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This Year the Show Really Mattered

23 Jul, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

A funny thing happened at Home Media Expo 2007. After years of trying to make the show more relevant, the Entertainment Merchants Association finally succeeded — and in a big way.

Stung by criticism that the show has continued to be geared too much toward the independent video rental dealer, the EMA took two bold steps that connected studios and suppliers to the two audiences they would most like to reach: attracting consumers and big chain retailers.

As senior editor Erik Gruenwedel writes in his page-four story, the opening business session featured a panel of consumer “power users” weighing in on their home (and mobile) entertainment habits. The EMA also invited members of influential consumer group the Home Theater Forum, whose members informally advise the studios on content, special features and the like, to a series of presentations.

On the retail end, the EMA stepped up its recruitment efforts and was rewarded by high-level representation from such top-flight retailers as Target Stores, Best Buy, Circuit City, Trans World Entertainment and others.

The effect? It's purely anecdotal at this point. A senior marketing executive with a major studio's home entertainment division told a reporter her team had met with Target executives for the very first time at an EMA show. A studio president who three years ago had all but washed his hands of the show talked it up to his staff and praised the presence of “so many significant retailers.” A Blu-ray Disc party was hastily arranged for Forum members.

To be sure, the Home Media Expo still could use some serious re-engineering. To their credit, EMA executives have been most willing to experiment and try new things, but there's an inherent conflict when you're trying to please independent video rental dealers, still your core membership, on one hand, and the studios on the other.

Whether this conflict will ever — or even can ever — be resolved is up in the air. But what's important is that the EMA is trying. I sincerely hope the studios realize this.

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