Showbiz Sandbox 291: Media Companies Come Clean On Cord Cutting

After years of denying cord cutting was happening on any level, several large media companies are finally confessing that cord cutting is a growing trend which may soon affect their bottom lines. After decades of steady growth, cable operators are now beginning to see flat or declining subscriber numbers as new content streaming services pop-up.

Clearly, the business models the television industry has relied on in the past are evolving rapidly, more so than movies or theater or even publishing at the moment. Yet some industry insiders believe the cable cord isn’t being cut, but that it’s slowly fraying as the definition of what it means to be a television network has changed.

Some media companies aren’t waiting to study market indicators before making strategic moves. Last week NBCUniversal made a $200-million investment in the online news outlet Buzzfeed, leaving many to wonder how this could possibly benefit the network.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how boy band One Direction wants to take a break, why Spotify wants to breach your privacy and Cirque du Soleil is headed to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 226: Back To The Future – Why TV Networks Suddenly Love Old People Again

Broadcast television networks are finally catching on to what most of us have known all along; people over the age of 50 actually watch a lot of TV. In a never-ending pursuit to attract younger viewers, networks discovered that baby boomers make up a large portion of their audience. Surely we’ll be seeing a lot more programming meant to appeal directly to this new found demographic.

Maybe some of these new, more mature shows can be turned into movies one day. That seems to be the new trend in Hollywood as studios get set to release two movies that are spun-off from canceled series (“Veronica Mars”) or are have actually already appeared on television as mini-series (“Son of God”).

Speaking of Hollywood studios, it turns out that despite crying poor on a perennial basis, they all managed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit during 2013. Not revenue… actual profit.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Cee Lo Green quitting “The Voice”, CNN quitting Piers Morgan and the end of Moviefone’s movie listing service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 225: Comcast and TimeWarner Cable Is A Marriage Made In….

The proposed merger of Comcast and TimeWarner Cable has presented industry analysts with a number of complicated questions. Providing some of the answers is David Gelles, a business reporter for the New York Times, who joins us to provide background and insight into a transformative $45 billion deal that would combine the two largest media and technology providers in North America.

Though there are no legislative restrictions, will the U.S. government try to prevent to the two cable giants from consolidating? What concessions will the regulators ask of Comcast if allowing the merger to go through? How will consolidation give Comcast leverage in negotiations with content providers? Would the combined companies have too much control over the media? Most importantly, what does all of this mean for consumers?

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the BAFTA awards were handed out over the weekend to films with strong British ties. That wasn’t the case at the Berlin Film Festival where Chinese movies took home the top prizes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” debut, actress Ellen Page’s inspiring coming-out speech, and an update on actor Shia Labeouf’s latest performance art stunt.

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Showbiz Sandbox 200: Should George Clooney Run For President?

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb began buying up Sony stock earlier this year and is now pressuring the electronics manufacturer to spin-off its entertainment divisions. After comparing two of Sony’s summer releases to historic flops such as “Waterworld”, actor/director/producer George Clooney could take no more. In an intelligent, coherent and well thought out rant, Clooney argues that, “ A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments.”

Karen Woodward, our former co-host, joins us for our 200th episode and was quick to point out that Clooney not only sounded smart in his statements, but also like a future political candidate. Given the state of American politics however, Clooney might find the back stabbing nature of Hollywood more friendly.

These days it seems a little political muscle is required to work in the entertainment industry. After all, Time Warner Cable has blacked out the CBS network for millions of customers over an ongoing retransmission dispute. Meanwhile, Hollywood studios haven’t been paid all year for movies they’ve released in China.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s historic new leader, a new Doctor Who and how holograms are replacing musicians at concerts in Korea.

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Showbiz Sandbox 114: Hollywood Overflows With Streaming Content Deals

Digital distribution of television shows, movies and music has become quite trendy in Hollywood. Not a week goes by that companies such as Netflix, Spotify, Hulu and others aren’t in the news cutting some sort of deal with a big studio, television network or record label. This past week retail giant Amazon and online video portal YouTube made big additions to their streaming content libraries while Fox decided to limit those who could view their shows online. We provide a rundown of all the recent announcements and what they might mean for you, the consumer.

We are also joined by Roger Goff, an entertainment attorney with Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin. He helps us understand a few recent lawsuits filed by television producers, especially one in which the producer of “American Idol” is suing Fox over not being made an executive producer on the upcoming reality series “X-Factor”.

Speaking of legal issues, it turns out the NBCUniversal Comcast merger wasn’t as much of a done deal as everyone thought. A federal judge is threatening to hold up approving the union claiming it may not be in the “public interest”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 112: Why Netflix Had To Raise Its Prices

You would have thought the world was coming to an end last week after popular movie streaming service Netflix raised its prices by 60%. The company’s customers took to blogs and social networks in revolt, threatening to cancel their subscriptions. However, between the cost of mailing DVDs and paying increased licensing fees for content, a Netflix rate hike was inevitable. Is Netflix still one of the best movie bargains available today, and if not, are there any alternatives?

Speaking of subscription offerings, one of Europe’s hottest music streaming services is finally available in the United States. Will Spotify be able to displace some of the entrenched players in the space like Spotify and Rdio? You can find out for yourself since we have some Spotify invitations to give away to a few lucky listeners.

Over in television-land the Emmy nominations were announced and as usual, there were a few noticeable omissions. Just ask “Sons of Anarchy” producer Kurt Sutter who chastised the Academy via Twitter for not recognizing the show’s star Katey Sagal (who also happens to be his wife).

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Showbiz Sandbox 107: The Pros And Cons Of Cloud Music Services

After months of rumors and speculation Apple finally announced their cloud music service last week. Aptly named iCloud, the new service joins similar offerings from both Amazon and Google. Though each of the services has their benefits, no two are exactly alike. Amazon and Google stream music over the Internet and require you to upload your entire music library. Apple doesn’t do any of those things. We dissect the pros and cons of all three services and wonder why anyone really needs them in the first place.

Something else that’s probably not needed is a sequel to “Tron: Legacy” but thanks to a television series spinoff of last year’s sci-fi blockbuster, we’ll probably get one. And it will probably be in 3D like its predecessor even though Dreamworks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg is heartbroken over the decline of the format.

The Tony Awards were handed out on Sunday and as we predicted, “The Book Of Mormon” walked off with the most trophies, including Best Musical. But what is a Tony really worth to a Broadway show’s bottom line? We’ll try and find out.

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Showbiz Sandbox 89: The Rising Fortunes Of Lady Gaga

Lady GaGa may be well on her way to earning more than $100 million dollars this year. With a new album and a world tour, Zack O’Malley Greenburg, a staff writer at Forbes, believes the pop star has the potential to become one of 2011’s highest paid musical performers. Greenburg stops by to help us do the math on Gaga’s ever increasing fortunes.

One event which won’t be contributing to Lady Gaga’s income is the Coachella Music Festival. Coachella, which is held in Southern California every April, anounced its lineup for this year’s event and Gaga isn’t on the bill. Even so, this year’s fest is overstuffed with acts you don’t want to miss and Los Angeles Times pop critic Ann Powers fills us in on all of them.

Meanwhile, MTV has a new hit on its hands with “Skins”, but advertisers and parents groups are protesting the show over its portrayal of teenage sex and drug use. At least three big advertisers have already pulled their support of the show. Over on Fox, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez have joined a revamped “American Idol”, which despite dropping 13% in the ratings still managed to beat out all its competitors.

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Showbiz Sandbox 74: Showbiz News Gets A Reboot

Anne Thompson of Thompson On Hollywood discusses her new role at IndieWire and the recent shuffle of entertainment journalists between media outlets. She gives us her take on the future of IndieWire and the current state of entertainment news coverage.

The Social Network continues to clean up at the box office and if a recent screening of the film for Academy members is any indication, the movie may continue its successful run during awards season. Hopefully, the producers will remember to pay the cast. This seems to be an issue for the cast of the Academy Award winning film “Crash”. Just ask Matt Dillon who is suing producers over the films profits.

The FCC still hasn’t approved the Comcast – NBC Universal merger, though that hasn’t stopped Comcast’s Steve Burke from taking over the reins of the organizations. He takes the place of former NBCU head Jeff Zucker who received a two year paid vacation to the tune of $7.8 million per year. Maybe Zucker can help Google TV get off the ground during his downtime.

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Showbiz Sandbox 32: Grammys and Spirits and Comcast, Oh My!

Rolling Stone contributing editor David Wild joins us this week to talk about the 52nd Annual Grammy nominations, a subject he knows a lot about since he’s one of the writers on the awards show. If music isn’t your thing than maybe independent film is. Eugene Hernandez, editor of indieWIRE drops by to discuss the Spirit Award nominees as well as the official selections of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

In other news, Sandra Bullock continues to impress moviegoing audiences in “The Blind Side” which knocked “Twilight Saga: New Moon” out of first place in the North American box office over the weekend. Speaking of “Twilight” who would you like to see direct the fourth installment of the franchise, “Breaking Dawn”? J. Sperling Reich, Michael Giltz and Karen Woodward agree that it’s probably not going to be Tim Burton, Peter Jackson or Quenten Tarantino as Moviefone suggests. But then stranger things have happened. Kind of like Apple buying Lala. What could they possibly be planning to do with the struggling music social network?  Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 32: Grammys and Spirits and Comcast, Oh My!

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