Log in


APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: Super Bowl Video Tampa-Proof

2 Feb, 2001 By: Bruce Apar

This is a good time to know somebody at USA Home Entertainment if you’re a sports junkie. Fresh off one of the more bizarre Super Bowls in recent memory –- where once again the intense trappings of the great game overshadowed the actual contest –- the video division of Barry Diller’s USA Networks is off this weekend to Denver for the National Hockey League’s All-Star game, and two weeks from now it’s whooping it up in Washington, D.C. at the National Basketball Association’s edition of the same exhibitionist event.

The thrill of atttending any of these sports spectacles –- with the NHL game offering the triple-threat of ice hockey, boxing and wrestling -– makes it easy to forget that these are not the best of times for sports video sales, which are scraping bottom across the board, from the World Wrestling Foundation to Major League Baseball.

That no doubt is a big reason why USA came to the realization it didn’t have to continue covering all the bases of the four major sports and decided it could walk away from Major League Baseball. That was even after experiencing a record-setting 302,000 copies sold of the 2000 World Series, featuring two New York teams in a very rare crosstown championship battle.

You could say that the drama of sports is very much of the moment and trying to freeze that moment in time or to relive it on video is a feeble attempt to capture lightning in a bottle. But ESPN Classic, a spinoff of the phenomenally successful cable network owned by Disney, is a popular magnet for subscribers who easily wax nostalgic for vintage athletics.

One answer is that the linear inconvenience of videotape is not friendly to the short bursts of action that animate the most memorable sporting events. DVD, being a digital, random-access platform that we have every reason to both believe and hope will eventually displace retro VHS, offers renewed promise for sports video fans.

In fact, we found it not insignificant that at its Super Bowl weekend, with about 20 key retail accounts in tow, USA dispensed a goodie bag of sports videos -– including each of the four professional leagues it has distributed in recent years –- with not a single videotape in sight; each and every one a DVD.

Hanging out at the Super Bowl with leading retailers who also are fun and friendly folks made for a memorable and highly enjoyable weekend, even if your team was thoroughly thrashed, with the New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins seemingly throwing more touchdown passes to the Baltimore Ravens than they received from their own quarterback Trent Dilfer.

As we were walking in what felt like an aimless and endless direction to reach the NFL Experience theme park before the game, Bill Miller, associate DVD buyer of the Trans World Music record and video retail chain, made an incisive merchandising observation.

As we commiserated about the ill-designed winding path we were on, in the middle of the final stretch of corridor, Miller marvelled, "This should be the power aisle!" He pointed out that the coordinators had missed a prime opportunity to fill the area with merchandise to sell a captive audience trapped like mice in a maze. A wag by his side countered, "Must be the same person who designed the butterfly ballot."

Add Comment