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THE MORNING BUZZ: Birthday Parties: A Font of Market Research

25 Mar, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

If recordbreaking sales of Shrek (7.9 million DVDs) and numerous presales of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone hadn't convinced me of the discs' incursion into the family market, my daughter's birthday party sealed it.

At a party for 4-year-olds, pretty much the only thing to do to pass the time before cake and presents (if you aren't interested in party games like face painting and balloon animals) is to chat with the other parents. Being immersed in the video industry, I naturally took the opportunity to question them about DVD.

First question: Had they even heard of it? The last time I asked about DVD (about a year ago) all I got were blank stares. This time I not only encountered recognition, but parents gushed over the extras, mentioning deleted scenes and the like. They also mentioned how easy it was to store DVDs, as they are much smaller than cassettes. Only one of the dozen or so parents had only a VCR. All the rest had DVD players, and one even watched DVDs through a game console (naturally, she has teenagers).

Next, I asked what sort of DVDs they had accumulated for the little darlings. Many had purchased such recent releases as Walt Disney Home Video's Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and the special edition of Peter Pan. I would bet those same purchases would have been VHS cassettes last year. One parent even asked if E.T. — just re-released in theaters — was available yet on DVD, recalling fond memories of taking her older children to the original theatrical release of the Steven Spielberg hit.

While certainly not scientific, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that DVD is alive and well in the suburbs and quickly taking the place of VHS in the family library. Parents may be holding onto cassettes they've already purchased, but new additions to the library are all DVD.

No doubt these same 4-year-olds will one day look at VHS cassettes the way today's teenagers view vinyl record albums – quaint, clumsy and decidedly old-fashioned.

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