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APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: Preparing for the Future Is a Pain in the Present

8 Jun, 2001 By: Bruce Apar

Some people can’t wait for the future. To others, it has a nagging habit of haunting the here and now.The most obvious example in home entertainment is the current conundrum over DVD pricing with rentals in mind: should prices go up, go down or stay static. (Sounds like a blackjack game.)

DVD decisions made today will, of course, greatly influence the future growth curve of the digital disc — at least the DVD video piece of the multimedia matrix. Record labels have their own set of issues with DVD audio to iron out before it coheres, but figuring out how to get a piece of the rentalaction is not one of those issues. Federal legislation forbidding the rental of audio recordings has taken care of that.

If it’s presumed DVD will be a sales juggernaut for years to come, raising prices today is one surefire way to rein in runaway growth. Conversely, if caution is the byword and rentals areconsidered as strong a driver for DVD as they were for VHS, the market makers might well equate lower prices today with leaving a lot of rental dollars on the table tomorrow.

The problem, one problem among many actually, is how to know when the future begins. Some will tell you it’s when any leading-edge consumable penetrates 10% of homes. DVD, statistics claim, is half past that threshold already and could be in one-fourth of U.S. households by 2002. For DVD at least, the future is unfolding, in terms of mass market indicators, during the next 12 months.During that time, we should be able to glimpse some reliable signposts of the format’s long-term prospects and those of its sellers and renters.

There even appears to be a mounting belief in some quarters that VHS is so 20th century, it’s time to prepare its last rites. That might be an extreme form of futurism, especially considering that DVD will have to penetrate six times as many homes as it presumably has to approach the ubiquity of VHS in the United States.

Today’s home entertainment industry is divided between those who can’t wait for the future (digitals), and those who would prefer the future wait for them (analogs).

Comments? Contact Bruce directly at:bapar@advanstar.com

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