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Home Media Expo Keeps on Truckin'

16 Jul, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's easy to see why some in our industry feel the Entertainment Merchants Association's annual trade show, which takes place this week in Las Vegas, has lost its relevance.

Having a fellow by the name of “Crazy Legs” Conti chow down as much popcorn as he can stomach isn't exactly on a par with Steve Martin, Michael Douglas or other celebrity guests at past conventions.

But take a closer look at what's happening and you'll see that the show still has its merits, from a thoughtful opening session that puts the spotlight on the consumer, to ample networking opportunities for content suppliers and a healthy contingent of key retailers.

And I'm not talking about the independent rental dealers, those brave souls who built our industry but now are dismissed by studios as inconsequential dinosaurs (talk about biting the hand … but that's fodder for another column).

Home Media Expo 2007, contrary to widespread perception that it is an “indie retailer” show, is drawing representatives from some of the biggest video sellthrough retailers in the country, including Target Stores, Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon.com and Costco. Also on hand are key executives from Blockbuster Inc. and Netflix, the Yin and Yang of rental, and such key chains as Borders, Toys “R” Us, Trans World Entertainment, Fry's, Giant Eagle and Kmart.

The president of one studio told me he's sending sales executives specifically to schedule private meetings with these retailers. “Wal-Mart's not there,” he said, “but everyone else seems to be.”

Home Media Expo 2007 may be a shadow of the grand and glorious trade shows of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when studios spent up to a million bucks on interactive exhibits and hauled out ‘A'-listers in an attempt to cozy up to the 10,000-plus rental dealers they couldn't otherwise reach — and upon whom their livelihood depended.

But just as the business has changed, so has the show. Retail consolidation has put power into the hands of a few, and you don't need a three-ring circus to reach a handful of retail power players.

You need a meeting room, and maybe a party or two. And that's precisely what this year's show provides.

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