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DVD No Longer Coolest New Toy

17 Nov, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Gadgetmania is upon us.

We've got iPods and MP3 players, cell phones and Blackberries, PDAs and PSPs.

You used to see people on a plane reading books. Then it was watching movies on their laptops. Now, they're fiddling about with various handheld gadgets, talking, e-mailing, looking at pictures, taking pictures, listening to music, watching the previous night's episode of “Lost,” playing games.

Me, I've become a Blackberry addict. I'm driving people crazy at work, e-mailing them even when I'm standing right outside their cube. Why? Because I can.

All of this gadgetry is making people in Hollywood a little nervous. With the exception of the PSP, none of these gadgets require, or even accept, packaged media. The threat of a wireless universe really didn't hit home with Hollywood until Apple unveiled its video iPod and ABC began selling downloads of episodes of hot TV shows for $1.99 the day after they air.

At our recent TV DVD Conference, one home entertainment executive said he'd love to come to next year's event — “if our industry is still around,” he added.

Doom-and-gloom talk is nothing new, but this particular executive said he's never been as worried as he is now. You see, he's in the business of marketing TV DVD, and he's not exactly thrilled that the networks are “undercutting my business” — his words — by selling stuff sooner, and cheaper, than he can.

Video marketers and retailers had the same fears about pay-per-view, although history has shown us that short PPV windows didn't hurt nearly as much as everyone once thought. Indeed, there are indications that a PPV showing can actually boost video sales by heightening awareness of the program.

The difference here is that the order is reversed — downloads of TV shows are being sold way before the DVDs are ready.

Has the genie finally been uncorked? Hard to say. And quite honestly, I don't have time to ruminate any longer. The red light is flashing on my Blackberry.

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