Showbiz Sandbox 335: FCC Has Big Plans For Television Set-Top Boxes

September 12, 2016

In a widely expected move, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, laid out a regulatory plan that would allow consumers to use the set-top box of their choice to access television. Naturally, pay television providers weren’t happy since they earn $20 billion annually by forcing their customers to rent such equipment. They claim Wheeler’s mandate is overreaching and his call for universal streaming app adoption could stifle innovation.

The September box office has kicked off the run up to the holiday moviegoing season in fine form. While ticket sales for the month are slightly higher than last year in the United States, it is international markets that continue to outperform. In fact, some films do so much better in China than in North America, that industry pundits wonder whether certain sequels should be China-centric and simply skip a U.S. release.

We’ll be back next week with our regular show that will cover all the news making headlines around the entertainment world.

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Showbiz Sandbox 310: Diversity Makes A Comeback At Sundance

February 2, 2016

This year’s Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend in historic fashion by awarding the dramatic competition grand jury and audience prizes to “The Birth of a Nation”, a historical biopic a Virginian slave revolt. The film made headlines earlier in the week when Fox Searchlight purchased the film for a record $17.5 million after beating out Netflix in a heated bidding war.

We’ll tell you about all the big Sundance awards and continue the Oscar season slog, in which this year’s front runners are as mixed up as a Republican presidential primary. SAG added to the confusion, making “Spotlight” this week’s hero, after “The Big Short” looked like a winner the week before.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is about to vote on ending the monopoly of set top boxes for US cable subscribers, a decision that could have big ramifications for everything from what you watch to the stock prices of numerous tech companies, including Apple and Roku.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Louis CK bypasses television networks and brings his new series directly to viewers, Pope Francis gets ready for his closeup in a feature film and sales of new music were outpaced by catalogue titles over the past year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 271: A Brief History of Net Neutrality

March 2, 2015

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will regulate broadband Internet service and enforce net neutrality. Just in case you’re still trying to decipher the net neutrality news, Jonathan Strickland, a senior writer for How Stuff Works, explains exactly what it is how the issue has evolved over time, starting in the 19th-century with laws designed to govern railroads.

Another hot topic in Hollywood lately has been the executive shuffle taking place at several studios. Former Fox exec Tom Rothman will take over for the recently departed Amy Pascal as head honcho of Sony Pictures, while Paramount begins its own search for a new leader after the departure of Adam Goodman.

Surely all of these moguls would be quick to assure you that Will Smith is indeed a movie star despite a few recent box office duds, yet as his latest film hits theaters news stories abound asking whether the actor can still open a movie.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Blade Runner sequel moves forward, Pee Wee Herman brings his playhouse to Netflix and Disney reboots Ducktales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 268: Going Backstage At The Grammys With David Wild

February 8, 2015

The Grammy Awards were held last weekend to honor the year’s best music. David Wild, one of the producers and writers of the Grammys telecast (not to mention a contributing editor at Rolling Stone), takes us behind the scenes at the ceremony. He explains what it’s like to get Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj on the same page and the difficulty of describing Sia’s unique stage performance to Stevie Wonder.

Meanwhile, a couple of big media conglomerates announced significant management changes over the past week; Amy Pascal will be stepping down as head of Sony Pictures due in no small part to the recent cyber attack against the company and Tom Staggs is anointed as the most likely candidate to take over for Disney CEO, Bob Iger when the latter steps down in 2018.

Speaking of big name execs, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler finally submitted his proposal for net neutrality, which would regulate ISPs to enforce open internet protections.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why actor Michael Gambon is retiring from the stage, the uproar over news anchor Brian Williams and how Kodak is keeping film stock alive.

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Showbiz Sandbox 264: Globes Have Golden Opportunity To Expand Awards Season

January 12, 2015

Not even two weeks into 2015 and the annual slog known as awards season has commenced in earnest. This year’s festivities were kicked off by the Golden Globe Awards over the weekend which pull double duty by honoring the best of both movies and television. We wonder if it might make more sense to hold two different ceremonies throughout the year; one for movies and one for television.

The BAFTA nominations were also announced last year, though there was very little British about them, as has traditionally been the case. Guild nominations have also started pouring in as well, though what everyone wants to know is how all of this will affect the upcoming Oscar race.

Meanwhile, some established artists in the movie and music industries have started to offer their latest work directly to fans. By some accounts these experiments have proven incredibly successful and profitable, or so it would seem. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell since sales figures for such efforts are often hard to come by.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including John Travolta’s return to television, why actress Charlize Theron requested a pay raise on her next film and an update on the Sony cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

November 3, 2014

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 234: Scandal and Politics Invade Hollywood (Again)

May 5, 2014

Two real-life controversies are presently complicating life in Hollywood where studios prefer to make lots of money and ignore complicated social issues or the sometimes tawdry private lives of their executives and talent. The first involves accusations of forcible rape by movie director Bryan Singer. The second involves boycotting a historic Tinseltown hotel over its owners politics.

In less contentious news it appears our prediction about the future of Craig Ferguson as host of the “Late Late Show” was correct, and he will indeed be departing by the end of this year. The host says the decision was entirely his own, despite what it might look like with David Letterman retiring from his show’s lead in, “Late Night”.

Tony nominations were announced last week to honor some of this year’s best and brightest Broadway productions and performers. We give you a rundown of all the front runners as well as a look at a few that didn’t make the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the “Star Wars Episode VII” casting announcement, AT&T’s acquisition offer of DirecTV and Ben Affleck’s blackjack trouble.

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Showbiz Sandbox 233: Net Neutrality – Is The Fat Lady Singing?

April 28, 2014

The concept that all data sent via the Internet should be treated equally has allowed services such as YouTube and Netflix to develop and prosper on a level playing field. However a new proposal from the Federal Communications Commission would effectively kill net neutrality by allowing companies to pay for faster access. Will the public revolt in mass protest or will big business ultimately prevail?

A similar question is being asked as the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether Aereo infringes on broadcaster’s copyright by retransmitting over-the-air television signals via the Internet, or if the company’s services are legal under current law. The future of television may hinge on the answer.

There seems to be no dispute over the state of opera these days as many regional companies are suffering from a number of problems, not the least of which is declining ticket sales. Most recently the San Diego Opera announced it would be shutting down after running out of money.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon’s deal to stream past HBO series, Ryan Seacrest stays with “American Idol” and why record labels are suing Pandora… again.

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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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