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Marketing Makes the Difference in DVD Sales

11 Feb, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Will this be the year the bottom drops out of the DVD market? While continued growth is expected, some studio executives are quietly wringing their hands and hoping that the maturing DVD market won't take too much of a hit before the whole nasty next-generation mess is resolved and we're once again seeing solid growth in the home entertainment category.

Most experts with whom I've spoken recently are predicting overall growth of about 5 percent, maybe a little more. But for that to happen, studios are going to rely more and more on midtier theatricals — films grossing less than $100 million theatrically — and niche titles, from genre movies to such hot new channels as TV DVD and nontheatrical children's programming (like Paramount's lucrative “Nick Jr.” series).

The bottom line: Sales of the mega-theatricals appear to be softening a bit, and catalog sales are suffering from the simple fact that most everything worth a damn has already been released.

In my mind, the success or failure of the studios to keep an even keel on the DVD sales front depends more than ever on marketing. So far, they've done a good job marketing the big hits. Event marketing for big titles is now the norm, and you can't open a magazine or watch a prime-time or cable TV show without being hit with an ad for some new DVD release or another.

But there's a whole other tier of programming that up to now has gotten the proverbial short end of the marketing stick, and with good reason: The potential upside of each specific title isn't enough to justify a big media buy, and so far the rule has been that if you can't make a huge splash, don't do anything at all.

The studios need to get away from that mentality. Granted, season two of “Green Acres” or Deadbirds isn't going to do anywhere near the numbers of Spider-Man 2 or Shrek 2. But taken together, these secondary titles — and I never thought the day when I'd lump a $100 million theatrical into that category — pack a formidable punch. A punch that's going to play an increasingly significant role in the ring going forward.

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