Showbiz Sandbox 225: Comcast and TimeWarner Cable Is A Marriage Made In….

February 17, 2014

The proposed merger of Comcast and TimeWarner Cable has presented industry analysts with a number of complicated questions. Providing some of the answers is David Gelles, a business reporter for the New York Times, who joins us to provide background and insight into a transformative $45 billion deal that would combine the two largest media and technology providers in North America.

Though there are no legislative restrictions, will the U.S. government try to prevent to the two cable giants from consolidating? What concessions will the regulators ask of Comcast if allowing the merger to go through? How will consolidation give Comcast leverage in negotiations with content providers? Would the combined companies have too much control over the media? Most importantly, what does all of this mean for consumers?

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the BAFTA awards were handed out over the weekend to films with strong British ties. That wasn’t the case at the Berlin Film Festival where Chinese movies took home the top prizes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” debut, actress Ellen Page’s inspiring coming-out speech, and an update on actor Shia Labeouf’s latest performance art stunt.

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Showbiz Sandbox 224: How Leno’s Departure Will Affect Late Night and Los Angeles

February 10, 2014

When Jay Leno signed off as host of “The Tonight Show” last week he left late night television and the city of Los Angeles in different states than when he first began the job 22-years earlier. Scott Collins, TV reporter for the Los Angeles Times, discusses the legacy Leno leaves behind in a late night landscape that now includes two dozen shows, along with what “The Tonight Show’s” move to New York City means for L.A. production jobs.

If you weren’t one of the more than 14 million viewers tuning in to Leno’s last late night stints, then maybe you’re watching the Winter Olympics. Networks such as NBC in the United States are making it easier to stream the Olympic Games online… sort of. The catch is that you must already be a subscriber to cable or satellite television services.

Meanwhile the Berlin Film Festival is currently taking place in Germany though the person making most of the headlines at the event is an actor who claims to no longer be famous. Can you guess who it is? (Hint: It’s Shia Labeouf).

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including singer Clay Aiken’s run for seat in Congress, Fox puts an end to the “X Factor” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers get called out for miming their Super Bowl halftime performance.

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Showbiz Sandbox 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

November 11, 2013

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

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Showbiz Sandbox 163: Plenty To Feel Good About at Telluride and Toronto

September 17, 2012

Anne Thompson has just returned from two whirlwind weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. The editor of Indiewire’s Thompson On Hollywood blog is happy to report that, despite all the doomsayers, there is still reason to believe there are plenty of good studio and independent movies awaiting release this year. Thompson joins us for a discussion about this year’s festivities and tells us which films came out ahead as the awards season kicks off in earnest.

Someone who knows a few things about good how to make good movies is Tom Rothman, the Co-Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment along with Jim Gianopulos. Rothman announced he would be stepping down on January 1st, ending his 18-year tenure as head of the studio. Gianopulos, on the other hand, is sticking around to run the studio on his own.

The new TV season ramped up last week with the debut of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show and the season premiere of “Sons of Anarchy” pulling in big ratings.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, two new judges on “American Idol” and why streaming music could be bad for the environment.

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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 101: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office

May 2, 2011

Starting out on the streets of Brooklyn, New York as a drug dealer in the late 1980s, hip-hop star Jay-Z has transformed himself into a recognizable brand encompassing music, clothing, restaurants, nightclubs and an NBA basketball team. Our guest this week is Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg who tells the improbable story of how Jay-Z rose to the top of the business world in his new book, “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office“.

Another brand that has proven their business acumen is home video subscription service Netflix. The company, which reported record first quarter numbers this past week, soon will have a number of competitors, including the likes of YouTube, DirecTV and Comcast.

Maybe Vin Diesel can turn himself into a mega-brand, proving he can still open a film on a global scale with “Fast Five”, the fifth installment in the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise. The film earned mega-bucks this past weekend, despite being up against the summer blockbuster “Thor” in international territories.

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Showbiz Sandbox 100: In Showbiz, As In Life, Size Matters

April 25, 2011

It’s hard to believe we’ve recorded 100 episodes of Showbiz Sandbox. It’s also hard to believe that a 3D porno (okay, an erotic comedy) could ever smash a box office record set by “Avatar”. But that’s exactly what happened in Hong Kong, where “Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy” opened to USD $2.19 million. The producers wanted to screen the film in Imax, but were refused, disappointing Karen Woodward, our guest and former co-host, who says that despite all the rumors, size does matter.

If bigger really is better, then Netflix has nothing to worry about. They are set to become the largest subscription entertainment business in the United States with over 23 million customers, beating out satellite radio and cable television. The same can’t be said about any of the music streaming services that Apple, Google and others are working on. Apparently, negotiating a licensing deal with record labels can be quite difficult. Go figure!

The Coachella Music Festival also took the size issue to heart, adding more space for attendees to enjoy the more than 100 bands which performed this year. J. Sperling Reich was there and tells us which artists are worth checking out (Lauryn Hill), and which shouldn’t quit their day jobs (Odd Future).

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Showbiz Sandbox 37: Conan and Leno’s Late Shift Shrift

January 11, 2010

It’s official: Simon Cowell will be leaving “American Idol” this season and NBC (finally!) admits that airing “The Jay Leno Show” in primetime five nights a week was a mistake. Cowell is headed off to start a new reality talent show, “X Factor”, while Jay Leno is headed back to his old late night time slot, at least for a half-hour. But where will Conan O’Brien’s tonight show end up? Right now NBC wants to push him back a half hour.

In theaters, “Avatar” just will not go away. It stays firm at the top of the box office again this week. “Daybreakers” staring Ethan Hawke, also did well in its debut, but the Amy Adams vehicle “Leap Year” didn’t leap anywhere.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) tries to sell us on 3D television and video rental service Netflix reaches an important agreement with Warner Bros.

David Colker, a business reporter covering technology for the Los Angeles Times gives us the low down on CES, espcially all the 3D televisions announced at the show (which aren’t even available for sale yet). Do consumers even want 3D television? More importantly, how are we prepared to wear those funny 3D glasses at home? Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 34: Hollywood’s Box Office Billions Set New Record

December 21, 2009

We are joined this week by two of the film industry’s top box office pundits, Paul Dergarabedian of and Daniel Frankel of They help us understand how the North American box office surpassed $10 billion in 2009 while releasing few films during an economic recession. Of course, we also touch on “Avatar’s” opening weekend box office and the worldwide spin it’s distributor claims makes the film a huge hit.

But we promise this week’s episode won’t be entirely about Avatar! We also discuss the untimely death of actress Brittany Murphy and the rumor mongering it set off among online tabloids. The Golden Globe nominations were announced mid week. Were there any surprises? What about snubs? Which noms will carry over to the Oscars, and what can be done to get audiences to actually watch the Oscars?

There’s also a ton of television and music news, such as the rumor that Simon Cowell might leave “American Idol” (oh no!), the list of next year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (ABBA!) and an old Rage Against The Machine song beating out this year’s winner of “X Factor” on the U.K. singles charts during Christmas week (huh?!). Read more