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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Showbiz Sandbox 186: Bill Carter of the NY Times on Cable Ratings, Jay Leno and the Shifting Television Landscape

March 18, 2013

Bill Carter of the New York Times has been reporting on the television industry for over 30 years. Who better to ask about why nothing seems to make any sense about this year’s television season? For example, cable shows have been pulling in more viewers than any of the networks. Broadcast networks that were topping the ratings just months ago, are now struggling at the back of the pack. As if that wasn’t enough, it looks as if the battle over late night programming is heating up again.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carter touches on everything from the reason networks have been cutting back their original programming to why ratings have become so complicated to tabulate (hint: it has to do with DVRs). He explains all the troubles NBC is having not only in primetime, but also with their morning news programming. Carter literally wrote the book on late night television (actually two of them), so his thoughts about which of the ever growing list of hosts is most dominant, and why, is rather insightful.

Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival announced the selection of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as their opening night film. What stunned many Cannes veterans is that the festival would choose a film which will open theatrically in North America just five days before it premieres on the Croisette this May.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including “Django” in China, “Veronica Mars” on Kickstarter and David Bowie’s return to the music sales charts.

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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 182: Last Year’s Movies Provide A Wealth of Riches

February 18, 2013

For the past four years blogger Aaron Rich has been reviewing the movies he sees on his blog All The Movies I Watch, with a strong emphasis on independent and international titles. Last year he saw more than 500 films and says it was a good year for movies, as long as you ignored what Hollywood had to offer. Rich joins us to discuss some of his best (and worst) movies of 2012, many of which may be unfamiliar to you.

As we roll towards another Oscars ceremony, it looks as if Ben Affleck’s “Argo” is poised to take home the year’s biggest prize; Best Picture. This past weekend it topped the Writers Guild Awards, along with “Zero Dark Thirty”. We have a few last minute predictions for who might be picking up this year’s Academy Awards.

At some point all of this year’s movies will wind up on video services such as Netflix. Yet we’ll never know how popular they are on Netflix because the company won’t divulge viewership numbers. This is making it very difficult to determine whether its own original programming, such as “House of Cards”, is a success.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how movie ticket prices went up in 2012, how Universal Music Publishing Group hopes to capitalize cover versions of its songs on YouTube, and why rock legend Chubby Checker is suing a software developer for stealing his name.

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Showbiz Sandbox 169: How TV Networks Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The DVR

October 29, 2012

Major networks used to bemoan the use of DVRs out of fear that audiences would use them to skip over commercials. However, with DVRs in almost half of all US homes, they have begun touting the big audience increases some of their shows get after factoring in time shifted viewing. Scott Collins, a television reporter with the Los Angeles Times, discusses modern-day TV ratings and how the industry is coping as viewing habits change.

And if you thought television networks were in trouble, they’ve got nothing on the film industry. If you were to believe folks like film critic David Denby and a recent New York Times article, movies may not even be relevant anymore.

Talent agencies aren’t immune from all the changes affecting the industry. Last week the longtime head of ICM Partners, one of the world’s largest ten percenteries, announced he’d be leaving to start a new agency.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how a child sex abuse scandal at the BBC, the merger of publishing giants Penguin and Random House, and an Amy Winehouse musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 166: How MoviePass Unlimited Moviegoing Service Really Works

October 9, 2012

When MoviePass announced an unlimited moviegoing subscription service last year it faced stiff resistance from cinema owners and film studios. Now, MoviePass has relaunched with a revamped offering that doesn’t need approval from either group. Stacy Spikes, the CEO of MoviePass, joins us to explain why this time the company will succeed.

Over in the world of music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this year’s nominees. The likes of Randy Newman, Donna Summer, Public Enemy and Rush head up what has been considered by many to be a very weak list. At least this year however fans get to vote for their favorite nominees.

Meanwhile, Broadway has been consumed with the story of how “Rebecca”, a musical based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, went up in flames just weeks before opening. Despite having major talent enlisted to write, direct and choreograph, not to mention an ongoing ad campaign, it turns out on of the investors behind the production may have been completely made up.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a huge debut for Mumford and Sons second album, why MTV is getting out of the “Jersey Shore” business and how Lil Wayne bested Elvis (sort of).

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Showbiz Sandbox 139: Why The Music Industry Is More Brutal Than Ever

March 5, 2012

With nine different streaming services there are more ways than ever to listen to music these days. With the likes of Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, Mog and Pandora all competing for our attention and media dollars, some have argued that there is too much competition in the market and is primed for a major consolidation. Which services will survive and why? Will Amazon, Apple or Google launch there own services? We try to answer all these questions and more.

Meanwhile Harvey Weinstein is once again fighting the MPAA over the ratings for one of his films. Public figures such as Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the chorus of those opposing the R-rating which the Weinstein Company’s school bullying documentary received. Unfortunately, if “Bully” is released without a rating, movie theaters may be forced to treat it as an NC-17 film.

Former co-host Karen Woodward, joins us to run down some of the top entertainment news stories of the week including, James Spader’s departure from “The Office”, Mike Tyson’s Las Vegas show, and Random House trippling the price of e-books for libraries.

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Showbiz Sandbox 135: Is The SAG-AFTRA Merger Good For Hollywood?

February 6, 2012

After years of humoring the idea it looks as if two of Hollywood’s largest labor unions may actually merge. Detailing the history of SAG and AFTRA, Jonathan Handel, a contributing editor at The Hollywood Reporter and an entertainment attorney, explains the reasons behind why the unions might want to merge and what it all means for the entertainment industry.

The telecast of Super Bowl XLVI proved to be another ratings winner and as in previous years, is expected to be the most watched show of the year, if not all-time. Were audiences tuning in for the game or to watch Madonna’s extravagant half-time show?

Despite gaining a million subscribers last year the minuscule royalties paid by Spotify to independent musicians barely budged at all. Some industry veterans have grown weary of subscription music services and are advising they be used for promotional purposes only.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a new CEO at Sony, why you won’t see Bon Iver perform at the Grammys and how Facebook might turn U2’s Bono into a billionaire.

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Showbiz Sandbox 127: Has NBC Lost Touch With Its Community?

November 28, 2011

When NBC removed the quirky sitcom “Community” from their mid-season schedule the show’s cult following went berserk. Fans launched petitions via Twitter and Facebook and in an ironic twist, got the show selected as TV Guide Magazine’s second annual Fan Favorites winner. In a desperate effort to find success with their primetime programming, NBC has given the “Community” time slot to another acclaimed comedy with mediocre ratings, “Up All Night”. Is anyone minding the store at the struggling network, or are all these calculated strategic moves?

Maybe “Community” can be saved by Netflix. That’s not such a far fetched idea now that the video rental cum streaming service is resuscitating the long-canceled “Arrested Development” by producing another 10 episodes. Yet, as Netflix moves into original content, it stock price continues to decline as some of the companies cash flow problems are made public.

Meanwhile, 30 years after it occurred, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department has decided to reopen the case of Natalie Wood’s death. The legendary actress drowned under mysterious circumstances in 1981 while boating with her husband Robert Wagner. Could investigators actually find new evidence so long after the fact, or are they following tips from sources who might have ulterior motives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 117: Crunching The Numbers Behind Summer’s New Box Office Records

September 6, 2011

Big budget sequels and super hero movies helped push the bar on summer box office records slightly higher. North American grosses rose to $4.4 billion as overseas markets improved to $8.2 billion in receipts. But how much did all those blockbusters actually cost to produce and market? After all the money is counted, how profitable will the latest installments of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Transformers” truly be? We sharpen our pencils and do the math to answer all these questions and more.

One future blockbuster that was recently axed by Disney may actually get made after all. The studios is lowering the budget on “The Lone Ranger” by asking star Johnny Depp and filmmaker Gore Verbinski to take a pay cut.

The publishing world also seems to be doing quite well lately thanks to strong sales of digital titles. Even though the e-books may be getting all the love in mainstream media stories, Random House wants everyone to know that print books aren’t dead. In fact, the sale of hardcover and paperback books still outpaces their digital counterparts.

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