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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Disney's Unusual On-Pack Rebate Offer on the New 'Snow White' DVD Is a Marketing Tale About a Mouse With Teeth

17 Oct, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

There's an interesting promotional aspect to Buena Vista Home Entertainment's newly released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD that has been overlooked in the barrage of press coverage on the disc's strong out-of-the-gate sales: Disney is offering a $5 mail-in refund to anyone who sends in the UPC code to the VHS version, last released in 1994.

The offer is publicized on an on-pack sticker, addressed to "Current video owners of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

This underscores Disney's aggressive strategy in bringing DVD to the masses.Bob Chapek, the video division's president, is a huge DVD backer who doesn'tjust want to produce the best DVDs possible. He's determined to transitionconsumers from tape to disc.

As early as last June, when a prototype of Snow White was unveiled in aseries of private press screenings, Chris Carey, a Chapek lieutenant who issenior v.p. of video production for Buena Vista, said, "Our goal is thatevery family that buys this disc will tell every family that doesn't own it, 'You're got to buy this on DVD -- don't buy the cassette, buy the DVD.'" He called the Snow White disc, which also kicks off Disney's new Platinum line, "pivotal" in cracking the lucrative family market and facilitating the shift from VHS to DVD.

It's an interesting agenda, and one other studios quietly attack every chance they get. I've had several studio heads tell me they believe the family market isn't quite ripe enough for a full frontal assault with DVD, at least not yet, while others say Disney is trying to kill VHS before its time.

I beg to differ. I don't see Disney forcing anyone's hand; I see Disney going after a segment of the market that is only now beginning to understand and accept DVD -- Disney's core audience, incidentally -- and doing everything it can to open that market segment. This is Disney's product; it is Disney's job to educate the consumer and help bring them along to DVD, because this isclearly the direction in which the industry is going.

This is not the first time, nor the last time, Disney has labeled DVDs in this fashion. The studio did so with its "Gold Collection" of animated classics last holiday season, and will do it again with Dumbo, due Oct. 23.

From a business sense, it certainly looks appealing. Disney is the king of family programming, which due to its inherent repeatability has always sold better than it's rented. Now, with DVD, Disney, perhaps more than any other studio, sees an opportunity to resell its rich catalog of golden oldies, just like the record companies did with the music CD.

Rather than release the product and let nature take its course, Disney is trying to speed things along -- and depending on who you talk to, is succeeding quite well or failing miserably.

Last week, Disney issued a press release announcing the Snow White DVD sold 1million units its first day in stores. Virtually every other major studio called that figure into question, accusing the Mouse House of inflating the real number.

I don't profess to know who's right and who's wrong. What I do know is that Snow White is an absolutely stunning, marvelous disc, and I couldn't take my eyes off it when my kids popped it into the DVD player last week and the Magic Mirror came on screen and appeared to be talking directly to me.

I also know that many adults who bought the DVD the moment it came out either watched it themselves first or don't have any kids.

Disney may be guilty of a loud bark, but there's plenty of teeth to back it up.

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

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