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TK's MORNING BUZZ: There Could Be Fireworks at This Week's NAVD Meeting in L.A... Just How Welcome is Ingram?

7 Nov, 2000 By: Thomas K. Arnold

There could be some real fireworks at this week's meeting in Los Angeles of the National Association of Video Distributors, wholesalers tell me.

Although unlikely, the meeting--which will be held Wednesday and Thursday--could result in something as radical as Ingram Entertainment being booted out of the organization by angry competitors who no longer feel the giant wholesaler is "one of us," in the words of one. In any event, don't expect to see Vern Fross toasting drinks in the bar Wednesday night.

Ingram has never been a favorite among its competitors. A few years ago, when WaxWorks was having some financial problems, Ingram opened a sales office within earshot of WaxWorks' headquarters in Owensboro, Kentucky. Tensions eased last year, at the 1999 NAVD conference in Indian Wells, Calif., when Ingram pleaded with suppliers to "feel our pain" and appeared to speaking for all wholesalers.

But then, when Ingram landed fulfillment duties for Warner Home Video's Rental Direct program and everyone else was shut out, a real rift developed.

It widened when Ingram became one of only two distributors to be tapped by Universal to carry its full line of product, and was torn wide open when Ingram sales reps began calling their rivals' accounts the moment the deal was sealed, urging them to give all their business to Ingram.

David Ingram calling his competitors "idiots" in a conference call didn't help matters, and when Ingram bought Major Concepts and began claiming a market share of more than 50% of all rental product channeled through distribution, the line in the sand was clearly drawn.

Several distributors feel the Feds should look into the Universal deal, and there is wisespread sentiment that distributors may ultimately square off in court.

If the NAVD has to weigh in on one side or the other, someone's going to walk out--and remember, the majority rules. If the NAVD pulls a VSDA and does nothing, saying it can't get involved in disputes between its members, then it will have lost any effectiveness it might have had.

Either scenario is not pretty, and I don't envy Bill Burton right now. The future of the NAVD hangs in the balance, and I have a feeling the butterflies will be churning in Burton's stomach between now and Thursday night.

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

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