Showbiz Sandbox 329: Television Gets Turned Off By Apple

Rumors about how Apple plans to conquer television have circulated for years. Initially it was thought the company intended to manufacture a television set. This led to speculation that it was putting together an over-the-top alternative to cable. Now reports have emerged that numerous deals between Apple and the TV industry have collapsed over the company’s aggressive negotiating tactics. Did Apple blow it by trying to tackle too much at once, or did television networks simply feel threatened?

We’ll also spend some time catching up on international movie box office. As much as Hollywood has discovered the benefits of doing business around the globe, so to have its movie stars and filmmakers. In addition, we discuss the flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity taking place among some of the world’s leading cinema chains.

In the publishing world it turns out that 2015 was a pretty good year with over $28 billion in sales just in North America. As well, it appears the release windows between formats like hardcover, paperback and e-books are collapsing or becoming non-existent.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the official end of the VCR, Netflix nabs the new “Star Trek” series and why the final installment of the “Divergent” franchise is headed straight to television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 314: As Expected, The Oscars Shine A Spotlight On Diversity

In a year when the Academy Awards were faulted for a lack of diversity among its nominees, ceremony host Chris Rock addressed the #OscarsSoWhite controversy head on in his opening monologue by mixing pointed criticism with biting humor. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, brings us along as she attends the 88th annual Oscars and explains just how difficult it was to predict this year’s winners.

Mind you, award season never really ends. France handed out their own awards for last year’s top movies and we’ll tell you who won all the big prizes at the Cesars. We even look at the nominations for the Olivier Awards, the London theater equivalent to the Tonys. Literally hours after winning his first Oscar, Mark Rylance was nominated again, this time for his performance in “Farinelli and the King”.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is planning to imitate its online rival Amazon by, oddly enough, opening new brick and mortar stores. And a reissue of the Alex Haley bestseller Roots brings up everything from copyright to the question of when a book goes out of print to ebook pricing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix and other streaming services have decimated video sales, PBS will launch its own cable network and Adele tops the Brit Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 290: Disney Plans A Trip To Star Wars Land

Last week the Walt Disney Company held its annual fan club convention, the D23 Expo, which gave the company a chance not only to promote some of its highly anticipated movie releases, such as a live-action “Jungle Book”, but also announce some new additions to their popular theme parks.

Disney plans to leverage its acquisition of Lucasfilm by creating an immersive Star Wars Land at both of its theme parks in North America. The company is also working on a “Toy Story” themed land for both parks as well. This is all on top of the “Avatar” attraction Disney is building in its Animal Kingdom park in Florida.

Meanwhile, the dog days of summer are usually a slow time for live theater productions, especially on Broadway. However this year multiple shows are bringing in million dollar grosses each week, including “Hamilton” a new musical that had the courage to premiere during August.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Sesame Street’s move to HBO, the end of Columbia House and how the late talk show legend Johnny Carson is returning to late night.

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Showbiz Sandbox 275: TV Casting Isn’t Just Black and White

Thanks to the success of new shows like “How To Get Away With Murder”, “Black-ish”, “Fresh Off The Boat”, “Jane the Virgin” and, of course, “Empire”, Deadline Hollywood reports this year’s pilot season is experiencing an explosion of minority casting. Networks are now writing roles specifically for ethnic actors and demanding series pilots feature a diverse cast. Though long overdue, the suggestion that the “pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction” ruffled a few industry feathers.

In less controversial news, the Library of Congress announced the 25 recordings it will be adding to the National Recording Registry this year. Among them are classics by The Doors and Radiohead, Broadway cast albums and hits by The Righteous Brothers and Johnny Mercer. There are even a few historical wax cylinder recordings dating all the way back to the 1890s.

And just when you thought the awards season was long over, the New York Independent Film Critics held their annual meeting to select the IRA Film Awards. Our host Michael Giltz was on hand to argue, discuss and vote for the best in movies from last year with a prestigious group that believes they have better taste than all those other awards shows. We’ll go over the list of winners.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including who will replace Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show”, the popular television series “Downton Abbey” calls it quits as does Zayn Malik, a now former-member of One Direction.

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Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

Thanks to mobile devices, laptops, streaming video, DVRs and good old fashioned live viewing, it’s never been easier to watch your favorite television shows. However this explosion of viewing options has made it harder to keep track of how many people view each show, precisely when and on what device. Despite the difficulty of getting accurate figures networks still feel the need to report overnight ratings even if they don’t reflect a program’s total viewership.

We propose taking a new approach to television ratings that might fix this problem. For starters stop making a distinction between broadcast and cable networks. Same goes for differentiating ratings based on a show’s specific time slot or which day it airs on. And those are just a few of the suggestions we debate.

Another complicated issue the entertainment industry is grappling with is net neutrality. The FCC is reportedly weighing a “hybrid” solution to open Internet legislation which would classify entities as either wholesale or retail providers. Granted, there is no clear cut way to make such categorizations and consumers could wind up getting stuck with higher broadband fees, but why quibble over details?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams may be headed to court to defend their hit song “Blurred Lines”, movie theaters ban the use of wearable devices like Google Glass and Taylor Swift once again dominates album sales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 255: Better Pixels Not More Pixels – Why You’ll Never Care About 4K or 8K TV

Technology is quickly emerging that delivers enhanced theatrical and home viewing experiences the likes of which audiences have never seen. What remains unknown is whether consumers even notice incremental upgrades such as Ultra HD or care enough to pay extra for them. TV manufacturers sure hope so.

However, at the SMPTE 2014 Technical Conference held last week in Los Angeles, some of the industries smartest engineers agreed that images with a wider contrast and color range (HDR) are preferable to those packing more pixels into every frame (4K). They also questioned if we were technically capable of getting all this enhanced content onto screens both big and small.

China, on the other hand, will take any content they can get their hands. After Hollywood spent years trying to break into the Chinese market, China is now come knocking down Hollywood’s door in search of movies and television programs to show via streaming and subscription services.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Ken Burns scored big ratings for PBS with his latest documentary, why sock puppets are all the rage on Broadway and TLC shows Honey Boo-Boo the door.

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Showbiz Sandbox 241: YouTube Gets Tough With Indie Record Labels

As YouTube gets set to launch its own streaming music service the company is updating existing partnership contacts with record companies. While all of the major labels have signed on, some independent labels are balking at what they consider unfair terms. Now, YouTube is threatening to block the content of any label refusing to enter into its new licensing contracts, a move that is proving hugely controversial and divisive throughout the tech and entertainment industries.

Speaking of contracts, when it came to negotiating the deal for his latest film “Boyhood”, director Richard Linklater gave up a large part of his usual salary to assure he would actually own a piece of the movie it took him 12 years to complete. Will more filmmakers decide to forfeit their upfront fees and begin taking ownership stakes in their projects, or is Linklater’s move a one-off?

Musician Jack White probably isn’t setting any trends either, at least not for vinyl records. His new album sold 40,000 on vinyl during its first week of release though that can probably be attributed to all the nifty extras White included on the vinyl version such as hidden tracks and alternate versions rather than any ongoing interest in the analogue medium.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why “Sesame Street” is getting shorter, Netflix plans on producing a talk show with Chelsea Handler and Disney nails down another director for its “Star Wars” franchise.

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

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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Showbiz Sandbox 187: Does The Justice System Finally Understand Copyright?

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States dealt another blow to copyright owners in a landmark ruling that confirmed what most consumer advocates had been saying for years; the first sale doctrine does not have geographic boundaries. The court smacked down publisher J. Wiley & Sons’ copyright infringement lawsuit against Supap Kirtsaeng for reselling textbooks he had purchased at a discount in his native Thailand.

While major entertainment companies and trade groups like the MPAA and RIAA may have been on the losing end with the Supreme Court, an appeals court handed them a major victory by ruling in favor of movie studios who claimed that the operator of isoHunt, a large BitTorrent site, was inducing copyright infringement. The court agreed isoHunt was not eligible for safe harbor.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced 25 new recordings that will be added to its official preservation registry. We’ll fill you in on the grab bag of popular music, radio shows, news reports, opera and other recordings that made the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including NBC’s silly decision to oust Jay Leno from The Tonight Show (again), the booming Chinese box office and “Downtown Abbey’s” record ratings.

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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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