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Steph Sums it up

Steph Sums it up

Steph Sums it up

, Editor In Chief

Stephanie Prange is the editor in chief of Home Media Magazine. The Yale University graduate joined what was then Video Store Magazine in 1993 and was instrumental in transitioning the publication into a tabloid newsweekly. She spearheaded the publication’s reviews section, as well as aggressive coverage of the home video sales market. She also helped launch the magazine’s Web site in 1996. In her position as editor-in-chief since 2006, she has spearheaded the launch of such projects as the daily blast, transmitted via email each day to readers, and Agent DVD, a consumer publication aimed at genre enthusiasts who attend Comic-Con International in San Diego. She has freelanced for The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times and parenting publications. She has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Southern California.
 

April 13, 2010
Why Netflix Is Winning



I recently had a conversation with a journalist about the changes in the business and an interesting anecdote came up.

He said a friend of his purchased a season set of “24” on disc and then returned it to get his $50 back.

Why?

He found that through his Netflix subscription he could see the entire season via streaming for no extra charge to his subscription fee. It also explains why Netflix uses the 15-minute streaming measure (rather than one hour or so to connote a movie) in describing its electronic delivery success. Many of Netflix’s streaming customers are watching TV shows online.

Price. That is why Netflix is soaring — and why the studios are trying to push back new release availability on the site. But Netflix may be hurting TV DVD sales as well. Unless a TV show is collectible, TV DVD sales may take a hit. With Netflix streaming entire seasons, the need to buy TV DVD sets may decline.

The real reason Netflix is a success isn’t necessarily its technology, but its value.

By: Stephanie Prange


March 26, 2010
3D Could Add Dimension to Disc



The new 3D technology could add new life to disc, just as it has reinvigorated the cinema chains, which a few years ago were bemoaning competition from DVD and home theaters. Digital delivery backers are upping their attempts to take a bite out of packaged media, and 3D could offer Blu-ray Disc a killer app to hold off the onslaught. Consumers are hungry for the product, according to Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, who noted shopper curiosity and enthusiasm for 3D TVs in the chain’s latest financial call.

But, as it did with high-definition disc, the industry must be very careful about how it approaches the new technology.

James Cameron, director of the 3D phenom of the year Avatar, noted that a 3D Blu-ray release would be premature. “There just aren’t enough people with those screens,” he said.

During the launch of HDTV (and indeed, DVD), this chicken-and-egg dilemma of hardware versus content made the introduction of Hollywood’s library to the new technology very tricky. Content owners seem to have gotten quicker to market with top titles in the high-definition battle than they did with DVD. It took much less time for such catalog gems as The Godfather to hit Blu-ray than it took for them to come out on DVD. Studios waited for the market to develop in each case.

Now, the studios are dipping a toe in the 3D market, bundling certain titles (by mail) with certain 3D-capable TVs. As Home Theater Forum’s Adam Gregorich pointed out, that may be like giving consumers only one bite of a treat when they would really like a healthy serving.

Unlike Gregorich, I see no immediate harm in these bundles. Early adopters are used to waiting for content to explode for their new gadgets. When my family bought our first VHS player, one of the only titles we owned was Alien, and we watched it over and over again (especially the exploding stomach part).

Where the roll out of 3D Blu-ray content will get tricky is when we near the end of the early adopter stage.  Will the studios choose to release some titles only on 3D Blu-ray because they also will play on 2D Blu-ray players? Will consumers balk at buying a 3D disc without owning the hardware? Will studios still include a DVD and a digital copy?

As if release windows aren’t enough, Hollywood has a 3D launch to navigate.

By: Stephanie Prange


March 19, 2010
Fess Parker: A Class Act


Fess Parker


Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to interview many stars from the golden years of Hollywood, and they exhibit a class that you often don’t see in the Hollywood set anymore.

In June 2006, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fess Parker, star of the “Davy Crockett” and “Daniel Boone” series. Sadly, he passed away March 18.

Parker gleefully recalled the title tune from the “Daniel Boone” series, joining former co-star Ed Ames.

“Daniel Boone was a man. He was a BIG man,” they belted in announcing the video release of the series.

Parker had invited stars of the series, a cadre of press members and fans to his Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara, Calif., to celebrate and kick off “Boone” on DVD. We visited with his family and took a tour of his vineyard.

Parker was delighted to help preserve the series for fans on disc, and like so many of the classic film and TV stars, relished promoting his work.

It was a pleasant experience, and one I will never forget — like the day in 1994 I interviewed Gene Kelly, since passed, and listened to him gleefully grouse about “the suits” at the studios who had given him such a hard time (meanwhile he was sharing more than half his day with a group of reporters just to push the release of That’s Entertainment III on home video). At the same event, I met Cyd Charisse, another legend since passed, who looked as glamorous that day as when she first graced the screen dancing with Kelly.

They will all be sorely missed.
 

By: Stephanie Prange


March 09, 2010
Who Needs a Portable DVD Player?



I think the disc — especially Blu-ray — will be around for some time, but I think one place where digital delivery has taken root is in the portable market.

Back in 2006, we prepared to take a long road trip by buying two portable DVD players. We got two so each girl could watch whatever she wanted (no fights that way). We packed 20 or so discs in a CD case and were on our way. Other than the youngest one asking for help changing the DVD selection every so often, it was a peaceful trip. We also used them on one or two plane trips.

Four years later, those two players sit gathering dust. With her new Apple iPod Touch, my 11-year-old can watch digital copies. And the younger one uses her father’s iPod to do the same on long road trips. Before leaving, they peruse the digital copies available, load them on the iPods and we’re off.

The iPods are certainly lighter and easier to store than the portable players, and the girls don’t mind only having a few movies from which to choose; they just switch iPods when they want to swap movies. We don’t have to lug around a CD case of discs. On the next trip, they dump the movies they’ve already watched and put new digital copies on the iPods.

The only downside is selection. There’s often a groan when they learn a particular digital copy isn’t Apple compatible. Compatibility doesn’t seem to be studio specific. It’s random. Some, such as Sony Picutres’ Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, work only with Sony’s PSP and a PlayStation 3.

Just when we thought the format wars were over, we find a new one in the digital realm. Some things never change.

By: Stephanie Prange


February 24, 2010
Blockbuster Blames the Red Menace



Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes is seeing red — as in Redbox kiosks — in his explanation for the chain’s continuing woes.

Redbox, that wily competitor, has successfully been working around the windows imposed on it by Warner, Fox and Universal, he said in a conference call, and that’s why Blockbuster posted continued negative same-store rentals in the fourth quarter.

But now that Warner has struck a month-long window deal with the Red Menace, Keyes hopes Fox and Universal (both embroiled in lawsuits with the kiosk company) will do the same. That could give the chain an edge and prevent further store closures in the future, he said. Also, the closure of Movie Gallery and Hollwood Video stores could prove a boon for the company, he added.

“We remain cautiously optimistic ... with tailwinds becoming clear,” Keyes said.

Heck, Blockbuster couldn’t ask for a better hand of cards dealt it in recent months. The studios are forging later windows for competitors Netflix and Redbox. The only other big rental chain still kicking, Movie Gallery, has filed bankruptcy for the second time in three years. And yet nothing seems to move the needle much on Blockbuster’s fortunes.

There may come a time when blaming the Red Menace and other competition won’t hold water — when the real menace, Blockbuster’s crushing debt, mostly inherited when it spun off from Viacom years ago, will bite back with a crushing blow. Just before the chain’s financial results hit the wires, Blockbuster reportedly hired legal and financial experts to help it to restructure nearly $1 billion in debt. That debt has been the real villain in Blockbuster’s struggles. It prevented the chain from quickly modernizing, advertising and innovating in ways that could have held off the likes of Redbox, Netflix and others. The Red Menace may be the cause du jour of Blockbuster’s troubles, but it’s the debt that may eventually do it in.

By: Stephanie Prange







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