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THE MORNING BUZZ: All Things Must Pass

17 Jul, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

So there we all were at Home Entertainment 2002 in Las Vegas, vexed and speculating about what will happen next in the home video industry. I came home early to shepherd some production, but I'm still with y'all in spirit.

We're looking forward, yet at the edge of the show I met a fellow who's still trying to figure out what to do with his video past.

This guy is a security guard at the Rio. We were both waiting around in the same space one evening and struck up a conversation. Occupations being an ordinary get-acquainted topic, after he learned what I do he was quick to confess his own history in the publishing profession and video collecting.

He still has half of a vinyl video collection (the ancient RCA disc format) on which he spent $15,000. Only half because his wife got half in the divorce. Still, estimates he has between 300 and 350 of these discs and has no idea what to do with them.

Aside from the fact that this guy must be the unluckiest in entertainment format history -- he also lamented a large collection of 8-track tapes -- I was struck by his interest in what happens next. I probably don't have to explain he hasn't got a DVD player. The poor guy got burned on new technology twice (that I know about) and he's still gunshy 20 years later. Who can blame him for waiting for the shakeout?

I think Disney was on the right track with an offer to refund $5 to anybody who bought selected titles on DVD when they turned in the UPC code from the same title on VHS. It's rewarding loyalty and lowering the risk threshold for reluctant consumers.

My cab driver to the airport was also a nice gentleman. Making typical cabbie conversation he asked if I was in town for a trade event (was the albatross show badge still dangling from my neck a dead giveaway or what?). When I told him which one he pelted me with questions about the politics and technology of video. He, too, seemed hesitant to get into DVD, though for different reasons than the guard.

I guess I'm jaded. I'm genuinely astonished at how many people's interest in DVD looks like mankind's first encounter with fire. I covered a terrific panel discussion on DVD extras earlier yesterday and this was a sharp juxtaposition. The panelists were concerned with the next step in DVD extras, but in conversations I suddenly realized the technology still intimidates a lot of people.

Albert Einstein once said "the single most important thing in anything is the point of view of the viewer." Unlike a lot of us, I guess his theories keep working out.

I'm glad I got two days of fascinating and diverse viewpoints at this show, even if they didn't all come from the floor.

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