Showbiz Sandbox 251: In the Digital Age, Content Rights Are King

September 29, 2014

Whether an illustrator creating legendary comic book characters for Marvel or a 1960’s pop group that hasn’t had a hit in decades, owning the rights to the content one produces has never been more important thanks to emerging digital distribution platforms. Unfortunately, determining who owns the rights for specific content is becoming increasingly more difficult.

For example, last week’s landmark court ruling against satellite radio provider Sirius XM could mean the company has to start paying public performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. The case has huge copyright implications not just for Sirius XM, but also to streaming radio services like Pandora.

Access to content is likely the reason Softbank is making a play to acquire DreamWorks Animation. Should a deal be struck then only time will tell whether there is actually any synergy between the animation studio and the Japanese conglomerate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the approval of drones for film production, new stars for the upcoming season of “True Detective” and remixing actor Stephen Fry’s new memoir.

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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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Showbiz Sandbox 224: How Leno’s Departure Will Affect Late Night and Los Angeles

February 10, 2014

When Jay Leno signed off as host of “The Tonight Show” last week he left late night television and the city of Los Angeles in different states than when he first began the job 22-years earlier. Scott Collins, TV reporter for the Los Angeles Times, discusses the legacy Leno leaves behind in a late night landscape that now includes two dozen shows, along with what “The Tonight Show’s” move to New York City means for L.A. production jobs.

If you weren’t one of the more than 14 million viewers tuning in to Leno’s last late night stints, then maybe you’re watching the Winter Olympics. Networks such as NBC in the United States are making it easier to stream the Olympic Games online… sort of. The catch is that you must already be a subscriber to cable or satellite television services.

Meanwhile the Berlin Film Festival is currently taking place in Germany though the person making most of the headlines at the event is an actor who claims to no longer be famous. Can you guess who it is? (Hint: It’s Shia Labeouf).

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including singer Clay Aiken’s run for seat in Congress, Fox puts an end to the “X Factor” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers get called out for miming their Super Bowl halftime performance.

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Showbiz Sandbox 218: Reports of Hollywood’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

December 23, 2013

Beating up on the film business seems to be all the rage lately, as witnessed by the New York Times recently suggesting the industry was in “survival mode”. Yet the worldwide box office is about to break another all-time record and home video revenue actually went up in 2012. With grosses rising in several sectors, including television, why is there still a debate over the health of the business?

Speaking of debates, just about everyone this past week seemed to have an opinion about the controversial comments made by Phil Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch of the family that runs the Louisiana hunting supply company depicted in the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty”. Was the network too quick in their response by suspending Robertson?

Amazon and Target also acted quickly this past week when they announced they would not be selling physical copies of Beyoncé’s latest album after, in a surprise move just days before, she released it exclusively on iTunes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism and how talent agencies are relying on sports to grow their business.

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Showbiz Sandbox 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

November 11, 2013

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

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Showbiz Sandbox 174: Is “The Hobbit” A Death Knell for 3D Movies?

December 17, 2012

All of the talk surrounding the release of “The Hobbit” was over high frame rate and whether audiences would reject a crisper image. It may have been more appropriate to discuss whether audiences have already shunned 3D. Only 49% of audiences chose to see the film in 3D over opening weekend. If moviegoers aren’t willing to see a film shot and meant to be seen in 3D, is the format ultimately doomed?

“The Hobbit” was noticeably absent on a number of important year-end top film lists. Nor was it among the nominations for the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, which were announced last week.

The fantasy book from “The Hobbit” is adapted has been a perennial best seller, but with the explosion of e-book readers future generations may not even know what a book is. Can e-books and print co-exist?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including this year’s Rock Hall of Fame inductees, the top grossing concert tours of 2012 and (finally!) an end to loud television commercials.

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Showbiz Sandbox 163: Plenty To Feel Good About at Telluride and Toronto

September 17, 2012

Anne Thompson has just returned from two whirlwind weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. The editor of Indiewire’s Thompson On Hollywood blog is happy to report that, despite all the doomsayers, there is still reason to believe there are plenty of good studio and independent movies awaiting release this year. Thompson joins us for a discussion about this year’s festivities and tells us which films came out ahead as the awards season kicks off in earnest.

Someone who knows a few things about good how to make good movies is Tom Rothman, the Co-Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment along with Jim Gianopulos. Rothman announced he would be stepping down on January 1st, ending his 18-year tenure as head of the studio. Gianopulos, on the other hand, is sticking around to run the studio on his own.

The new TV season ramped up last week with the debut of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show and the season premiere of “Sons of Anarchy” pulling in big ratings.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, two new judges on “American Idol” and why streaming music could be bad for the environment.

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Showbiz Sandbox 158: A Rundown of The Year’s Top-Earning Authors

August 13, 2012

James Patterson tops the list of this year’s highest-paid authors according to Forbes. Working with a team of writers Patterson published an astounding 14 best-selling novels in 2011 to earn an estimated $94 million. Joining Patterson were regulars such as Stephen King and John Grisham among others, as well as newcomer George R.R. Martin whose “Game Of Thrones” series has become a best seller.

The Summer Olympics came to a close over the weekend. This must be disappointing to NBC which was just getting used to actually having an audience for a change. In fact, ratings for coverage of this year’s games set viewership records in both North America and Europe.

On previous episodes we’ve mentioned Hollywood’s new-found appreciation of China and it seems to only be growing. Last week filmmaker James Cameron announced the expansion of his 3D production company through a joint venture in China and DreamWorks Animation said they had agreed to work with a group of Chinese investors to develop a $3.1 billion culture and entertainment district in Shanghai.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how Google plans to punish copyright thieves, a rumor that dead pop stars will perform on this season’s “X-Factor” and plans to adapt a cult 80’s television show featuring an alien puppet into a hit movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 140: Nollywood Love – Inside The Booming Nigerian Film Industry

March 13, 2012

Oil rich Nigeria may be best known for political upheavals and brutal civil wars, though over the past twenty years the country has given birth to a thriving film industry. New York Times Magazine contributing writer Andrew Rice explains that what started out as a surplus of blank VHS tapes has grown into what is now called Nollywood; the world’s third largest movie business.  Nollywood films now suffer from the same issues faced by Hollywood and Bollywood; piracy and escalating production costs.

The budget for Disney’s “John Carter” was about five thousand times that of the average Nollywood film, which is probably why a $100 million worldwide opening is seen as a bit of a disappointment. Directing his first live-action film, Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton seems to be getting most of the blame for the movie’s lack of success, though it just as easily could be pinned on a studio full of senior executives that lacked experience producing big blockbusters.

Speaking of pricey failures, Fox canceled its sci-fi series “Terra Nova”. Producers hope the show will be picked up by another network, though at $4 million per episode few can afford it.

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Showbiz Sandbox 138: Lessons Learned At This Year’s Oscars

February 27, 2012

Predicting who will win Academy Awards each year isn’t as easy as it looks. Just ask IndieWire’s Anne Thompson. She managed to pick 19 out of 24 winner’s at this past weekend’s Oscar ceremony, but there were a few categories which had everyone guessing. Thompson takes us backstage on Oscar night and explains how easy it is for someone covering the awards season, like herself, to over think how Academy voters will respond when ballots are cast.

Meanwhile, Google filed applications last week to become a cable television provider in Kansas City. What remains to be seen is whether the tech giant can obtain enough programming to attract customers.

Maybe Hollywood will welcome Google with open arms as they have with the glut of streaming video providers all vying to license premium content. Ironically, the industry seems to be ahead of the curve on a new technology they hope will make up for falling DVD sales.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a new book from J.K. Rowling, Barbara Streisand’s new record deal and how advertising at movie theaters is being taken more seriously.

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