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THE MORNING BUZZ: Is the VHS Cassette Dead?

13 Jun, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Will this be the final year for the videocassette? The old VHS has truly become a second-class citizen at mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Target, while at the big rental chains like Blockbuster the cassette is virtually extinct.

Indeed, Blockbuster has adopted a dismissive air toward the few cassettes it still has in its inventory, offering kids a free VHS rental every day throughout the summer in return for a $2 charitable donation. The logic is clear: give the kids a daily freebie, while the parents who drive them will be spurred to rent or buy a DVD.

And yet the cassette still has its fans. Glenn Ross, the articulate president of Family Home Entertainment, told me recently that for preschool product DVD is still a little advanced. The really young kids, he said, can't figure out menus and remotes; they still enjoy the simplicity of the videocassette, where you simply stick it in a machine and off it goes.

Something similar struck home the other day when I attempted to toss out my 7-year-old son Justin's ragged old videocassette of the original Land Before Time movie. We have the film on DVD, and not only do we have a DVD player in the family and bed rooms, but Justin has a PlayStation 2 in his room on which he watches DVDs all the time.

But the little fellow wouldn't budge, insisting he wanted to keep “the easy one” so he could watch it right before bedtime on his TV, which still has a built-in VCR, instead of messing with his PlayStation and all the adjustments he has to make to get a DVD to play.

So back to my original question—will this be the final year for the videocassette? Maybe at retail, but not in homes. I think people will be less inclined to buy videocassettes, but they're not exactly going to beat a path to the landfill to get rid of the ones they already own, either.

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