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Industry Pundits Answer ‘6 Questions’

19 May, 2009 By: Stephanie Prange

stephanie prange

This week we introduce a new feature for the magazine: 6 Questions.

Our intention is to engage the top executives in the industry with precise, to-the-point questions and elicit answers that offer direction and insight in these uncertain times.

It is fitting that the series kicks off with Eric Doctorow, a veteran of the home entertainment studio system who has seen the rise and fall of several formats and the move from a rental to a sellthrough business, as well as the resurgence of the rental business in recent months.

Doctorow offers a nuanced view of this ever-changing industry. He is the longest-serving studio chief in Hollywood’s home entertainment sector. He became president of worldwide video for Paramount Pictures in 1994, and has been keeping close tabs on the business ever since, most recently as GM of MGM Worldwide for the past three years.

It’s MGM’s 85th anniversary, Doctorow’s 15th since first heading a studio home entertainment division and our 30th as an industry source. It seems a great time to talk to him and take stock of a home entertainment business that is resilient but, as ever, under siege from competing businesses that hope to take a piece of the home media pie.

Doctorow’s calm assurance stands in contrast to the sky-is-falling panic that many analysts exhibit in talking about the future of home entertainment packaged media. As I do, he remembers many years when analysts wrote off the business — and he’s not concerned.

“The industry is down less than 10% in unit sales,” he notes. “I can think of a lot of industries that would cheer that statistic.”

Indeed, recent NPD Group research backs his assertion that the disc isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. A whopping 88% of consumer home entertainment dollars go toward DVD and Blu-ray Disc purchases and rentals, according to the firm’s March 2009 update to its “Entertainment Trends in America” consumer-tracking study. Just 9% was spent on video on-demand (VOD) and 3% was spent on digital downloads and online streaming.

Home entertainment packaged media is surviving quite nicely in the worst recession in its history, and veterans such as Doctorow assure us it will continue for many years.

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