Showbiz Sandbox 365: As Cord-Cutting Grows, Media Company Revenue Falls

May 8, 2017

Media company stocks took a beating last week with a one-two punch from cord-cutting and a soft ad market. The first quarter of 2017 saw pay cable subscriptions fall by over 700,000 in the United States, the largest ever such loss. This has caused some concern that cord-cutting has accelerated just as major advertisers have started to spend less on marketing.

However, television networks may just be shifting where revenue comes from. Rather than huge carriage fees and ad rates tied to huge viewership, networks may now be earning money off licensing content to streaming video providers and selling ads on digital platforms. There’s just one problem; such digital platforms pay far less than networks used to getting.

Warner Music Group is also suffering from shrinking revenues thanks to consumer migration to streaming online services. The company signed a new licensing agreement with YouTube, but they aren’t happy with a deal they felt forced into accepting. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the multiple “Game of Thrones” spin-offs planned by HBO, Harry Potter heads to Broadway and the return of “American Idol”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 360: Can Spotify Come To Terms With Major Record Labels?

March 20, 2017

Even as Spotify has grown into the largest subscription streaming music service in the world, all of the company’s long-term licensing deals have expired and it has struggled to negotiate new ones that will help them lower costs and become a viable business. However new reports have emerged that Spotify may be close to reaching new licensing deals after agreeing to some strict terms from the labels.

Among these are marketing guarantees, the windowing of major releases and only placing full albums on the premium paid tier of their service. Spotify may have no choice but to accept the labels’ offer otherwise their much-anticipated IPO may fall apart once and for all.

Unlike Spotify, Netflix is a subscription streaming company that is at the top of its game and isn’t worried about squabbling with its content partners. Instead, the company has been busy altering its star rating system, restoring and lost Orson Welles film and bad-mouthing movie theaters.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the opening of Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” sets box office records, the head of the MPAA goes M.I.A. at CinemaCon and Saturday Night Live makes plans for prime time segments. Read more

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Showbiz Sandbox 359: Entertainment Workers Put Faith In More Perfect Unions

March 13, 2017

Trade unions and guilds are not a new concept in the entertainment industry, yet they seem to be making headlines lately as more niche craftspeople elect to join them or have them negotiate their contracts. Last week the largest employer of Spanish-language performers in the U.S. voted to join SAG-AFTRA and the United Scenic Artists, which represents set designers on Broadway, was able to sign its first contract with the League of Off-Broadway Theatres & Producers.

One major reason for all this recent union activity is the growing number of entertainment industry workers whose pay falls below a living wage. When the star of a hit telenovela airing on an NBCUniversal network needs to hold a second job as an Uber driver, you know there must be a problem.

Meanwhile, the influx of financing into Hollywood coming from China may be coming to an end. The Chinese government has begun to restrict the outflow of capital from the country to stem what they deem “irrational” foreign investments while at the same time stabilizing local currency. This new regulatory oversight helped kill Wanda’s $1 billion deal for Dick Clark Productions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how a rapper made history by knocking himself off the top of the album charts with his next release, HBO heads to Latin America with original programming and why we’ll have to wait a little longer for those “Avatar” sequels.

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Showbiz Sandbox 356: The Future of 4K Ultra HD Streaming Is Upon Us

February 20, 2017

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has a history of voting against raising the standard level of what constitutes high-speed broadband service. Now he’s publicly dismissed 4K video streaming as a figment of the future, so far off it won’t be adopted for many years. Could O’Rielly be correct in his dim forecast about the foreseeable future of Ultra HD? Short answer: no.

The arguments against media technology adoption revolve around the availability of content and devices. However, neither seems to be presently lacking. More and more consumer electronics manufacturers are phasing out HD televisions in lieu of new 4K models, while the likes of Netflix and Amazon offer 4K streaming of movies and television shows.

Meanwhile, we review the latest accolades handed out by the Writers Guild and the Berlin Film Festival as we gear up for next week’s Oscar ceremony by making a few haphazard predictions of our own.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Disney is dumping a YouTube star, the New York Times is ditching one of its longtime theatre critics and the reason Playboy magazine is going all in on nudity.

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Showbiz Sandbox 355: Adele’s Big Grammy Victory Is All In the Numbers

February 13, 2017

Though Beyoncé had been predicted to walk off with this years top Grammy Awards for her critically acclaimed album “Lemonade”, she was beat out by Adele who won five top awards for “25”. Rather than being racially motivated, as some would suggest, Adele’s Grammy success was buttressed by an album that sold 20 million copies making it by far one of the biggest albums of the last decade, topped only by sales of her previous release “21”.

Then there was the artist who has never sold a single record yet managed to win three Grammys this year. Chance the Rapper made history when he became the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. “Coloring Book” won the Grammys for Best Mixtape and Best Rap Performance, while Chance the Rapper took home the prize for Best New Artist.

Meanwhile, the struggling entertainment conglomerate Viacom announced how it hopes to turn the company around. The company plans to focus on “silos” of branded properties which can be exploited across multiple platforms. This is the same strategy the Walt Disney Co. has used with great success; however Viacom’s existing properties are hardly as popular as Marvel or Pixar.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including plans to revive “American Idol” on television, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” tops Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” for the first time and Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul music, announces her retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 349: How the 2016 Box Office Defied the Odds

January 3, 2017

Apparently political pollsters aren’t the only forecasters whose predictions can be wrong. With fewer high profile blockbusters than 2015, some in Hollywood believed that the 2016 North American box office could surpass the previous year. However, a number of unexpected hits like “The Jungle Book” and “Deadpool” helped box office climb to a record high of $11.4 billion.

Meanwhile in China, the rapid box office growth that saw a 50% rise in 2015 slowed dramatically. In fact, the country’s box office actually fell in the last half of 2016, causing a modest 3% gain, year-over-year. We’ll explain what caused the Chinese box office to cool off so quickly and why there may be some good news buried in the financials.

Our resident theatre expert Michael Giltz will brief us on all the new productions opening on Broadway this spring. He’ll tell us which shows he would invest in (if he had the money) and which might be headed to a town near you when they go out on tour.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, a banner year for cable news networks and how record labels are finally seeing some profits from streaming music revenue.

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Showbiz Sandbox 347: Who Should Perform What at the 59th Grammy Awards

December 13, 2016

When the nominations for the 59th Grammy Awards were announced last week Beyoncé continued her annus mirabilis by picking up no fewer than nine nods including one for album of the year. She’s in the mix with the likes of Adele, Drake, Justin Bieber and Sturgill Simpson. With musical acts that include Rihanna, Kanye West and Radiohead also up for awards, producers have a wealth of talent to choose from when selecting performers for next year’s ceremony.

The Golden Globe nominations were also announced recently and this year the Hollywood Foreign Press Association actually managed to categorize their film entries properly, unlike last year when the space drama “The Martian” won the prize for best comedy.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Black List survey was published on Monday, highlighting some of the best unproduced screenplays from the past year. Nine of the last 18 Best Screenplay Oscars were featured on the annual list, including “Spotlight”, “Juno” and “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the winners of the European Film Awards, why the CBS-Viacom merger collapsed and actress Emmy Rossum demands to be paid as much as her mail co-stars.

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Showbiz Sandbox 338: CBS and Viacom May Wind Up Together After All

October 4, 2016

After originally splitting 10 years ago, Viacom and CBS may once again become a single organization. While a merger may help save Viacom, it doesn’t necessarily benefit the cash rich CBS. Even so, since the Redstone family owns the controlling share of both companies, it seems inevitable the two will once again be joined whether they like it or not.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission has paused its attempt to wrestle the control of television set-top boxes away from cable providers, delaying a vote in order to clarify some of the rules included in the proposed legislation. That means consumers in the United States will still spend $20 billion for at least the next two years renting cable boxes.

At the box office, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” helped reverse the fortunes of Tim Burton’s latest films and even “Deepwater Horizon” may be not be the disaster some had predicted.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why NBC is dumping its “Mail Order Bride”, Disney plans on making a live-action version of “The Lion King” and a huge chunk of Rolling Stone magazine gets sold off.

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Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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Showbiz Sandbox 332: How Cable Companies Will Profit From Cord-Cutting After All

August 22, 2016

We keep hearing that cord-cutting is going to destroy the U.S. cable industry. But SNL Kagan analyst Ian Olgeirson says the economic outlook for the business over the next decade is actually quite solid. Olgeirson joins us to explain how cable companies are turning cord-cutters into more profitable cord-swappers and what that means for their long-term health.

Meanwhile, for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio you didn’t need to have a cable subscription since so much of the action was streamed live online. In fact, while television viewership may not have reached the levels some networks around the world had hoped, a record number of hours were streamed over the Internet from this year’s games.

We also launch a new segment that tells you the one new book worth reading out of the thousands that are published each week, as listed on BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the dispute over Tom Cruise’s salary for “Mission: Impossible 6”, the power struggle at Viacom nears a resolution and Barbara Streisand tells Apple’s Siri how to pronounce her name properly.

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