Showbiz Sandbox 344: Did the Media Bungle The 2016 Election?

November 14, 2016

We don’t cover politics on Showbiz Sandbox per se, however we do provide analysis and commentary on the worldwide media and entertainment industries. Thus, we discuss the role, and some might say the culpability, of the news media in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. While there is no doubt some divisiveness over the election of president-elect Donald Trump, there seems to be unanimous consensus that mainstream media blew it… bigly.

We also take a look at the impact the results of this year’s presidential election will have on the entertainment business. Deals currently in the works may have a tougher time getting approved, and decisions that passed years ago may be in danger of being overturned.

China meanwhile has passed a new film industry law intended to crack down on box office fraud and promote “core socialist values”. It weaves a new layer of protectionism into the business by requiring that two thirds of the country’s movie screens be reserved for Chinese films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the why IMDb is going to court over its right to post actors ages, Universal Pictures makes some changes at DreamWorks Animation and Robert Redford’s retirement plans.

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Showbiz Sandbox 342: Box Office Growth in China Begins to Fizzle

October 31, 2016

Hollywood has been talking up China’s explosive box office growth for years and the country is forecast to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world as early as next year. However, the growth in China is slowing with ticket sales down 10% this year from last year’s figures. Ryan Faughnder, a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, stops by to explain some of the reasons for the decline and what it means for major studios.

Faughnder also gives us the lowdown on how some studios, specifically Lionsgate, are turning to YouTube stars in search of their next big hit. Warner Bros. and Disney have similar efforts underway, though none have found the secret to success in transforming online talent into mainstream stars.

Meanwhile politicians and investment analysts have publicly expressed their concern over AT&T’s acquisition of TimeWarner. Some have gone so far as to say the deal can lead to “a whole bunch of different horribles for consumers”. For their part, AT&T is trying to assuage fears by moving head with its virtual cable plan.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the creator of “Mad Men” signed with Amazon for his next series, why viewership of two popular sports has decreased significantly and how the pop group ABBA is reuniting for a live performance… sort of.

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Showbiz Sandbox 341: AT&T Deal For Time Warner Makes Vertical Integration Trendy Again

October 24, 2016

Last weekend, in a sudden and unexpected deal, telecommunications giant AT&T agreed to buy the media conglomerate Time Warner for $85 billion. As its current offerings become more commoditized AT&T is looking to add content to its portfolio through picking up Time Warner, a company that counts among its assets networks such as HBO and CNN, not to mention Warner Bros. Pictures. However, this marriage is far from certain will surely come under the scrutiny of antitrust regulators.

As awards season gets underway, studios have begun releasing some of their high profile title in hopes of going after Oscar glory. Historically, that meant opening arty films in a limited number of cinemas before going wide after gaining word of mouth. We explain why that’s happening less often these days.

Meanwhile, the Wanda Group is inviting all of Hollywood, and frankly anyone producing film and TV, to its new movie studios in Qingdao, China. They are offering a 40% incentive in hopes of luring productions to the multi-billion dollar facilities, but will anyone take them up on it?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Bob Dylan might not be interested in commenting on his recent Nobel Prize award, why the “Deadpool” sequel lost its director and Garth Brooks signs an exclusive deal to stream his music on Amazon’s new service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 330: Rio Olympics Faces Competition for TV Viewers

August 8, 2016

The 2016 Summer Olympics are underway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and there are more ways to watch the games than ever before. In the United States, NBC is broadcasting 6,800 hours of coverage from Rio across 11 television channels and 41 live online streams. We look at the declining TV ratings and whether all the action is happening in primetime or online. And does that even matter?

What didn’t seem to matter at all were the dozens of negative reviews movie critics skewered threw at the latest DC Comics adaptation, “Suicide Squad”. After being universally panned, the film went on to break global and North American box office records when it opened over the weekend.

The Television Critics Association summer press tour has proven to be a hotbed of video streaming news. For instance, Time Warner bought a 10% stake in Hulu and NBC let slip they will be announcing their own streaming plans soon. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Apple wants to build a TV guide to let everyone know how and where there favorite shows can be found.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Oprah’s latest book club pick, the albums nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize and George R. R. Martin books another TV series.

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Showbiz Sandbox 311: Oscar Season Remains Uncharacteristically Unpredictable

February 8, 2016

The movie awards season remains as confusing as ever, with the Directors Guild handing out its top honor to “The Revenant”. Will this have any impact on an Oscar race in which “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” also look like major contenders? No one knows but we’ll try and sort it out.

Meanwhile, it appears Time Warner wants to join Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal as an owner of the streaming service Hulu. There’s only one catch; they’d like Hulu to stop showing all episodes from the current season of a TV series. Maybe they want to buy it so they can shut it down.

Over at Viacom, Sumner Redstone stepped down last week after a court mandated the 92-year-old would submit to a medical exam to determine his competency. Bowing to reality, Redstone resigned from his position as chairman of CBS and Viacom. Leslie Moonves is officially taking over CBS, but after daughter Shari Redstone publicly announced it wasn’t a good idea for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to take over, he did just that.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon plans to enter the retail space, ESPN plans to enter China and Matt LeBlanc is named as the new host of the popular automotive TV program, “Top Gear”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 291: Media Companies Come Clean On Cord Cutting

August 24, 2015

After years of denying cord cutting was happening on any level, several large media companies are finally confessing that cord cutting is a growing trend which may soon affect their bottom lines. After decades of steady growth, cable operators are now beginning to see flat or declining subscriber numbers as new content streaming services pop-up.

Clearly, the business models the television industry has relied on in the past are evolving rapidly, more so than movies or theater or even publishing at the moment. Yet some industry insiders believe the cable cord isn’t being cut, but that it’s slowly fraying as the definition of what it means to be a television network has changed.

Some media companies aren’t waiting to study market indicators before making strategic moves. Last week NBCUniversal made a $200-million investment in the online news outlet Buzzfeed, leaving many to wonder how this could possibly benefit the network.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how boy band One Direction wants to take a break, why Spotify wants to breach your privacy and Cirque du Soleil is headed to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 289: In Hollywood Fame and Fortune Is Often Relative

August 10, 2015

There is no dispute that in the entertainment business, just like in any other industry, money is the fuel that keeps the engine running. Yet raising it, accounting for it, paying it back and doling out profits is becoming more complex for media companies. Indeed, making a fortune in show business is anything but easy or straight forward.

Take Relativity Media for example. The upstart movie studio and its brash CEO Ryan Kavanaugh were going to change the way Hollywood operated and movies were made. However now they’ve filed for bankruptcy. We’ll provide some background and explain the details of what could wind up being the largest studio bankruptcy ever.

Movie moguls aren’t the only one’s struggling to mind their dollars and cents. Legendary musician David Byrne wants record labels to be more transparent about where all the money is going in the music business. Meanwhile the Authors Guild has a few thoughts of its own when it comes to copyright and revenue from book sales.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Jon Stewart’s last “Daily Show”, staff turmoil at Rolling Stone magazine and changes afoot in film distribution strategies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 276: Agency Wars Have A Long History in Hollywood

April 13, 2015

Even in the best of times being a Hollywood talent agent has never been an easy job.  The dog eat dog nature of the agency business has never been more apparent than during the last few weeks when 11 agents suddenly defected from Creative Artists Agency, one of the industry’s leading agencies, to become partners at a rival firm, United Talent Agency. Following in the footsteps of their agents were A-list clients such as Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianiakis, Ed Helms, Melissa McCarthy and Chris Pratt.

This isn’t the first time big shot agents have deserted their agencies for greener pastures and taken their clients with them, nor will it be the last. In fact, CAA was founded in 1975 when Michael Ovitz along with Ron Meyer and several other agents, abruptly departed the William Morris Agency to form their own firm. The now legendary Ari Emanuel did the same thing 20 years later to start Endeavor.

Meanwhile, changes are also afoot in how television networks want advertisers to pay for commercial time. Two major conglomerates, Time Warner and Viacom, are moving away from Nielsen ratings and offering to let advertisers pay for the “impact” their ads have through metrics such as increased brand recognition, increased loyalty program registrations and consumer engagement on social media.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jay-Z makes a streaming media play with Tidal, filmmaker David Lynch backs out of “Twin Peaks” reboot, and NBC selects “The Wiz” as its next live televised musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 254: Are HBO and CBS Really Really Becoming Cord-Cutters?

October 21, 2014

The entertainment industry was stunned last week when Time Warner announced plans for HBO to go over the top. The premium cable channel intends to offer a standalone service in the US come 2015 that won’t require a cable subscription. Legions of cord-cutters rejoiced upon learning the news, but what they weren’t actually hearing about were the details of how the new plan would work.

Just a day later the broadcast network CBS offered a bit more information about their upcoming Access All In streaming service. The network will begin offering their programming directly to viewers via the web and mobile apps at a cost of $6 per month.

Both of these landmark moves are being seen as bellwethers for how television will be distributed in the future and they come with all sorts of ramifications. Will selecting television channels a la carte actually increase our cable bills? What do all these new services mean for net neutrality? What does all of this mean for Netflix? We’ll explain.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon’s deal with Simon & Schuster, Neil Patrick Harris gets tapped to host next year’s Oscars and why pop-star Lorde is persona non grata in San Francisco.

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Showbiz Sandbox 249: Why Film Festivals Are More Important Than Ever

September 16, 2014

Anne Thompson, an editor at Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire, just spent the past two weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before she heads off to the New York Film Festival. Thompson takes us through some of the noteworthy films we’ll be seeing in coming months and discuss the important role festivals play in creating buzz before a movie’s commercial release.

The competition for landing premieres of noteworthy titles has become so fierce that Toronto switched up its programming this year to give less prominence to any film screening a week earlier at Telluride. One aspect of each festival which is unlikely to change is their reputation for selecting films that go on to win Best Picture Oscars.

While fall festivals might be the talk of the film industry, television executives have been preoccupied with their over-the-top strategies. As audiences switch to OTT offerings from Amazon to Roku, networks are experimenting with direct-to-consumer offerings while contending with increasingly meaningless overnight ratings.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including opting-out of a free U2 album, Microsoft picks up “Minecraft” and Netflix’s invasion of Europe.

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