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Fat Tuesday: DVD Industry's Homegrown Tradition

30 Dec, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The consumer media did an exceptionally good job covering home entertainment this past holiday season. Spending some time with the relatives allowed me to do something I rarely do at home — watch TV — and it was heartening to see all the big entertainment shows provide regular updates on new DVD releases. “Access Hollywood” even singled out TV DVD sets in its scrolling news bar at the bottom of the screen.

It's interesting to note, too, how the Tuesday street date has become a key component of DVD's role in popular culture. Thanks (again) to the media — including USA Today, which runs its weekly DVD column on Tuesdays — most everyone now knows Tuesday is when new DVD releases typically arrive in stores. Wal-Mart, Target Stores and the other big discount chains that are this country's primary sellers of DVD capitalize on this awareness however they can, often with special give-aways or exclusive gifts-with-purchase that drive ever-increasing numbers of consumers into their stores. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “Fat Tuesday.”

Ironically, the Tuesday street date is a relic of the rental era, the result of intensive lobbying by video distributors and their trade group, the National Association of Video Distributors (NAVD). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, independent video retailers were becoming increasingly concerned over street date violations, both by the big rental chains fast encroaching on their turf and by nonspecialty retailers who were latching on to the nascent sellthrough business. Studio executives agreed to ship product in time for Tuesday arrival, so everyone got product on the same day. Tuesday was deemed the ideal choice because should a slipup occur, retailers who received their shipment a day early and were tempted to put it out a day ahead of schedule were stuck with Slow Monday, while unexpected delays could generally be dealt with in time for the weekend.

Today, it's become increasingly difficult — and unrealistic — to dispute that the rental era is winding down. Throughout 2004, we saw signs that the sky had finally begun to fall. Quarter after quarter, Blockbuster and the other big rental chains reported significant downturns in transactional rental activity. And DVDs can now be purchased for as little as a buck apiece.

But even if rental's steady slide accelerates into a freefall, let's never forget the rental segment's legacy. The big discount chains didn't turn us into a country of movie lovers accustomed to watching films at home — the pioneering rental dealers did that. They also gave us lots of traditions and practices that persist to this day. The Tuesday street date is but one.

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