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Steamroller VOD Campaign Signals VOD Getting Tough

22 May, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I received a lovely gift basket the other day from Cox Cable. It came to my home in Carlsbad, Calif., from the publicity department of the San Diego Cox affiliate. The contents are all movie-related, from a promotional T-shirt for The Ring to Hollywood brand cookies.

A rolled-up “Media Alert” was attached to the cookie box, and as I read it I almost lost my cookies. Cox is launching a VOD service in San Diego, and targeting video stores with one of the most vicious assaults I've ever seen.

“10-Ton Steamroller Smashes Hundreds of Videotapes at Cox Communications, Rock 105.3 Block-Buster Rally,” the headline screamed. “Join the Entertainment on Demand revolution and say good-bye to video stores forever.”

The media alert claims “the number of people renting videotapes and DVDs is in decline.” Citing an uncredited “2002 marketing survey,” Cox claims “only 50 percent of those surveyed had rented videotapes within the past month, a 16 percent decrease from 2001,” and that “there was an 11 percent decrease in the number of people who rented DVDs.”

To drive home that point, Cox is banding together with a local radio station to sponsor a rally before an indoor football game by the San Diego Riptide. Patrons, armed with “sledgehammers and bricks,” will demolish videotapes and vie for prizes, including a 65-inch high-definition television.

“The ultimate Block-Buster, a 10-ton steamroller, will bulldoze hundreds of videotapes to show Entertainment on Demand's superiority over renting videos,” the media alert continued. “Your home is your video store. No late fees! No waiting in line. No leaving the comforts of home.”

The alert advised, “Don't forget to bring your unwanted video store membership card to the Entertainment on Demand Block-Buster Rally and watch it go up in smoke.”

Well, there's certainly a lot of smoke here, and it isn't coming from burning cards. But I have to admit, Cox has me captivated. I had no idea the video rental industry was going down the tubes — our own research shows quite the opposite, with DVD rentals doubling in 2002 — and I guess soaring DVD sales really aren't a factor in all of this.

I'm also very anxious to see how Cox intends to show VOD's superiority over renting by bulldozing “hundreds of videotapes.”

My curiosity, however, has been aroused. I dug deeper into my basket, hoping for a manual of some sort, and was immediately rewarded with a “Cox EOD Tutorial.”

On a videocassette, no less.

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