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THE MORNING BUZZ: Can't we all just get along?

17 Dec, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's funny how perceptions change.

A year ago, it was home video that was getting no respect. In articles in the consumer press and in casual man-on-the-street encounters, rental stores were likened to dinosaurs while DVD was hailed as a really cool new toy, but still an interim step toward electronic delivery-which everyone agreed was the future of home entertainment.

Today, home video is getting oohs and aahs for its resilience and strength. The stock prices of the leading rental chains have risen dramatically-in Hollywood Entertainment's case, we're talking a twelvefold increase-while DVD is firmly positioned as the hottest consumer product launch in history.

As for video-on-demand, welcome to Rodney Dangerfield-land. We're seeing headlines like "VOD is DOA" and expressions like "vaporware." Enron, the huge power company that last year was partnering with Blockbuster on an ambitious branded VOD scheme, is on the ropes, and while we're still seeing studios invest in research and development, their steps are hardly making the headlines they once were.

Whatever happened to the theory of peaceful coexistence? This polarization of public thought, fueled by the media (one of the few times I'll plead mea culpa to something blamed on the press), is shortsighted and just plain wrong-as extremist views often are. And I'm pointing my finger both at those who believe video is the end-all and VOD will never fly and at those who believe home video, despite DVD, will soon be history and eventually all things entertainment will be delivered into the home electronically-either over the Internet, cable lines or phone lines.

The history of man's materialism is filled with complementary items. Replacement technologies are few and far between. Thus we have the bicycle and the automobile, radio and television, the movies and home video, and so on.

And I know what you're thinking-yeah, but what about music? At the NARM convention earlier this year, didn't we hear from futurists and woebegotten record dealers that digital downloads were killing packaged media?

That was before Napster got shut down. And while CD sales are hardly flourishing, I don't see the music industry going all-electronic anymore than I see the home video business.

Peaceful coexistence. It's a political term that really, truly, definitively applies here as well.

All right-maybe not the peaceful part.

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