Showbiz Sandbox 302: The Long Slow Death of Overnight Television Ratings

November 30, 2015

Taking a cue from cable networks like AMC and USA, Fox recently became the first major network to abandon the practice of touting overnight television ratings numbers. The move simply confirms the growing realization within the industry of a sea change in viewing habits that is having a massive impact on when shows are watched, what shows are produced and how they get promoted.

The publishing industry is undergoing its own set of struggles. New reports on book sales paint a dire picture for the ebook format and mid-size publishers. We’ll go over the numbers and explain what they actually mean.

Speaking of numbers, Adele’s new album “25” broke sales records selling 3.38 million copies in its first week, accounting for 67% of all record sales in Billboard’s Top 200. While you can hear songs from the album on the radio or purchase it via digital download and even on compact disc, Adele is not allowing you to stream it on services such as Spotify or Apple Music

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how French television series were big winners at the International Emmy Awards, why only one of this season’s new TV shows have been cancelled and Sony’s decision to stop manufacturing Betamax tapes.

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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 Turtable.fm 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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Showbiz Sandbox 195: Hollywood Exploits 9/11 Imagery For Its Implosive Blockbusters

June 19, 2013

As “Man of Steel” sets the worldwide box office aflame, the latest Superman reboot also serves as yet another example of a Hollywood blockbuster exploiting the imagery of 9/11 for apocalyptic purposes. Kyle Buchanan, the Movies Editor at New York Magazine, would like to see filmmakers stop relying on meaningless urban destruction.  He joins us to discuss his recent article calling for an end to the “orgy of gratuitous building-battering” in big budget movies.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are two filmmakers quite familiar with blockbuster movies.  Now, the directors who helped launch the modern day tentpole release are predicting an “implosion” for Hollywood, along with a handful of other pessimistic prognostications.  We’ll tell you what they had to say in a recent panel discussion.

Last week also saw Apple finally get into the music streaming business with the announcement of iTunes Radio.  Only time will tell whether Apple will be able to compete with Pandora, Spotify and all of the other existing players in the space, though we’re not overly impressed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a legal victory for Hollywood interns, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to “The Terminator” and The Muppets head to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 150: Is George Lucas A Schmuck?

June 4, 2012

Last week legendary filmmaker George Lucas announced he would be stepping down as the head of Lucasfilm and hired veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy to head up the company that bears his name. With Lucas retiring what will happen to his blockbuster franchises such as “Indian Jones”? Will we finally get a restored version of the original “Star Wars” trilogy on Blu-Ray?

Rather than retire after his long, successful run heading up Warner Bros., Alan Horn will step in as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Many industry insiders wonder if the executive who oversaw the “Harry Potter” series will have a creative role in what is perceived to largely be a babysitting position.

The Tony Awards will be held this weekend and we give you the lowdown on who has the best shot at taking home Broadway’s top honor.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a new king of late night television, Oprah’s new book club and why Hollywood and Silicon Valley should work together to stop piracy.

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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 134: Video-On-Demand Rides To The Rescue At Sundance

January 30, 2012

This year’s Sundance Film Festival came to a close last weekend awarding top prizes to a wide range of movies. Independent film industry veteran Michael Tuckman sizes up this year’s festival and highlights some of its most noteworthy movies. Tuckman explains how video-on-demand has become a big part of the distribution strategy for such films, providing them with a wider audience than traditional art houses.

IFPI also showed up with some good news last week reporting that global digital music sales were up eight percent in 2011. Subscription services such as Pandora and Spotify are helping increase revenue, though they are also eating into the advertising dollars usually reserved for local radio stations.

Meanwhile, Broadway is gearing up for its spring season with a glut of hot new productions, making it difficult to pick a front-runner for Best Musical (the most valuable – if not the only valuable – Tony Award). Best Play is also up for grabs and none of the newcomers are slam dunks.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including, Simon Cowell retooling the “X-Factor” with new hosts and judges, an upbeat earnings report from Netflix and how Ticketmaster bungled the sale of tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s latest tour… again.

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Showbiz Sandbox 129: Ticket Masters – The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped

December 12, 2011

Anyone who has ever tried to get good tickets to see their favorite band in concert knows how frustrating it can be. Josh Baron and Dean Budnick, two editors of Relix magazine, spent three years speaking to hundreds of industry veterans to research the history of modern ticketing. Their book, “Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped“, is being hailed as the most comprehensive work on the subject. In this interview they explain the real culprit behind today’s high ticket prices and provide a few ways to get the best seats in the house.

The end of the year usually marks a busy and highly profitable time in the movie industry, however box office receipts have been declining over the past two weekends to three year lows. It certainly doesn’t help that as film critics from around the nation bestow their annual awards, there doesn’t seem to be a clear frontrunner for the upcoming Oscar season.

In the music world, despite the glut of music subscription services such as Spotify, Rdio and Mog, some musicians are pulling their latest releases from the platforms. Most recently, The Black Keys have joined the likes of Coldplay in not allowing their new album to be streamed on any of the top services. Rather than help increase sales, the feeling is that these services may actually be preventing them.

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Showbiz Sandbox 122: The Real Story Behind Steve Jobs And Pixar

October 10, 2011

Millions mourned the loss of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs this past week when the innovator behind the Macintosh computer,  the iPod and others died at the age of 56. Though the endless eulogies of Jobs always mention Jobs Pixar tenure, they rarely provided any real detail. Truth is Jobs lost money with Pixar for ten years trying to turn the company into a successful computer hardware business. We’ll dive into the story of how Jobs came to own Pixar and how the company stumbled upon success in computer animation.

Of course, there has never been a Pixar film that didn’t make money. However, we often blithely dismiss one movie as being a box office loser and another as a hit even though they might seem similar in budgets and box office. When we consider a film a hit or a flop, we’re making numerous assumptions on various factors. It’s always a judgment call, but to try and explain what sort of judgments we’re making, we’ve decided to look at several different movies and explain why we consider them a hit or miss.

It’s not as hard to tell when a new television series is a flop, especially after the network cancels it. A number of new shows (“Playboy Club”) got axed this past week, while others (“New Girl”) were picked up for an entire season. One series which nearly didn’t make the cut was “The Simpsons”. After its 23rd season the animated show was nearly canceled over a contract dispute with the cast providing voices for its lovable characters.

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