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Best Buy Steps Up the Pace On Exclusives

11 Jul, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

Best Buy is making good on its pledge to go after more exclusive product and window deals.

The chain's Fourth of July circular touted the exclusive offer of a newly available TV title — Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Best of Spike single-disc DVD ($14.99) from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The previous week, the chain's flyer highlighted The Best of Welcome Back Kotter, a single disc ($14.99) from Warner Home Video.

The electronics retailer — whose first exclusive arrangements started off with a bang in 2003 with music DVD product such as The Rolling Stones' Four Flicks and continued last summer with the four-disc Dream Ticket from Elton John — singled out the strategy in its fiscal-year earnings for 2005 and announced a ramp-up.

“We anticipate continuing to enhance our entertainment offerings, including the introduction of tailored market assortments, and to pursue exclusive arrangements,” said the chain's annual report for fiscal 2005.

While going after a music emphasis in the past, Best Buy appears to be shifting focus to the popular TV DVD market. The retailer scored its first TV DVD exclusive in May, picking up the short-lived Dave Chappelle comedy “Buddies.”

More TV exclusives are on the way to the chain this summer. Listed on Best Buy's Web site as exclusives are Tru Calling: Season Two from Fox (available Aug. 2 for $24.99), and The Oblongs Complete Series DVD (available July 12 at $29.99), a short-lived 2001 animated series featuring voice talent from Will Ferrell and Jean Smart.

Available July 26 at Best Buy is the U.K. version of season one of the Sci Fi Channel's “Battlestar Galactica,” a reimagining of the 1978 show of the same name that follows the 2003 miniseries. The U.K. version has a different opening title sequence than the American one. The four-disc set includes all 13 episodes and deleted scenes.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment confirmed the “Battlestar Galactica” first-season set is available only at Best Buy until September, when it will get a wide release. The second season of “Battlestar Galactica” begins airing Friday, July 15 on the Sci Fi Channel. Warner Home Video and Fox declined to comment.

Best Buy spokesperson Brian Lucas said exclusives are part of an overall strategy to both reward loyal customers and create unique content. The retailer has been working closely with studios on creating new TV DVD items, he said.

“Whatever we can do to get customers excited about entertainment is going to benefit us and the industry overall, hopefully,” Lucas said.

Exclusives don't necessarily harm consumers, said Gord Lacey, who operates the fan site TVShowsOn-DVD.com.

“People who shop at Best Buy will be more than happy to buy it at Best Buy,” he said. “Any fans who don't like to shop at Best Buy, well, they will wait.”

But it does affect the overall perspective fans and DVD buyers have of Best Buy's competitors, Lacey said.

“They don't view it as Best Buy getting something early,” he said. “They view it as everyone else getting it late.”

There's the rub for competing retailers. For independent rentailers, it hearkens back to Blockbuster's revenue-sharing deals, which made stores without comparable copy depth look bad by comparison, said Todd Zaganiacz, president of the National Entertainment Buying Group.

“If a customer asks, you have to say ‘no I can't get that,' and it makes you look inferior,” he said.

Ostensibly, any specialty retailer could go into a Best Buy, pick up a copy of an exclusive offering, then sell it or rent it at their own store. However, that just supports the system and gives Best Buy more clout in the studios' eyes, Zaganiacz said.

Best Buy's increased exclusives are a bit early this year, he added.

“It's not even the fourth quarter yet,” he said. “I really hate to think what's going to happen then.”

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