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Blogue From Prague

By Stephanie Prange | Posted: October 02, 2008

I’m at Prague’s Hotel Don Giovanni attending the ESCA Europe conference, at which panelists are discussing many supply chain challenges. My most immediate supply chain challenge involves no supply of luggage. Thus, I moderated my panel this morning in a tracksuit.

But that has really been the only snag in this conference in beautiful Prague. It’s interesting to hear a perspective of the business outside of the bubble of Southern California and the United States. While domestically we’ve taken for granted the enormous Blu-ray Disc push that retailers and studios mounted in the past few months, analysts commenting on the European market wish retailers here would do more.

Europe is looking to America to take the lead, and will surely follow if Blu-ray takes off in the United States, as we all expect it will. Retailers such as Blockbuster, Wal-Mart and Target are helping to make that happen.

Meanwhile, certain European territories are still trying to figure out DVD. In perhaps one of the most under-developed regions in the video industry, the Czech Republic is having trouble generating a video specialty market. Much of the pricing in the country is undercut by extremely low-priced vanilla discs of Czech films sold at local newsstands (they call them “kiosks”). The rest of the market is dominated by grocers and other non-video specialists. It’s hard to make a profit, Czech suppliers say, when the populace thinks DVD is worth so little. While we may have our low-price leaders, I think retailers such as Blockbuster and Netflix help maintain an excitement and value for a category that can be sold next to toilet paper at other retailers.

Where Europe may be more aggressive than the United States is in fighting peer-to-peer piracy. There are several laws and government actions in the works that involve tracking and warning alleged pirates. I don’t think that sort of stuff would go over in the good ol’ USA. Heck, the American people are ready to play chicken with a possible Great Depression, rather than give the government more control.

While Hollywood leads the video pack, it’s a global business that we are in, with a variety of challenges and triumphs that may or may not match those in the United States.

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