Showbiz Sandbox 253: Nielsen Is Rating TV Shows By The (Wrong) Numbers

The method by which television ratings are collected and tabulated has long been criticized as imperfect. Now Nielsen, the research firm which provides the ratings, admitted this past week it had been reporting inaccurate audience figures to broadcast networks for the past seven months. Turns out viewership of this year’s season premieres was lower than originally thought. We’ll try and explain what the heck is going on here?

Comedian Adam Sandler is back in the news, though this time it’s for a movie which isn’t being made… even by Netflix. And just as she hits her stride as an action star, actress Scarlett Johansson (temporarily) gives up movies to appear in a television mini-series.

Even the world of live theater is a bit bizarre lately, at least according to composer Stephen Sondheim who is working on a new musical based on two surreal movies by the late Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. If that’s not crazy enough, the biggest box office winner on Broadway this fall has been “The Lion King”, a musical that has been running for 17 years.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Katy Perry books a trip to the Super Bowl, e-book software that spies on you and the fifth season of “The Walking Dead” premieres to record numbers… or so we’ve been told.

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Showbiz Sandbox 236: Getting Sleep At This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

It’s the middle of May so that must mean it is once again time for the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most anticipated and prestigious annual events of the international film industry. This year’s Festival du Film is stocked with titles by auteurs considered to be the world’s crème de la crème. Whether it’s a selection from festival favorite Ken Loach or a timely political movie from Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, we’ll tell you all about the films that have been hits with the critics and attendees.

Meanwhile, cable and broadcast networks held their annual upfronts in New York last week to announce which series we’ll be watching next season (and which ones they’ve cancelled). The question is with most of the networks moving toward year round programming, are upfronts still an effective method to sell advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission finally published their open internet notice last week managing to please just about nobody. This comes as media companies continue to consolidate with AT&T announcing their plans to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, labor disputes at the Metropolitan Opera and Conan O’Brien’s contract gets renewed.

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Showbiz Sandbox 65: Hollywood’s Love/Hate Relationship With Twitter

Last summer a number of movies had enormous box office drop offs in their second day of release and studios blamed it on what they termed the Twitter Effect. Daniel Frankel from The Wrap joins us to explain how the social media trend that was going to revolutionize word-of-mouth hasn’t demonstrably done so. Platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and even text messaging seem to influence moviegoers more than Twitter. That hasn’t stopped studios from finding modest success on Twitter by purchasing trending topics.

A number of big television news stories broke over the past week thanks to the annual Television Critics Association press tour. Ellen DeGeneres resigned as a judge on “American Idol”, but Fox may be replacing her with Jennifer Lopez. Meanwhile, Stephen McPherson, the president of ABC, abruptly resigned under a cloud of controversy relating to rumored sexual harassment investigations and was promptly replaced by ABC Family topper Paul Lee.

In the music world Kanye West may be hoping the Twitter effect will help boost sales of his upcoming album. The hip-hop star made headlines by opening a Twitter account and turning up at Facebook headquarters to entertain employees.

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Showbiz Sandbox 60: Reality TV Doesn’t Kid Around

If you are a minor working on a reality television series it turns out there are no child labor laws that protect you. A month long investigation by the Los Angeles Times found  dozens of kids appearing on reality programs without legal safeguards due to widespread uncertainty about how to classify the shows. Times staff writers Matea Gold and Richard Verrier reveal that most of the popular shows had not obtained work permits to employ minors. Gold joins us this week to provide all the details.

It was good news and bad news at the box office. Good news for “Toy Story 3”, which finished in first place for the second week and bad news for Tom Cruise, whose latest movie, “Knight and Day” didn’t open to boffo numbers. If you’d like to place a bet on how much Cruise’s next movie might make, you might never get the chance. The U.S. Congress is set to pass a financial reform bill that would prevent two box office futures exchanges from operating.

The government is also getting involved in the annual Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, and not in a good way. The events promoters was subpoenaed last week for an anti-trust investigation. Turns out the “radius clause” in Lollapalooza’s contract is preventing Chicago night clubs from booking musical acts. Maybe Coachella’s booking rules aren’t so bad after all.

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