiz Sandbox 142: Is The MPAA Rating System Broken?

March 26, 2012

Though the MPAA often rates more than 700 films per year, the number of rating disputes rarely reaches the double digits. This year however eight films have already appealed their ratings and it’s not even April. Has the MPAA lost touch with modern culture or are filmmakers beginning to push the boundaries with edgier content? Ethan Noble, of Motion Picture Consulting, helps guide filmmakers and studios through the ratings process. Noble, who recently tried to appeal the restrictive rating on the documentary “Bully”, provides an overview of the MPAA’s rating system and tells us whether it needs to be fixed.

Speaking of the MPAA, they released their annual report on the motion picture industry. Moviegoing may have declined 4% in North America, but overseas revenue grew more than 5% and is booming in markets such as China and Japan.

We previously predicted that Broadway shows such as “Sister Act” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” would close by now. Despite playing to half empty theaters and consistently losing money, they are still running night after night. What gives?

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 130: It’s The Data, Stupid (or Why Live Nation Bought BigChampagne)

December 19, 2011

As 2011 comes to an end mainstream media companies continue to struggle with how to distribute their content through the Internet. That was never more apparent than this week as concert promoter Live Nation acquired BigChampagne, a media tracking and technology company. Joe Fleischer, Big Champgne’s chief marketing officer, explains why a live-event company is interested in staying on top of the latest music industry data and how the acquisition will help Live Nation better understand their customers.

Meanwhile, as SOPA and PIPA make their way through Congress, Universal Music Group caused a stir when they tried to squash news reports of their copyright infringement lawsuit against MegaUpload. Then there was comedian Louis C.K. who used digital convergence to his benefit by selling a video of his most recent stand-up show directly to fans, making a huge profit in the process.

Matt Damon was also muddying the waters last week by revealing the in-fighting going on behind the scenes of the”Bourne” franchise. Of course, we also cover the top entertainment news stories of the week including the Golden Globe and SAG award nominations, Howard Stern’s new television gig on “America’s Got Talent” and Madonna’s new record contract.

Read more


Next Page »