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Entertainment Industry Needs to Prepare for DVD's Inevitable Decline

10 Oct, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The holiday selling season is shifting into high gear, with a blitz of summer blockbusters and high-profile catalog titles arriving on DVD amid a splash of elaborate launch parties and expensive, high-tech marketing campaigns.

The studios are already starting to battle over bragging rights — no sooner had Universal put out a press release touting first-week DVD sales of 2 million units of Scarface than Disney countered with a claim of 3 million The Lion King DVDs passing into consumer hands in just three days.

And with the DVD penetration rate among U.S. households fast approaching 50 percent, I fully expect at least a half-dozen sales records to be set and promptly broken in the coming two months.

Underneath the glee in studio executives' eyes over the continued, and still-accelerating, DVD juggernaut, however, is an undercurrent of uncertainty.

That's because one of the unwritten laws of consumer products is that all good things must come to an end. DVD has been hailed as the hot gift item in 2001, 2002 and now once again this year, but believe me, one day this ride will come to a screeching, grinding halt and something else will arise in its place.

The entertainment industry is hoping this “something” will be high-definition DVD, but precious little progress has been made in bringing the feuding sides to the table for a compromise everyone — Sony, the DVD Forum and all the other next-gen wannabes — can stomach.

Guys, I'm afraid we're running out of time. DVD's still going to go strong for another two or three years, but by the time the steam starts running out we'd better have something else waiting in the wings.

I have no doubt that getting consumers to rebuy their movie libraries will be a lot easier than anyone probably imagines — provided there's a new and better format out there on the table.

But if we're still squabbling over blue lights and red lights and whatever else at the time high-definition television rolls out a few short years down the pike, our entire industry's going to be in big trouble.

We need a leader. We need a summit. And, perhaps most importantly, we need to get the consumers involved, or at least aware of what's going on — that we're making some progress behind closed doors.Assuming, of course, that we are.

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