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APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: Video Is Dead, Long Live Home Entertainment

3 Nov, 2000 By: Bruce Apar

One by one, “home video” companies are declaring themselves dead as vaudeville. Stop the presses!? Don’t bother. We’re being figurative, not literal.

DVD has thrown home vide-oops, we mean home entertainment-–labels for a loop as they declare in their ad materials that the term “video” doesn’t connote DVD but does denote VHS, last century’s clackety cassette contraption not as moribund as the revenue-sharing rift makes it seem and also not exactly an elegant growth engine. (If this industry’s insufferable tendency to say a movie is on “video and DVD” were ported over to the book business, we’d be treated to “published in print and paperback!”; in music, ads would proclaim, “now on disc and CD.” The mass-market film industry’s regard for language can be gleaned from the amount of pre-verbal scripts produced, thank you very much.)

Truth is, the acronym VHS (Video Home System, via Victor Home System for inventor JVC) is not as sleek as the word video and its cool quotient is light years behind dynamic DVD (digital video disk). Slickness slays sensibility as video is substituted for the politically incorrect VHS and is made to appear a world apart from DVD Video. When it comes to causing consumer confusion, the home whatchamacallit industry has forgotten more than most markets will ever know.

Disney, per usual, has tried to trump competitors by branding its digital products “Disney DVD.” By not similarly attaching the cherished company logo to the video bug in its ads–-“on video and Disney DVD” – the Mouse House seems to be signalling that video is so five minutes ago, so analogged, it doesn’t deserve the Disney imprimatur as does darling DVD.

Now that Hollywood honchos have marginalized the term “video” by trapping it in the ghetto of planned obsolescence (aka VHS), how can they gladly suffer themselves sporting billion-dollar “home video” divisions that, by their own words, can be perceived as mere cassette canneries?

Enter “Home Entertainment.” It’s positively post-modern. This week, Columbia TriStar made the switch, dropping the old and tired “home video” hanging for dear life onto the end of its proud and proper name in favor of the manse-like “home entertainment.”

Recently, Home Entertainment Events, a show-producing joint venture of the Video Software Dealers Association and Advanstar Communications, Inc. (owner of Hive4Media.com and Video Store Magazine), performed simpler cosmetic surgery, dropping the “video” that once followed “home” in its name.

Apart from VSDA itself, the most prominent “video” entities left standing are Universal Studios Home Video and Warner Home Video. We like to think that its fiercely competitive and contentious chieftain Warren Lieberfarb–-soon to formally oversee pay-TV operations as well as his longtime video fiefdom-–is intent on fashioning a more ambitious moniker than “home entertainment.” And who’s to say that TW’s pending “partner” America Online doesn’t have its own thoughts about realigning and renaming some of the pieces it is picking up. There’s always AOL Warner Megatainment.

As the AOL and Time Warner handshake epitomizes, the notion of entertainment is changing at warp speed, with new forms of content ready to break through the formulaic stranglehold on our imaginations of feature-length fiction films. Those too will become one part of the entertainment equation, less dominant than before. They will begin to lose some of their centrifugal force in the culture as many other, more personal images crowd our vision.

Even today, beyond movies, home entertainment includes games, licensed merchandise, published works, and the online experience. It includes electronic delivery as well as packaged media. What we’ve known for years as home video is, in fact, becoming marginalized, in a relative sense, as one cornerstone of home entertainment. Just as vaudeville had to give way to more evolved forms of entertainment, the time is nigh for home video to accept that others are getting into the act.

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

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