Showbiz Sandbox 273: Bringing The ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict Into Focus

March 16, 2015

A federal jury decided last week that the hit song “Blurred Lines” was improperly derived from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give It Up” and ordered songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Pay $7.4 Million for copyright infringement. Though the verdict was a surprise, Eriq Gardner, a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, tells us it may not have the wide ranging implications for the music industry everyone now predicts.

Gardner explains some of the legal positions taken by both sides in the case. Usually for a copyright lawsuit to be successful the melody, harmony or lyrics must be infringed upon, though in this instance it was extended to include the style and “vibe” of the work. What will this mean for songwriters in the future?

Meanwhile, the MPAA published their verdict on last year’s box office figures. The good news is the organization’s annual report looks at the entire world, and not just the U.S. The bad news, at least according to some, is that box office receipts only increased 1% during what was a record breaking year in Asia.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s plans for a Ghostbuster’s universe, the worldwide premiere of next season’s “Game of Thrones” and Disney announces a sequel to “Frozen”.

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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 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

January 6, 2015

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 262: Will “The Interview” Become A Rallying Cry For Freedom?

December 23, 2014

When the U.S. government identified North Korea as the culprit behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the incident quickly became a matter of international security. As the studio halted the release of an upcoming political satire it seemed as if they had acquiesced to the hacker’s demands in what many saw as a direct attack on free speech. Now that Sony has reversed course and will distribute the film, will “The Interview” become a patriotic rallying cry for freedom?

Maybe one day “The Interview” will be selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. This year’s entries include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Rosemary’s Baby” along with many other influential movies.

Meanwhile, an upstart performance rights organization continues to threaten YouTube over more than 20,000 songs for which it says the streaming media giant doesn’t have a license. The details of the dispute get mired down in complicated copyright law, but it just goes to underscore how important streaming revenue is becoming to entertainment companies.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Madonna’s new album gets leaked online, the hit film “School of Rock” is heading to Broadway and why HBO is giving up on overnight ratings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

November 3, 2014

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 232: Coachella Goes Over The Top, Figuratively and Literally

April 14, 2014

In its 15 year history the Coachella has grown from a two day event with a couple dozen bands to one of the world’s most important music festivals with so many VIP luxury amenities that some have argued the high-priced perks have begun overshadowing the actual music. At the same time, Coachella organizers have made it easier than ever for stay-at-home-fans to catch their favorite artists by streaming the whole first weekend live on YouTube.

Speaking of VIP entertainment experiences, there is a brewing battle over premium large format screens at multiplexes all over the world. You might know these types of auditoriums as IMAX, though not for long if your local cinema chain has anything to say about it.

Since it’s tax time here in the United States we uncover a few stories about how movie, television and theatre productions are not only skipping out on their taxes, but in fact getting huge subsidies courtesy of the tax man in most states.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Stephen Colbert’s move to replace David Letterman, the motion picture Academy’s new high profile curator and James Cameron’s complaints about the latest blockbuster movies.

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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 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

January 28, 2014

Whether it was Hunter Hayes belting out an anti-bullying song or Queen Latifah performing a mass-marriage ceremony for 32 couples to the hip-hop beats of Macklemore & Lewis, this years Grammys’ ceremony was more upbeat than ever. David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote the telecast that attracted a whopping 28.5 million viewers, as well as the Beatles tribute concert the very next night. He stops by to discuss what it was like helping put both shows together.

Awards were also handed out for movies this past week. The Directors Guild of America shook up the Oscar race by giving its top prize to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” and the Sundance Film Festival came to an end by handing out more than two dozen awards to indie movies.

Meanwhile, a number of companies are locked in a heated battle to provide an online alternative to cable and satellite television. The biggest hurdle for the likes of Amazon, Sony and Verizon in helping audiences cut the cord may turn out to be the erosion of net neutrality.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including shorter movie trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay gets leaked and Bill Cosby returns to NBC with a new sit-com.

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Showbiz Sandbox 216: Last Year’s Unknowns May Be Next Year’s Grammy Winners

December 9, 2013

When the Grammy Award nominations for 2014 were announced last week, they were filled with names of artists and musicians who at this time last year few had ever heard of. One hasn’t even graduated from high school yet. Lorde, country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves and the rapper-producer duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis rose to stardom on a wave of self-distribution, YouTube and social media.

Accolades are also being handed out for some of the year’s best movies. There’s only one problem; nobody can agree on which films to award. One critics group was so divided over Best Picture that it led to a tie for two different movies.

Meanwhile, producer Jerry Bruckhiemer’s year will be ending on an up note. Though he might be on the outs with Disney after the disappointing performance of “The Lone Ranger”, the mega-producer announced a new first-look deal with Paramount Pictures.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Indiana Jones heads to Disney for a reboot, Billy Joel takes up residency at Madison Square Garden and television audiences tune-in en masse for a live performance of “The Sound of Music”.

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