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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Will One-Stops Prove the National Association of Video Distributors’ Salvation?

23 Apr, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Will one-stops prove the National Association of Video Distributors’ salvation?As the NAVD’s 18th annual conference opened here yesterday, concern about shrinking membership has reportedly prompted board members to consider opening the association to other middlemen in the home entertainment food chain, specifically one-stops like Alliance with a heavy presence in DVD.

"That’s where the growth is," said one board member, who said formal plans will be announced at a Tuesday morning press breakfast.

Now, there’s a plan that makes sense. Just like video distributors are trying to counter the erosion in their rental-store base by targeting music chains with DVD, the NAVD needs to broaden its horizons while it still can.

DVD is certainly a growth industry, and the NAVD needs to get a bigger chunk of DVD distribution however, and wherever, it can. The association can still be true to its roots; after all, we’re still talking about packaged movies, and if DVD is prompting music retailers to get more heavily involved in video retailing, then the NAVD, by all means, should grab a piece of the action.

And yet, even a decision as logical and savvy as opening the NAVD’s doors to one-stops isn’t getting unanimous support, sources tell me. It’s just one more example of the widening rift between the haves — Ingram and VPD, both of which have exclusive rights to the Universal line (Ingram also does fulfillment for Warner Rental Direct) and the have-nots, led by the feisty litigants Flash and ETD.

Of the Sunday afternoon board meeting where all this was discussed, one board member told me, "It was tight. It’s getting stranger all the time."

Added another: "It was pretty bad. Everyone was sitting around the room like deer in headlights. Two people, in particular, said nothing during the whole meeting, and had a puss on the whole time. Any idea which ones?"

You know, that’s really too bad. For years, the NAVD has served an important purpose. It’s solidified video distributors and their common concerns into a single, unified voice, and has proven incredibly effective at times, such as in getting studios to agree to a common street date and, more recently, in getting some studios to simplify complicated (if not unworkable) copy-depth programs. The NAVD has also served as a conduit for retailers to communicate with the studios through their distributors.

I’d hate to see the association disintegrate, or continue to lose clout. If broadening membership can save the NAVD, then by all means let’s do it. And let’s not let petty infighting get in the way of a solid and workable plan for salvation.

And while I’m on my soapbox, let me add that one of executive director Bill Burton’s wisest moves was scheduling one-on-one meetings between distributors and the press. These meetings, in years past, have helped the press better understand distribution’s wants, needs and concerns, and I think the relationship was mutually beneficial on many fronts.

This year, while there’s been no formal announcement, the one-on-one meetings between distributors and the press have been scrapped.

My mission for tomorrow’s column will be to find out why.

Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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