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 270: The Oscars Need A Reboot

February 23, 2015

What was billed as the closest Oscar race in recent memory turned out to be predictably dull as “Birdman” flew away with four awards including Best Picture. Not even host Neil Patrick Harris could make them more entertaining. Indiewire’s Anne Thompson attended the ceremony and stops by to give us her thoughts on this year’s Oscar winners and the ceremony itself.

We also take a look at the movies that could potentially be competing for Oscar trophies next year. Filmmakers such as Ron Howard, David O. Russell, Steven Spielberg and even this year’s Best Director winner Alejandro González Iñárritu all have movies set for release.

In other awards prognostication news, now that the Academy Awards are over, we have the Tony Awards for live theater to look forward to. Though once it looked as if there wouldn’t be any musicals to honor, Broadway will be awash in them come springtime. Even better, there are more new musicals than revivals scheduled for this season.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Starbucks plan to stop selling CDs, the Emmys update their rules and finding an ending to “Mission: Impossible 5” has been… well, impossible.

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

October 21, 2014

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 239: A Gentleman’s Guide To This Year’s Tony Winners

June 9, 2014

This year’s Tony Awards spread the love around with many of the Broadway season’s most lauded shows taking home trophies. “A Raisin in the Sun” won several awards including best revival of a play. Actor Bryan Cranston earned a Tony for his portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson “All The Way”, which also won best play. The critical darling “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” walked off with one of the night’s biggest awards, best musical.

Meanwhile Audra McDonald made history by winning her sixth Tony for acting, the most ever won by a performer. There were very few surprises during this year’s ceremony, accept for maybe host Hugh Jackman starting the telecast off by hopping (literally) through a dance routine that lasted four minutes. And even though Neil Patrick Harris didn’t host this year’s ceremony as he has for the past three years, he still managed to make his presence felt by performing a number from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and winning the Tony for best actor in a leading role in a musical.

In the world of movies it appears the day-and-date release of movies both in theatres and online is quickly becoming the new normal, if the practice hasn’t done so already. Now, a new research report out of Europe suggests that overlapping release windows is not eroding cinema attendance.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the latest movie from the Wachowski siblings gets pushed into next year, “Game of Thrones” becomes the the most watched show in HBO’s history and despite critical praise the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster is struggling at the box office.

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Showbiz Sandbox 238: Movies With Subtitles – Cinéma Internationale est Morte

June 2, 2014

Even though subtitles appear more often in mainstream movies like “Avatar”, “Inglorious Basterds” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, North American audiences aren’t any more comfortable with them than they had been historically. In a detailed piece for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman reports that foreign language films are struggling at both the U.S. box office and in ancillary distribution channels. Kaufman joins us for an in-depth discussion about the endangered state of world cinema.

We’ve just returned from this year’s Book Expo America, the largest annual book trade show in the U.S. The good news is that the publishing industry is actively engaging in digital instead of being frightened by out. Unfortunately, everyone was concerned that an ongoing contract dispute between publishing giant Hachette and online book retailer Amazon is a sign of a contentious future.

Meanwhile the Tony Awards will be held next weekend honoring the best productions and brightest talent to emerge from Broadway over the past year. Hugh Jackman is hosting the ceremony which will feature performances from Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel and even Sting. The real money however, will be earned by whoever takes home the trophies for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a movie poster that’s a little too risqué for the MPAA, director James Cameron teams up with Cirque du Soleil and the record price NBC is charging for a 30-second ad during next year’s Super Bowl.

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Showbiz Sandbox 234: Scandal and Politics Invade Hollywood (Again)

May 5, 2014

Two real-life controversies are presently complicating life in Hollywood where studios prefer to make lots of money and ignore complicated social issues or the sometimes tawdry private lives of their executives and talent. The first involves accusations of forcible rape by movie director Bryan Singer. The second involves boycotting a historic Tinseltown hotel over its owners politics.

In less contentious news it appears our prediction about the future of Craig Ferguson as host of the “Late Late Show” was correct, and he will indeed be departing by the end of this year. The host says the decision was entirely his own, despite what it might look like with David Letterman retiring from his show’s lead in, “Late Night”.

Tony nominations were announced last week to honor some of this year’s best and brightest Broadway productions and performers. We give you a rundown of all the front runners as well as a look at a few that didn’t make the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the “Star Wars Episode VII” casting announcement, AT&T’s acquisition offer of DirecTV and Ben Affleck’s blackjack trouble.

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Showbiz Sandbox 231: Could Vince Vaughn Be The Next David Letterman?

April 7, 2014

Late night talk show personality David Letterman surprised everyone last week by announcing that he would be retiring as host of the “Late Show” in 2015. News that Letterman would be exiting on his own terms after 30 years as a late night headliner broke in a thoroughly modern way; first via Twitter, then through the media’s career retrospectives and ultimately with stories about who would make a good replacement. We nominate Vince Vaughn.

In other television news, Time Warner Cable is in a bitter dispute with satellite provider DirecTV. The two companies are butting heads over the broadcast rights for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games TWC paid more than $8 billion for last year. With negotiations seemingly stalled, more than 30% of the market’s paid television subscribers have been blacked out of each game’s telecast.

Meanwhile, this year’s Broadway season is about to kick off in earnest on the run up to the Tony Awards. Our own Michael Giltz gives us a complete rundown on which productions he’s putting his own figurative money on.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a trademark dispute over Mickey Mouse, a new contract for the Writers Guild of America and the continuing struggles of Entertainment Weekly.

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Showbiz Sandbox 206: Emmys Offer The Worst of Every Other Awards Show Rolled Into One

September 23, 2013

With Neil Patrick Harris as its host and a wide array of popular shows nominated for top awards, this year’s Emmys ceremony was primed to be a memorable one. The telecast was memorable alright, but for all the wrong reasons. If the Emmys were trying to combine all the worst elements of every other awards show, they succeeded.

It’s hard to determine precisely why this year’s Emmys just didn’t work. It could have been a weak opening, unnecessary musical numbers or the string of depressing memorials. Worst of all, the telecast didn’t provide viewers with a better understanding of the shows being awarded.

Meanwhile, one of China’s wealthiest citizens wants to spend over $8 billion building a movie metropolis that is meant to rival Hollywood. Some of the film industry’s most most recognized celebrities and important leaders have signed on to help the cause. The only question is… why?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the billion dollar launch of “Grand Theft Auto V”, Britney Spears’ new gig in Las Vegas and why WikiLeaks has taken up film criticism.

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Showbiz Sandbox 194: Tony Awards Prove Broadway Knows How To Put On A Show

June 11, 2013

Once again actor Neil Patrick Harris proved he knows how to host an awards show with a dazzling turn as master of ceremonies at this year’s Tony Awards last Sunday. The ceremony provided its share of surprises and dramatic speeches from the likes of Cicely Tyson and pop-star Cyndi Lauper as “Kinky Boots” walked off with six Tonys including Best Musical. Though the telecast may have been poorly directed, it was filled with a mixed bag of performances from this season’s top Broadway shows.

For Broadway play or musical, a Tony can provide a huge boost at the box office, though it’s no guarantee. There has never been a magic formula for investing in the arts which is something JP Morgan and its partners should have looked into before loaning Paramount Pictures a load of cash to finance movies. Now everyone is suing each other after the bank discovered their Hollywood investments weren’t as risk free as they had initially thought.

That kind of inside news is usually reported by the likes of Nikki Finke over at her Deadline Hollywood blog. However, if a scoop from a competing online news source is correct, Finke’s days at Deadline may be numbered. Has Finke’s conentious reputation finally caught up with her, or will a crosstown rival need to eat some crow?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon’s European tax problems, Disney’s digital distribution plans, and the possibly illegal limitations of Microsoft’s new Xbox.

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

June 13, 2011

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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