Showbiz Sandbox 244: Hollywood Faces An Epic Struggle Over the Future of Entertainment Distribution

July 29, 2014

Whether it’s movies streaming online before they premiere in theaters, the never-ending retransmission dispute between television networks and cable companies or the dwindling number of book retailers, how media companies are distributing their content has never been more in flux.

The Weinstein Company released their critically acclaimed release “Snowpiercer” on VOD just two weeks after the film opened in cinemas. Then they agreed to let “One Chance”, a biopic of talent show winner Paul Potts, stream free on Yahoo! ten days before the movie opens in the United States.

Meanwhile, rather than sell you books, Amazon is hoping you’ll be willing to pay a monthly fee for their new e-book subscription service. The only problem is the service’s limited selection (not to mention the company’s inability to make a profit), making us wonder whether such a business model is viable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Weird Al Yankovic’s album wound up at the top of the sales charts, the Emmy’s snub broadcast networks and Garth Brooks comes out of retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 235: When Apple Can’t Beats Them, It Buys Them

May 12, 2014

As rumors began to circulate that Apple was purchasing Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion everyone from music industry executives to stock market analysts all asked the same simple question – why? The lucrative deal makes perfect sense from Beats perspective, but what does Apple see in the high-end headphone manufacturer that made them spend so much money to acquire the company.

Speculation has centered on two possible reasons, both of which are probably accurate. The first hypothesis is that since Apple already heavily promotes Beats products through their retail stores, they may as well make them a part of the family and keep all the profits. The second theory is that Apple is hoping Beats streaming subscription service can help them with their own streaming music offerings.

With digital music sales first plateauing and now declining, Apple may be predicting that more consumers are wanting to stream their music rather than purchase it. We discuss Apple’s big purchase and provide in-depth analysis on what it means for the company and the state of the music business.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the renewal of “American Idol” for a 14th season, NBC pays billions for the rights to broadcast the Olympics over the next 20 years and Comedy Central finds a replacement for Stephen Colbert.

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Showbiz Sandbox 185: HitBliss Bets You’ll Watch Ads To Get Free Movies

March 11, 2013

HitBliss is a new streaming video service that enables users to earn credit toward popular movies and television shows simply by watching advertising. The catch is all the targeted ads are shown up-front, and viewers must be paying attention or they won’t get the credits needed to purchase or rent videos.

Sharon Peyer is the co-founder of HitBliss and spent four years helping launch the company. In this interview she explains how the service originated, how it works and what the future of HitBliss might look like. Peyer believes consumers are actually willing to watch ads so long as the messages are relevant and they can get something out of it.

It’s no secret that streaming media services are all the rage these days, yet it remains to be seen whether they can be profitable too. Pandora’s latest earnings (or lack thereof) beat analysts expectations sending its stock price soaring. Unfortunately, the royalties they pay for music might start rising, along with the number of competitors like YouTube and Apple looking to enter the market.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pink Flloyd’s 40 year presence in the music charts, Rupert Murdoch’s plans for a television sports network and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart takes a crack at making a movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 181: Why The Grammys Telecast Matters More Than Ever

February 11, 2013

While winning a Grammy Award can boost a musician’s record sales temporarily, a knockout performance during the widely viewed ceremony can launch a career. Simply ask Mumford & Sons who stole the show during the 2011 telecast and on Sunday took home the 2013 Grammy for Album of the Year. Will the Lumineers, who performed at this year’s ceremony, follow in their footsteps?

David Wild, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, helped write the Grammy telecast as he has for the past 12 years. He joins us to discuss how the show was put together, working with host LL Cool J and some of the elements that came off without a hitch (projecting images onto Carrie Underwood’s dress comes to mind). Wild even reveals John Mayer’s secret life as a joke writer.

Meanwhile, digital downloads are already outpacing physical sales in music and will surely do so with books and movies in the not too distant future. But what happens when you want to sell off all those media downloads in the now non-existent digital secondhand market? Amazon is trying to patent technology that will make such sales possible.

Of course we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how “The Walking Dead” continues to increase viewership, an end to Don Johnson’s lawsuit over “Nash Bridges” and why some concerts may be sold out before tickets ever go on sale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 172: The TV Industry Has Its Head Up Its Ass

December 3, 2012

Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting, realizes the ways people watch TV have radically and irrevocably changed. He believes the industry has not even remotely caught up to that fact yet. Or, as he puts it, “We have our head up our ass.” We’ll discuss the checklist Reilly provided at recent industry event which touched on every facet of the business.

As the year draws to a close the awards season has begun to heat up as both the Gotham Awards and European Film Awards were handed out last week. We’ll give you a rundown of who the big winners were and which movies are topping the first few year-end critics polls.

In theater news one can make it big with an Off-Broadway production, they just can’t make big money. A few recent hit shows are closing after barely breaking even or never turning a profit.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a list of top earning musicians, Jeff Zucker lands at CNN and why China may surpass the United States as the biggest movie market in the world.

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

November 26, 2012

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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Showbiz Sandbox 164: Geoff Boucher Knows More About Nothing Than Anyone

September 25, 2012

Geoff Boucher shocked the entertainment and media industries when he announced his resignation from the Los Angeles Times in mid-September. After all, Boucher has been credited with pioneering a new model for entertainment writers by melding print publications with both an online brand and live events; a format he’s dubbed “tradigital”. Why wouldn’t the Times want to keep him around. (They actually did).

Boucher spent 21 years at the paper, earning a stellar reputation as an entertainment feature writer and ultimately the editor of the Hero Complex, a blog covering all aspects of pop culture. In a wide ranging interview Boucher, who says he knows more about nothing than anyone, discusses his departure from the Times, how he landed at Entertainment Weekly less than a week later, and what his future plans are.

Meanwhile, the best and brightest talent on North American television was honored this past weekend at the 64th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards. We’ve got a rundown of all the winners and a recap of the awards ceremony.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including an update on Universal Music’s purchase of EMI, electronic voting at the Oscars and how Major League Baseball is selling off its television rights for billions of dollars.

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Showbiz Sandbox 155: How Hollywood Handles A Real-Life Tragedy

July 24, 2012

The ripple effect caused by a deranged gunman last week at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” spread far beyond the scene of the crime in Aurora, Colorado. Warner Bros. had to instantly pivot from celebrating the studios biggest opening of the year to managing a horrific nightmare which left 12 people dead and dozens injured. We examine how the studio and the entertainment industry have dealt with being part of such a tragic event.

On a happier note, at least for cable networks, the Emmy nominations were announced last week for the year’s best achievements in television. The major broadcast networks, which used to dominate the awards, were entirely shut-out in certain categories. Is this merely a fluke, or has the tide truly shifted to cable programming?

Meanwhile, author Brett Easton Ellis has been in a public feud with Deadline Hollywood editor Nikki Finke, all thanks to a simple posting on Twitter. We’ll fill you in.

We also cover all the week’s top entertainment headlines including some sequels to popular Pixar films, an executive shake-up at News Corp. and the newest judge on “American Idol”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 152: Rupert Murdoch Shows Off His Split Personality

July 3, 2012

Last week, in-between sending Twitter posts about the break-up of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, News Crop. chairman Rupert Murdoch announced he would be splitting one of the world’s biggest media conglomerates into two different companies; one for the publishing entities, the other for the much more profitable film and television operations. Could the tycoon be trying to focus attention on something other than the ongoing phone hacking scandal he is embroiled in?

Speaking of scandals, Charlie Sheen returned to television with a bang (no pun intended). His new series, “Anger Management” set viewership records for a scripted comedy series. If the first 10 episodes prove to be a ratings hit, FX has promised to produce another 90 episodes.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 176 professionals to become members and it looks like they’re becoming more of an equal opportunity group. In fact, they have finally included hair dressers in the makeup category at the Oscars, renaming it Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news, the “Today” show’s continuing troubles, Arsenio Hall’s return to late night television and the record breaking ratings for Eurocup 2012.

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Showbiz Sandbox 112: Why Netflix Had To Raise Its Prices

July 18, 2011

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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