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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Why Is the Soaring Popularity of Religious Entertainment Catching Many Retailers by Surprise?

10 Jul, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Talk about coincidence. I had just finished editing Video Store Magazine's next special merchandising guide, on religious videos, when I came across a wire-service press release announcing the cover story of next week's Newsweek.

Titled "Jesus Rocks! Christian Entertainment Makes Joyful Noise," the article proclaims that contemporary Christian music "is now the hottest genre in the entire music industry," and that Christian entertainment in general, from movies to books, has "emerged as a multibillion-dollar business."

Either the Newsweek staffers read an advance copy of our religious video package, or they're somehow on the exact same wavelength as the reporter who did our story, Dan Bennett.

In each case, the message is the same: Religious entertainment is a hot commodity, its popularity catching many retailers by surprise.

Our readers, whose primary business is the sale and/or rental of videos (VHS and DVD), should take heed. Religious entertainment is just one of many exploitable niche genres that has been ignored by too many for too long.

Back in the old days of home video, retailers could rent just about anything that came out on videocassette, and diversity was often home video's calling card. Remember the great debates of breadth versus depth? As recently as 1994, Bill Mechanic, then head of Walt Disney Home Video, said secondary, non-hit product was the lifeblood of the home video industry.

But in today's hit-conscious society, the benefits of having a vast and diverse selection of product are increasingly falling on deaf ears.

Everyone's out to have more copies of the hits, encouraged by Blockbuster and Hollywood's successful copy-depth strategies. Few seem to care about breadth of copy anymore, and the general belief is that consumers no longer care, either -- they want the hits, all the hits, and nothing but the hits.

Hogwash, I say. With proper marketing and merchandising, retailers can still get a lot of mileage out of offering huge and diverse selections of video product. There are plenty of underserved niches out there, and no one to fill them because everyone's too busy playing catchup to Blockbuster and the other big chains.

Retailers who are overly focused on the hits are leaving money on the table. The Newsweek story -- as well as our religious video special merchandising guide, appearing in the July 15 issue of Video Store Magazine -- provides ample evidence of one lucrative niche.

Last Friday, I witnessed, firsthand, evidence of another lucrative niche: I attended the Anime Expo at the Long Beach Convention Center. A huge show floor, jam-packed with people -- sort of like VSDA, 1990. And all of them drawn by their interest in Japanese animation. A.D. Vision teamed with Suncoast Motion Picture Co. to sell product on the show floor. The lines appeared as endless as the "ka-ching, ka-ching" of the cash register.

Retailers, I'm trying to sell you something. How many of you are listening?

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

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