Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

Comcast announced last week that it would acquire Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, taking another step toward transforming themselves from a cable giant into a full fledged media conglomerate. Meg James, a corporate media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, join us to discuss how, though the deal may not have been anticipated, it makes a lot of sense for both companies.

The purchase is the most recent in a string of acquisitions that have closely mirrored the strategy Disney has executed over the past decade as they gobbled up companies such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Comcast has proven quite adept at turning undervalued assets such as NBCUniversal and Universal Studios theme parks into profitable entities.

Meanwhile, as the Tony Awards season officially kicks off, Broadway is suffering from what is being referred to as The Hamilton Effect. This is a condition in which you open a musical that blends hip-hop and history in a way that not only makes the show a cultural phenomenon, but the inevitable winner of this year’s much coveted Best Musical Tony.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Daytime Emmy winners, why Fox is pulling out of this year’s Comic-Con convention and how French law enforcement is preparing for the Cannes Film Festival.

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Showbiz Sandbox 319: The Changing Tide of Music Distribution

Almost three years after Beyoncé made a big splash by releasing a secret album via iTunes, the pop star has snuck up the world once again with her latest work, a video album called “Lemonade”. This time however Beyoncé was strategic in how she distributed her album, premiering it with an HBO special, then exclusively to the streaming music service Tidal, before ultimately turning back to iTunes. More and more, big name acts are controlling how and to whom their music gets distributed.

Multi-genre musician Prince was way ahead of his time when it came to controlling how his music reaches the world. The legendary artist died suddenly last week leaving behind a lifetime of work a great deal of which was never released. We discuss the many fascinating ways the unexpected death of Prince was covered by the media and his sometimes unique distribution methods.

We’ll also take a look at the introduction of a new cinematic camera that has the potential to revolutionize filming and post-production by allowing to filmmakers “to effectively capture the color, direction and placement of every ray of light”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including some behind the scenes drama at the morning talk shows, why China shut down some of the Apple iTunes stores and how Hollywood is making its way to West Africa.

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Showbiz Sandbox 317: Bundling Cable Networks May Work For Advertisers, But Not For Cable Customers

In yet another sign that the difference between broadcast and cable networks is eroding, NBCUniversal announced that it would include all of its cable outlets in their traditional upfront presentation to advertisers for NBC. By combining shows from networks such as Bravo, Telemundo and Oxygen with the big primetime hits on NBC, the Comcast owned media giant is signaling that the best way for advertisers to reach viewers is through aggregating audiences.

Time Warner Cable, on the other hand, is struggling to distribute its own content through different cable providers. Specifically, none of the other pay-TV companies is willing to force their customers to pay for SportsNet LA, the regional sports network owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Could this be an indication that cable operators finally understand that technology will force them to unbundle their basic cable offering?

Meanwhile, short, cheap and entertaining books – once called dime store novels or pulp fiction – are making a comeback. As are serialized novels, short stories and lots of things that don’t fit into the 250 pages or more standard of most books today. Technology and the need to hold the attention of readers are the reasons it’s happening.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the controversial film pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival lineup, the death of comedian Gary Shandling and the porn industry gets into virtual reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 298: Predicting The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

Among the 2016 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this past week were legendary musical acts like The Smiths that will surely be inducted, unheralded backing groups such as the J.B.s that are a long shot and even a popular 1970s funk band, Chic, that has now been nominated ten times. The nominations that generated the most media discussion were probably for pop star Janet Jackson and N.W.A., the hip hop group which popularized gansta rap. We debate which of this year’s nominees are deserving of induction and which are real head scratchers.

Meanwhile government and film industry regulators in China agreed to allow greater oversight into their box office receipts through a public website. Only time will tell whether this was a symbolic gesture meant to assuage Hollywood studios or a true step toward more transparency.

We’ll also dip back into book publishing, where despite recent setbacks many companies are trying to launch all-you-can read subscription services.. Given the numbers revealed by Amazon for its Kindle Unlimited program, it appears authors don’t have much to gain.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lifetime achievement award for composer John Williams, the plans to adapt Nancy Drew for television and Woody Allen goes digital.

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Showbiz Sandbox 283: Why Apple Is Cannibalizing Its Own Music Sales

Apple finally announced its long rumored music streaming service last week, which is meant to compete with market leaders Pandora and Spotify. The offering seems in direct conflict with the ongoing business of the largest music retailer in the world, but as Ryan Faughnder of the Los Angeles Times points out, Apple may have had no choice since iTunes digital music sales have significantly decreased.

Now, the music industry is hoping that Apple can ride to their rescue once again, as they did with digital music previously, by attracting the large subscriber base required to make music streaming profitable. Faughnder gives us his thoughts on what the new service means to the business, and tells us how competitors have responded to Apple’s entrance into the market.

There seemed to be no competition for “Jurassic World” during its theatrical debut. The film was released globally and gobbled up opening weekend box office records both in North America and internationally, earning more $500 million in just three days. That gross is more than the combined weekend receipts for every other film currently in theaters worldwide.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Rupert Murdoch steps down as CEO of 21st Century Fox, video games get their own hall of fame and what happened when Dave Grohl of the rock band Foo Fighters broke his leg in the middle of a concert.

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Showbiz Sandbox 279: “Carol”, “Amy” and “Saul” Stand Tall At Cannes

It is impossible to see all the films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but halfway through the 68th edition at least three films have scored some positive buzz, all of them about tortured souls. Director Todd Haynes is leading the pack with “Carol” a film about repressed sexuality set in the 1950s, the Hungarian entry “Son of Saul” set in a Nazi concentration camp and “Amy” a powerful and moving documentary about the life of singer “Amy Winehouse”.

From the official screenings to the behind-the-scenes press conferences, we give you all the ins and outs of this year’s Cannes, including the world premiere of Pixar’s “Inside Out” which wowed attendees. Join us for our annual trip to the south of France.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, television networks have been busy selling advertising for next season’s lineup at the upfronts. We’ll tell you which shows got canceled, which new series got picked up and whether the television season has become year round.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the BAFTA TV Awards, David Lynch heads back to “Twin Peaks” again and “American Idol” sings its final note.

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Showbiz Sandbox 240: Nikki Finke Is Back! And This Time It’s Personal

An infamous entertainment industry journalist who causes Hollywood executives to break into cold sweats is back on the interwebs. Nikki Finke, the founder and former editor of Deadline Hollywood whom the New York Times once dubbed “a digital-age Walter Winchell”, launched her new website last week. Using her trademark brash and personal writing style, Finke admits she is ready to spill some show business blood.

Amazon appears to be just as aggressive as Finke when negotiating with their suppliers. First the online retailer started making it difficult to purchase books from the publisher Hachette. Now they’re taking the same approach with Warner Bros. movies as they come to a new agreement with the studio. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers we’ll all be buying more of our media on digital platforms rather than physical ones anyway.

The platform the Metropolitan Opera cares most about is the stage. However New York’s opera company is weathering some tough negotiations of its own as it tries to balance big salaries with a shrinking endowment. A recent tax filing has revealed the Met’s inner financial workings, including some of the hefty salaries it pays to employees and performers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Matt Lauer extends his contract at NBC, Bjork gets selected by the Museum of Modern Art and actor Harrison Ford takes that “break a leg” saying to a whole new level on the set of the new Star Wars movie.

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

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 219: The Business of Show Was Profitable In 2013

Almost every sector of the entertainment industry saw record grosses during 2013. North American movie ticket sales reached a record $10.9 billion. Television audiences are tuning in to more shows than ever, especially sporting events. The top 20 concert tours made a whopping $2.43 billion. It all helped contribute to the bottom lines of many entertainment companies causing their stock prices to end the year on a high note.

The only category in which revenue declined was the music. Even sales of digital music declined for the first time since iTunes was launched back in 2003. Album sales were down 8.4% overall and some industry insiders concede this might be due to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.

And financial numbers aren’t the only ones increasing in entertainment. So are the sizes of televisions. They’re not only getting bigger, but the consumer electronics industry is pushing Ultra HD with 4K resolution, which is twice that of current HD televisions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of singer Phil Everly, the expansion and increased usage of UltraViolet and the manufactured controversy behind Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 186: Bill Carter of the NY Times on Cable Ratings, Jay Leno and the Shifting Television Landscape

Bill Carter of the New York Times has been reporting on the television industry for over 30 years. Who better to ask about why nothing seems to make any sense about this year’s television season? For example, cable shows have been pulling in more viewers than any of the networks. Broadcast networks that were topping the ratings just months ago, are now struggling at the back of the pack. As if that wasn’t enough, it looks as if the battle over late night programming is heating up again.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carter touches on everything from the reason networks have been cutting back their original programming to why ratings have become so complicated to tabulate (hint: it has to do with DVRs). He explains all the troubles NBC is having not only in primetime, but also with their morning news programming. Carter literally wrote the book on late night television (actually two of them), so his thoughts about which of the ever growing list of hosts is most dominant, and why, is rather insightful.

Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival announced the selection of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as their opening night film. What stunned many Cannes veterans is that the festival would choose a film which will open theatrically in North America just five days before it premieres on the Croisette this May.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including “Django” in China, “Veronica Mars” on Kickstarter and David Bowie’s return to the music sales charts.

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