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DVD Revs Up For Fall

25 Jul, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Once again, the fourth quarter selling season will get its preseason kickoff in September, the same time the kids head back to school and the fall TV season debuts. And with every video release now a sellthrough product, you can bet your all-in-one universal remote that the studios are going to up the marketing ante to the point where no one can hide or escape from the mighty “D” word (as in DVD).

Even Detroit will be involved, with several integrated TV commercials on the way. Disney is promising a hookup with Dodge Caravan to promote the Oct. 7 DVD debut of The Lion King, probably along the same lines as the s Chrysler Town & Country minivan spots that are scheduled to start running next month in support of New Line's Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. A brother and a sister are sitting in the back of the car; the girl is fantasizing about Orlando Bloom. Suddenly she's in the middle of the movie, surrounded by elves; then, just as suddenly, she's shaken awake and you see her brother asking her for the remote. The pitch is that Chrysler minivans now come equipped with optional DVD players, and if you buy the Lord of the Rings DVD you get $500 off the sticker price.

Spots this elaborate, this clever, this expensive never would have happened in the old VHS days—and not just because DVD is so much sexier, but also because home video was never really a consumer product. With a handful of exceptions, movies were released to the rental channel first, and since studios didn't get a cut they pretty much washed their hands, offering little or no marketing support.

Now, it's a whole new ballgame, and with a fourth-quarter lineup in which virtually every week brings a hot new hit to DVD, the studios are going to outdo themselves to make sure they are heard—and their product is not only seen, but bought.

Rental isn't going away—in fact, the amount of money consumers are spending to rent videos is up so far this year, according to Video Store Magazine market research. But despite continued talk about revenue-sharing, the studios care less about the rental market, regardless of how big it is, than ever. They're putting virtually all their marketing money and muscle into getting consumers to buy their DVDs. And if rental dealers buy a few copies to rent, that's fine. The studios will do what they can to share the spoils, but don't expect them to kick in even a few cents to encourage the rental habit.

Nearly a quarter of a century after First Sale, they're still doing what they can to make that segment of the business go away.

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