Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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Showbiz Sandbox 293: Why Forecasting Box Office Has Become So Difficult

September 7, 2015

Though this year’s North American summer box office may wind up being the second biggest on record at $4.4 billion, movie studios are finding it far more difficult to predict opening weekend grosses. An article in the Hollywood Reporter details how tracking pre-release box office has become unreliable in an age when social media buzz and movie review aggregation have become so prevalent.

Word-of-mouth can now spread so quickly that movies like “Ted 2” can be doomed 24 hours after release, opening 33% below its estimated $50 million first weekend gross. And it’s not just flops that suffer tracking mishaps, as evidenced by “Jurassic World” bowing to $208 million, 60% more than originally anticipated.

Until now, Apple hasn’t had to worry about movie box office or even television ratings, but all that might change if rumors the company is getting into producing original content are at all true.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Aretha Franklin wound up in court last week, why DreamWorks is leaving Disney and who the Academy selected to produce next year’s Oscar telecast.

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

August 17, 2015

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 288: This Summer’s Box Office Is Turning Into A Blockbuster

July 27, 2015

A string of big budget Hollywood sequels and prequels like “Jurassic World”, “Avengers” and “Minions” have driven the 2015 summer box office nearly 15% higher than last year. And not just in the United States. Countries all over the world are reporting strong movie attendance, especially in China where homegrown productions have been the top grossing releases.

It doesn’t hurt that North American moviegoers are currently paying the highest ticket prices on record. Just ask IMAX which just reported the highest quarterly earnings in the company’s history.

It isn’t all good news for Hollywood studios however. The European Union is charging the six major distributors with antitrust violations over what regulators allege are illegal licensing contracts with cable operators. Should the EU prove their case, it could cause havoc by eradicating longstanding entertainment industry business models.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Emmy Award nominations, the approval of AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, why Neil Young is yanking his music from streaming services.

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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 279: “Carol”, “Amy” and “Saul” Stand Tall At Cannes

May 18, 2015

It is impossible to see all the films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but halfway through the 68th edition at least three films have scored some positive buzz, all of them about tortured souls. Director Todd Haynes is leading the pack with “Carol” a film about repressed sexuality set in the 1950s, the Hungarian entry “Son of Saul” set in a Nazi concentration camp and “Amy” a powerful and moving documentary about the life of singer “Amy Winehouse”.

From the official screenings to the behind-the-scenes press conferences, we give you all the ins and outs of this year’s Cannes, including the world premiere of Pixar’s “Inside Out” which wowed attendees. Join us for our annual trip to the south of France.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, television networks have been busy selling advertising for next season’s lineup at the upfronts. We’ll tell you which shows got canceled, which new series got picked up and whether the television season has become year round.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the BAFTA TV Awards, David Lynch heads back to “Twin Peaks” again and “American Idol” sings its final note.

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Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

April 27, 2015

When theater owners and film distributors from around the world convened last week for CinemaCon in Las Vegas they were presented with a slate of upcoming blockbusters and cutting edge innovations which forecast an optimistic future for the industry. After ending last year with the most depressed box office returns in recent memory, 2015 is shaping up to break all records with at least four films potentially grossing more than a billion dollars.

Adding to the optimistic outlook are emerging technologies that enhance the experience of going to the cinema. Upgrades such as immersive sound, laser projection and high dynamic range may help lure certain demographics back to theaters. Teenagers and young adults, for instance, have seen declining attendance since 2007 as the number of on-demand entertainment options began expanding.

Meanwhile, cable giant Comcast called off its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable after government agencies informed the company they would actively work to block the merger. Regulators believed the deal, which many feared but felt would ultimately be approved, might allow Comcast to dominate not just cable television, but more importantly high speed Internet access.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of “Sabado Gigante”, how WikiLeaks got involved in the Sony cyberattack and Netflix just keeps growing.

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Showbiz Sandbox 257: Debating President Obama’s Position On Net Neutrality

November 10, 2014

President Obama finally weighed in on the battle over net neutrality calling for the FCC to reclassify broadband providers as utilities under Title II of Telecommunications Act. This inflamed the war between those who believe such a move is mandatory and others who fear bureaucratic regulation will have the unintended consequence of throttling future development and investment in technology. We do our best to debate both sides of a very contentious issue.

Leaking copyrighted content online however, is an issue everyone can agrees is bad. Marvel Entertainment showed how to handle just such a scenario with aplomb when a leaked copy of the trailer for their highly anticipated sequel to “Avengers” hit the Internet before its official release. We’ll fill you in on Marvel’s immediate and exemplary response.

While we’re on the subject of responses, there’s no question how Taylor Swift’s new album was received by her fans. They gobbled up more than 1.2 million copies during its first week on sale. That’s more than the next 106 albums on the weekly sales chart combined.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Lemony Snicket on Netflix, Matt Damon returns to Jason Bourne and Pixar gears up for another “Toy Story”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 221: Sundance Returns To Its Indie Roots (Again)

January 20, 2014

Celebrities, filmmakers and industry executives are in the midst of their annual pilgrimage to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. Thanks to digital technology it’s never been easier to make or distribute a low budget film. This has led to a glut of indie productions looking for audiences and no way to know which are worth watching.

This year’s Sundance began the day Oscar nominations were handed out and the festival’s founder was overlooked for his critically praised performance in “All Is Lost”. (Awkward). With nine films competing for Best Picture, and guild awards not being hounded out to consistent winners, it looks as if this will be one of the closest Oscar races in recent memory.

Meanwhile, an appeals court ruling may have finally killed Net Neutrality, much to the joy of Internet service providers everywhere. This means the cost of streaming online music and video may soon rise significantly.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a Broadway bound musical adaptation of Disney’s “Frozen”, the declining appeal (and ratings) of “American Idol” and the most popular show on daytime television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 215: How Many Music Streaming Services Does It Take To Make A Profit?

December 2, 2013

Just when you thought the online music streaming space couldn’t get any more crowded or competitive, along comes Deezer. The French company already boasts 5 million paying subscribers in 80 countries and now plans to launch in the United States, where Spotify and Pandora are the market leaders. However, none of these companies are actually profitable, which may be why services like Rdio went through a round of layoffs in November and is shuttering.

Profitability seems to be an issue for Sony Pictures too. The movie studio lost $181 million last quarter leading to the announcement of significant cost cutting measures in the wake of some summer box office duds.

Disappointing earnings and a declining subscriber base are also a problem at Time Warner Cable. As telcos and satellite providers continue to erode their market share, rumors have begun swirling that the second largest cable operator in North America might be acquired by one or more of its competitors, including Comcast.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Thanksgiving weekend’s record breaking box office, “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” lowers the curtains on its Broadway run and the mediocre sales figures of Lady Gaga’s latest album.

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