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

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 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

Thanks to mobile devices, laptops, streaming video, DVRs and good old fashioned live viewing, it’s never been easier to watch your favorite television shows. However this explosion of viewing options has made it harder to keep track of how many people view each show, precisely when and on what device. Despite the difficulty of getting accurate figures networks still feel the need to report overnight ratings even if they don’t reflect a program’s total viewership.

We propose taking a new approach to television ratings that might fix this problem. For starters stop making a distinction between broadcast and cable networks. Same goes for differentiating ratings based on a show’s specific time slot or which day it airs on. And those are just a few of the suggestions we debate.

Another complicated issue the entertainment industry is grappling with is net neutrality. The FCC is reportedly weighing a “hybrid” solution to open Internet legislation which would classify entities as either wholesale or retail providers. Granted, there is no clear cut way to make such categorizations and consumers could wind up getting stuck with higher broadband fees, but why quibble over details?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams may be headed to court to defend their hit song “Blurred Lines”, movie theaters ban the use of wearable devices like Google Glass and Taylor Swift once again dominates album sales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 244: Hollywood Faces An Epic Struggle Over the Future of Entertainment Distribution

Whether it’s movies streaming online before they premiere in theaters, the never-ending retransmission dispute between television networks and cable companies or the dwindling number of book retailers, how media companies are distributing their content has never been more in flux.

The Weinstein Company released their critically acclaimed release “Snowpiercer” on VOD just two weeks after the film opened in cinemas. Then they agreed to let “One Chance”, a biopic of talent show winner Paul Potts, stream free on Yahoo! ten days before the movie opens in the United States.

Meanwhile, rather than sell you books, Amazon is hoping you’ll be willing to pay a monthly fee for their new e-book subscription service. The only problem is the service’s limited selection (not to mention the company’s inability to make a profit), making us wonder whether such a business model is viable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Weird Al Yankovic’s album wound up at the top of the sales charts, the Emmy’s snub broadcast networks and Garth Brooks comes out of retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 238: Movies With Subtitles – Cinéma Internationale est Morte

Even though subtitles appear more often in mainstream movies like “Avatar”, “Inglorious Basterds” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, North American audiences aren’t any more comfortable with them than they had been historically. In a detailed piece for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman reports that foreign language films are struggling at both the U.S. box office and in ancillary distribution channels. Kaufman joins us for an in-depth discussion about the endangered state of world cinema.

We’ve just returned from this year’s Book Expo America, the largest annual book trade show in the U.S. The good news is that the publishing industry is actively engaging in digital instead of being frightened by out. Unfortunately, everyone was concerned that an ongoing contract dispute between publishing giant Hachette and online book retailer Amazon is a sign of a contentious future.

Meanwhile the Tony Awards will be held next weekend honoring the best productions and brightest talent to emerge from Broadway over the past year. Hugh Jackman is hosting the ceremony which will feature performances from Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel and even Sting. The real money however, will be earned by whoever takes home the trophies for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a movie poster that’s a little too risqué for the MPAA, director James Cameron teams up with Cirque du Soleil and the record price NBC is charging for a 30-second ad during next year’s Super Bowl.

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Showbiz Sandbox 229: Making South by Southwest A Family Affair

Countless bands long to play at South by Southwest, the music festival that takes place in Austin, Texas every March. The event has grown into an important showcases for undiscovered, unsigned and fast rising artists. The Family Crest, an indie rock band from San Francisco, is one of the buzzworthy acts that played at this year’s SxSW. Liam McCormick, the group’s songwriter and founding member, joins us to discuss what it’s being officially invited to play at such a prestigious festival.

In an in-depth conversation, McCormick walks us through how The Family Crest has managed to follow through on all the necessary achievements modern bands strive for in search of success; they’ve funded two albums via Kickstarter which feature hundreds of musicians, they’re signed to an indie record label and NPR is touting the group’s music, which of course can be easily found on all the popular streaming services. On top of all that, television series and advertising campaigns have begun licensing their music.

Much like The Family Crest, Disney is doing quite well for itself these days, at least when it comes to Broadway. What’s surprising is that it isn’t one of the company’s hot new productions that’s the highest grossing production on the Great White Way, but rather “The Lion King”, which opened 16 years ago. It’s all thanks to the new trend of dynamic ticket pricing. We’ll explain.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why the NFL is suing M.I.A., Amazon prepares to enter the streaming music business, and “Big Bang Theory” gets renewed for three whole seasons.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

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Showbiz Sandbox 178: Sex Sells At Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival has a reputation of programming edgy, independent films that often reflect the spirit and sentiment of the country. The festival must think the nation is in a lascivious mood since many of the films at this year’s event are rather racy.

In fact, at least three films at this year’s festival focus on pornography, including “Lovelace” a biopic of the world’s first pornstar. Whether it’s suburban lesbian mothers turning into prostitutes or two best friends having affairs with each other’s sons, Sundance has been hot and steamy.

If the number of distribution deals at this year’s festival is any indication however, Sundance is surely on the right track.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including controversial action figures for “Django Unchained”, Hanks and Spielberg head to war again, and Robert Iger’s big salary raise.

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Showbiz Sandbox 143: “Mommy Porn” Is Hollywood’s Hot New Trend

Hollywood studios spent this past week waging a bidding war for a book derived from fan fiction stories on “Twilight” websites. Universal Pictures wound up paying an estimated $5 million for E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey”, an erotic novel that has become a best selling phenomenon despite only being published as an e-book. Producers now must figure out how to handle the graphic sexual content found in titles the media has dubbed “mommy porn”.

Last week also marked the merger of SAG and AFTRA, the unions representing actors. Members of both groups overwhelmingly voted to join forces to create the largest bargaining group in Hollywood. Only time will tell if presenting a united front will give the thespians more power to negotiate better contracts.

Meanwhile, the popular music streaming service Spotify has decided to allow unlimited free listening indefinitely. While this is good news for music fans, how will Spotify, which has yet to turn a profit, pay increased licensing fees to all the record labels?

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Showbiz Sandbox 95: The Media Is Charlie Sheen’s Worst Enabler

It’s hard to believe that we’re writing headlines about Charlie Sheen for the second week in a row. Alas, the actor went on a whirlwind media campaign let the world know he was ready to go back to work on his hit sitcom. Mainstream media reveled in an endless supply of Sheen’s erratic and manic behavior, portraying him as a deluded, drugged out narcissist.

Eric Deggans, the television and media critic for the St. Petersburg Times, stops by to discuss his NPR commentary piece on how mixed-race couples are portrayed on network television. However, we get sidetracked when news arrives that Sheen has been fired from “Two And A Half Men”.

During Inside Baseball we are joined by Andrew Wallenstein of PaidContent (and soon Variety) who explains why movie studios should start a war over premium video-on-demand.

We also cover all the week’s top entertainment news including Google’s rumored music service, “American Idol’s” ratings dominance, Courtney Love’s Twitter lawsuit and Oprah’s struggling cable network.

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Showbiz Sandbox 84: A Black List Every Screenwriter Wants To Be On

Since 2005 Hollywood studio executive Franklin Leonard has compiled an annual list of the industry’s “most liked” unproduced screenplays. Dubbed The Black List, past selections have gone on to win Academy Awards (“Juno”) or be turned into critically acclaimed films (“The Social Network”). Leonard talks about the project he began on a whim and how it has grown to a point where it can help launch a screenwriter’s career.

Also joining us on this week’s show is Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times. Boucher explains how he recently broke two big stories in the film world. His first scoop was about filmmaker Jon Favreau who, after helming the first two installments of the Iron Man franchise, has opted not to direct “Iron Man 3”. Instead he’ll make a big budget film about Disneyland. That’s right… Disneyland. Meanwhile, Boucher also spoke at length with director Ron Howard who is working closely with author Stephen King to adapt the writer’s “Dark Tower” series for the big screen.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association had many in Hollywood scratching their heads this week after they announced their Golden Globe nominations. Exactly how (or why) they nominated an action film such as “The Tourist” in the Best Musical or Comedy category is anybody’s guess.

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