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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Blockbuster May Be the Place to Go for the Newest VHS Releases, But Big Blue Has Missed the Boat on DVD

25 Sep, 2000 By: Thomas K. Arnold

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—I’m sitting here in my hotel room overlooking the boardwalk, on the eve of the East Coast Video Show, the annual industry event that has traditionally been a beacon for independent video specialty retailers.

As I do every morning, I checked my e-mail as soon as I got up, and there’s a note from Blockbuster, informing me that blockbuster.com is the place to go to buy DVDs.

Too little, too late.

With its walls of hits, 200 or more copies per title deep, with its guaranteed availability and extended rental periods, Blockbuster has done a great job establishing itself as the place to go for the newest VHS releases.

But as far as DVD is concerned, Big Blue has missed the boat. The chain was slow getting into the format, ignoring the adage that a market leader needs to be at the forefront of new technologies. And today, the DVD section in a typical Blockbuster Video store still has that "afterthought" appearance, to say nothing of the chain’s lackluster attempts to promote it.

Even this solitary piece of DVD--promoting e-mail attempts to send me to Blockbuster’s Web site rather than its stores, and this as we begin what most everyone agrees will be the biggest fourth quarter DVD has ever had.

Independent retailers have a real opportunity with DVD, particularly on the rental end, where Blockbuster’s slim commitment has opened up a door many of you, I hope, will march through.

And while it’s easy to cede the selling of DVD to the mass merchants and music chains--the latter of which are really stepping up their commitment, even to the point of trimming back on VHS and even music-—independent retailers need to be out front here as well, educating their customers about building libraries and having the inventory, the selection and the pricing to make it easy for them to do so.

Indies are already having a tough time, and with even normally upbeat Paul Kagan Associates issuing a new report that concludes rental is a dying business, they need to go back to their retailing roots and react to the marketplace.

Renting DVDs is fine and should be pursued ardently and aggressively, but that alone won’t cut it.

Retailers need to do everything in their power to establish their stores as DVD destinations for buying as well as renting, and if that means picking up discs at one of the deep-discount Web sellers or warehouse stores, by all means go to it.

Now is the time to get aggressive and beat the DVD drums as loudly as possible. Video stores need to reassert themselves as movie stores in the public consciousness, and if Blockbuster, the market leader, isn’t cutting the mustard when it comes to DVD, all of you, collectively, need to step up and take over.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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