Showbiz Sandbox 291: Media Companies Come Clean On Cord Cutting

August 24, 2015

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 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.

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Showbiz Sandbox 282: Broadway’s Not So Big Night at the Tony Awards

June 8, 2015

A musical about family, sexuality and suicide along with a play about an adolescent with Aspberger’s syndrome won the top prizes at this year’s Tony Awards over the weekend. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, “Fun Home” was awarded Best Musical and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” earned Best New Play. On paper, both could have been marginal longshots to win Tonys, which can at times go to more commercial productions.

We go over the list of this year’s Tony Award winners and choose a few highlights from a ceremony in which they were quite sparse. It was great to see Kelli O’Hara win a Tony for Best Actress In A Musical after she had been overlooked the last five times she was nominated. Yet, in a year which saw Broadway break box office records, the telecast flirted with all-time low ratings.

Meanwhile, as we record this episode Apple appears set to announce their streaming music service which some big record label executives see as a tipping point that could save the industry. That seems like a tall order given how late the company is getting to market, but it’s never a good idea to underestimate Apple.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Netflix is heading to Spain, Senator Chris Dodd is staying on as head of the MPAA and Showtime is going over the top with its new streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 249: Why Film Festivals Are More Important Than Ever

September 16, 2014

Anne Thompson, an editor at Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire, just spent the past two weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before she heads off to the New York Film Festival. Thompson takes us through some of the noteworthy films we’ll be seeing in coming months and discuss the important role festivals play in creating buzz before a movie’s commercial release.

The competition for landing premieres of noteworthy titles has become so fierce that Toronto switched up its programming this year to give less prominence to any film screening a week earlier at Telluride. One aspect of each festival which is unlikely to change is their reputation for selecting films that go on to win Best Picture Oscars.

While fall festivals might be the talk of the film industry, television executives have been preoccupied with their over-the-top strategies. As audiences switch to OTT offerings from Amazon to Roku, networks are experimenting with direct-to-consumer offerings while contending with increasingly meaningless overnight ratings.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including opting-out of a free U2 album, Microsoft picks up “Minecraft” and Netflix’s invasion of Europe.

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Showbiz Sandbox 246: The Emmys Have A Hopeless Scheduling Problem

August 26, 2014

It’s bad enough that the Emmy Awards honor the exact same talent and television shows every year. Now, the Emmys are really growing stale by handing out prizes to shows that finished airing before last year’s ceremony. Unfortunately, as television migrates to year round programming, there is no good time to schedule the Emmys which would make them feel more timely or relevant.

The industry-at-large was likely glad to see at least one aspect of the Emmys go unchanged as shows from broadcast and cable networks continue to win the most awards over shows from streaming services such as Netflix, which went home empty handed. There also, thankfully, seems to be a voter backlash against shows positioning themselves in odd categories.

Meanwhile, August has proven to be the cruelest month for show business with the untimely death of actor Robin Williams and the passing of Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, among others.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon public relations battle with Hachette over e-book pricing, Jimmy Fallon comes out on top in the late night television war, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat may see new life on the big screen.

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Showbiz Sandbox 220: Content Owners Can’t Afford Your New 4K Ultra HD Television

January 13, 2014

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas manufacturers stirred up a lot of buzz around 4K Ultra HD television sets. The proven and tested technology promises resolution four times greater than current high definition monitors. The biggest hurdle the industry must overcome for Ultra HD to work are the economics, specifically the high cost of delivering 4K content.

For those consumers who have given up on cable and broadcast television, commonly referred to as “cord-cutters”, the good news is they will now be able to watch wrestling via streaming video thanks to the WWE’s new online only network. However, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether they can continue using Aereo to stream local broadcast channels.

Meanwhile, this year’s awards season continues to chug along as the Golden Globes are handed out and the Director’s Guild of America announced their nominations.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus are too sexy for France, the demographics of last year’s Broadway ticket sales and whether a movie critic’s tweets can be used in advertisements.

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