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T.K.'s MORNING BUZZ: Should Universal Have Been Allowed to Make a Product Presentation at a VSDA Chapter Meeting -- and Close the Doors to Unallied Distributors?

20 Jul, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I find it most disconcerting that the growing disharmony that is plaguing our business has reached down to the Video Software Dealers Association chapter level.

I'm referring to the flap over a recent event in New York that was promoted as a New York/New Jersey chapter meeting but was, in truth, a product presentation by Universal Studios Home Video -- and not open to distributors with whom the studio is not doing business.

One of the rejects who claims he wasn't allowed to attend the meeting was Steve Scavelli of Flash Distributors. Scavelli is hopping mad and, according to our tenacious senior editor, Joan Villa, has vowed to cancel his booths at two other upcoming VSDA events, Sunsplash 2001 and the East Coast Video Show, in protest.

I feel for Scavelli, who, incidentally, is suing Universal over its distribution streamlining that cut him and most other wholesalers out. Universal certainly has the right to invite and not invite whomever it wants to its product presentations. But these product presentations should not be presented as, or even associated with, VSDA events -- particularly not a VSDA chapter meeting.

The VSDA was born of a grass roots movement -- the fight against the studio forces who in the early 1980s were hard at work lobbying Congress to repeal the First Sale Doctrine. This movement ultimately led to the establishment of a national trade association, but one which has always functioned as more of confederacy.

Even during the VSDA's period of national do-nothingness --the Jeff Eves Era -- individual chapters remained a vibrant and expressive stronghold of retailer activity. Bold, passionate regional leaders like Rod Eglash, Ray Jewell, Dave Stevenson and many, many others helped the VSDA maintain credibility and effectiveness at a time when the national organization was a fractious and ineffective shadow. And now that the national VSDA convention may be a thing of the past, local chapter events are taking on greater importance, primarily as networking grounds for retailers facing a common struggle for survival.

Apparently not much networking took place at the New York/New Jersey chapter "event" where Universal was the star attraction. A retail mole who attended likened it to a lecture; there was very little of the banter and exchange of ideas, of strategies, that typically occurs when likeminded retailers and distributors parley.

It was, in short, a chapter event that had lost its purpose. That's what happens when a studio, and not retailers, set the agenda --and when guys like Scavelli, the king of the networkers, are excluded.

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

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