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 248: Hollywood Squeezes States For More Tax Breaks

September 9, 2014

California is set to triple their tax subsidies for film and television production to more than $330 million annually in an effort to stem the tide of runaway production to states with larger tax incentives. Richard Verrier of the Los Angeles Times discusses the growing debate over the value of film tax breaks and whether they actually create new jobs, or just shift them to different locations.

There is absolutely no debate over whether this summer’s box office was down from the previous year. However as we explain, comparing year-over-year box office figures is misleading at best and ultimately a fool’s errand.

In an unusual move the rock band U2 will be giving away its new album “Songs of Innocence” to more than 500 million iTunes users for a limited time. Making the release free to download only serves to further underscore where most artists make their money these days; on tour.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new head of DreamWorks, why it will take a century for anyone to read author Margaret Atwood’s latest work and “The Simpsons” make their way to China.

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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 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

January 28, 2014

Whether it was Hunter Hayes belting out an anti-bullying song or Queen Latifah performing a mass-marriage ceremony for 32 couples to the hip-hop beats of Macklemore & Lewis, this years Grammys’ ceremony was more upbeat than ever. David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote the telecast that attracted a whopping 28.5 million viewers, as well as the Beatles tribute concert the very next night. He stops by to discuss what it was like helping put both shows together.

Awards were also handed out for movies this past week. The Directors Guild of America shook up the Oscar race by giving its top prize to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” and the Sundance Film Festival came to an end by handing out more than two dozen awards to indie movies.

Meanwhile, a number of companies are locked in a heated battle to provide an online alternative to cable and satellite television. The biggest hurdle for the likes of Amazon, Sony and Verizon in helping audiences cut the cord may turn out to be the erosion of net neutrality.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including shorter movie trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay gets leaked and Bill Cosby returns to NBC with a new sit-com.

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Showbiz Sandbox 136: Crafting A Story For The Grammys Through Triumph and Tragedy

February 13, 2012

Los Angeles Times entertainment reporter Geoff Boucher was on assignment at the Grammy Awards when he heard about the the sudden death of pop star Whitney Houston over the weekend. While still covering music’s biggest night, Boucher was given two hours to write Houston’s obituary for the Sunday paper.

At the same time, David Wild was backstage at the Grammys putting the finishing touches on his script for the telecast. A contributing editor at Rolling Stone and best-selling author, Wild had less than 24-hours to work with Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich and revise the awards in the wake of Houston’s passing.

After an exhausting weekend Boucher and Wild join us to discuss how this year’s Grammys focused on two voices; one looking to the future with Adele winning six awards and one honoring the past by mourning the fresh tragedy of Houston’s death.

A whopping 40 million people watched this year’s Grammys telecast, though if we were to believe Nielsen few of them were under the age of 24. Brian Stelter of the New York Times stops by to explain why young people are watching television less often.

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Showbiz Sandbox 122: The Real Story Behind Steve Jobs And Pixar

October 10, 2011

Millions mourned the loss of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs this past week when the innovator behind the Macintosh computer,  the iPod and others died at the age of 56. Though the endless eulogies of Jobs always mention Jobs Pixar tenure, they rarely provided any real detail. Truth is Jobs lost money with Pixar for ten years trying to turn the company into a successful computer hardware business. We’ll dive into the story of how Jobs came to own Pixar and how the company stumbled upon success in computer animation.

Of course, there has never been a Pixar film that didn’t make money. However, we often blithely dismiss one movie as being a box office loser and another as a hit even though they might seem similar in budgets and box office. When we consider a film a hit or a flop, we’re making numerous assumptions on various factors. It’s always a judgment call, but to try and explain what sort of judgments we’re making, we’ve decided to look at several different movies and explain why we consider them a hit or miss.

It’s not as hard to tell when a new television series is a flop, especially after the network cancels it. A number of new shows (“Playboy Club”) got axed this past week, while others (“New Girl”) were picked up for an entire season. One series which nearly didn’t make the cut was “The Simpsons”. After its 23rd season the animated show was nearly canceled over a contract dispute with the cast providing voices for its lovable characters.

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