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TK's MORNING BUZZ: 'Teamwork' Might Not Have Been the Best Theme for This Year's NAVD Conference

24 Apr, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — More than one attendee of this week’s 18th annual National Association of Video Distributors trade conference here has remarked on the irony of the confab’s theme, "It Takes Teamwork."

Ever since some distributors began getting exclusive deals with studios — Ingram for fulfillment on Warner Rental Direct, Ingram and VPD for full-line Universal product — the rift between the NAVD’s board members has grown as wide as one of the canyons tearing apart the desert floor here in the shadows of the mountains to the west.

Indeed, when it came time to schedule one-on-one meetings with the press, distributors took a pass. One source says the key reason was the lawsuit filed by a pair of disenfranchised wholesalers, Flash Distributors and ETD, against Universal and two of their luckier competitors. "Attorneys get nervous when their clients talk," this source said, "particularly to the press, where you can’t really control what gets said."

More indications that "teamwork" might not necessarily have been the most appropriate theme for this year’s trade conference:

--The refusal by one distributor who shall remain nameless to meet with New Line Home Entertainment executives because he’s still fuming over Warner’s Rental Direct, which includes New Line product.

--The stony silent faces worn by VPD’s Tim Shannahan and Ingram’s Vern Fross during the Sunday night board meeting. One of them reportedly told the NAVD’s Bill Burton, "I’m here because I was told to be here."

--The dissension among board members toward opening membership to one-stops and other home entertainment middlemen in an attempt to restore some of the NAVD’s clout and stature. The have-nots like the idea; the haves are reportedly against it. "Some members of our board feel there are already too many distributors," Bill Burton told me poolside.

Overall, the conference is more subdued than it’s ever been, with unspoken tensions adding to the somber mood. Even the traditional poolside mingler was moved to an out-of-the-way terrace, where Vern Fross and Steve Scavelli brushed against each other with nary a "Hello."

As one veteran NAVD-goer said, "It’s like a funeral, but where are the bodies?"

Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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