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Suppliers Put the Focus on Families

3 Mar, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Universal Pictures' big commitment to the family market underscores the growing value of niche markets to the home entertainment industry — and to the maintenance of DVD's growth curve.

Universal today announced the formation of Universal Studios Home Entertainment Family Productions. The new unit will function under home entertainment division president Craig Kornblau and will be overseen by Glenn Ross, the former head of Lions Gate Entertainment's Family Home Entertainment label.

The new unit will develop, produce and acquire live-action and animated family productions exclusively for home entertainment and television.

That puts Universal in the same arena with Warner Home Video and Paramount Home Entertainment, both of which have built huge businesses around nontheatrical family and children's programming — which Ross, while still with Lions Gate, called one of the fastest-growing segments of the home entertainment industry.

At last July's Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) convention in Las Vegas, Ross said he expected DVD shipments of kidvids overall to rise from 176 million units in 2003 to 476 million units in 2007. The children's nontheatrical sector, he projected, would soar from 11 million DVDs shipped in 2003 to 51 million units in 2007.

On the phone late Thursday, Ross said he's more optimistic about the family market than ever. He cited all the new viewing options revolving around the family, including handheld players, like Sony's upcoming PSP, and DVD players “in the back seat of SUVs.”

“And guess who's sitting in the back seat, watching all those movies?” Ross asked. “Kids.”

He's right. In our house, DVDs rule the day. Two-year-old Hunter has a veritable “Thomas the Tank Engine” fetish, yanking Daddy's belt or Mommy's robe first thing in the morning and demanding, “Choo-choo movie! Choo-choo movie!” He's even got his favorites: “Sodor! Percy!” Conner, almost 7, is big on Spider-Man, Batman and other superheroes, live-action as well as animated, while Justin, 9, is a fan of a wide swath of films about sports and other aspects of the family life. He had a fit the other day when we opened the case to The Sandlot and found it empty.

I'm bringing home a new copy tonight.

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