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Home Media Expo is Turning Blu

20 Jun, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Home Media Expo 2008 is turning Blu, as in Blu-ray Disc. The home entertainment industry's annual convention, which returns to its traditional Las Vegas home June 24-26 for its 27th incarnation, will put the spotlight on the nascent high-definition disc, which studios are hoping will reinvigorate packaged media after three years of flat DVD sales.

“Blu-ray is the perfect evolutionary product for the future of hard-goods retailing, and the industry's best promise for incremental growth. This is undoubtedly the right time and the right event to shine a spotlight on Blu-ray,” said Bo Andersen, president of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), producer of the annual trade show. Andersen said this year's show, to be held at the Palms Casino Resort, will bring together several thousand studio executives, analysts, distributors and, mostly, retailers, long the backbone of both the association and the show.

For most of the show's life, the dominant retailers were rental dealers, first mom-and-pops and then executives with regional and national chains such as Blockbuster Inc. and Movie Gallery. But as the industry moved from rental to sellthrough with the launch of DVD in 1997, so did the show's focus. Today representatives of most of the big retail sellers of DVD, including Target Stores and Amazon.com, will be attending the show.

Accordingly, Andersen said, major topics of discussion at this year's Home Media Expo are those in which the big retail chains are keenly interested: how studios and retailers intend to work together to hasten consumer adoption of high-definition discs and develop a profitable digital delivery model “while continuing to support the phenomenally successful standard DVD format,” Andersen said.

The centerpiece of this year's show will be the Opening Business Session, where a panel of industry leaders will discuss the impending consumer transition from standard DVD to Blu-ray Disc.

During the session “Moving Forward and Building Growth,” Mike Dunn, worldwide president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; James W. Keyes, chairman and CEO of Blockbuster Inc.; James L. McQuivey, VP and principle analyst with Forrester Research Inc.; and Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, VP of corporate development and GM of the Blu-ray Disc Group at Panasonic Corp. of North America, will share their views on how the technology of Blu-ray Discs provides a superior entertainment experience and what needs to be done to ensure its widespread embrace by consumers.

The session also will feature a demonstration by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment of the new BD Live technology, which connects a Blu-ray Disc player to the Internet.

“Home entertainment, which has been dominated by standard DVD for the past decade, is a $23 billion annual market, and is the most popular way for Americans to watch the latest hit movies,” Andersen said. “Now, the industry is transitioning from standard DVD to Blu-ray Discs. Blu-ray is the superior format for home entertainment, with a picture quality six times clearer than DVD — perfectly suited for the wave of HDTVs consumers are buying. The opportunities for growth are tremendous, yet challenges remain to widespread consumer adoption.

“We have assembled a distinguished panel to provide studio, retailer, and analyst perspectives on how Blu-ray Discs can and will impact the future of the home entertainment industry.”

Blu-ray Disc's potential and special features, as well as digital copy, also will be the focus of some of the presentations to the Home Theater Forum, the influential online community for home video enthusiasts. Home Theater Forum members, who gathered at the show last year for the first time to celebrate their 10th anniversary, are returning to the show this year.

Home Media Expo 2008 also will explore the other direction in which home entertainment is heading, the digital delivery of movies over the Internet, cable or satellite, with a “Digital Media Day” June 26. This one-day conference-within-a-conference will examine consumer consumption trends and forecasts, marketing, release strategies, production selection for digital media, the digital supply chain, business models, and the technology for delivery content to consumers in their living rooms and on-the-go. Digital Media Day will include a panel of consumers to discuss what they watch, when and where they watch it, and what they want to see to make their digital entertainment complete.

“The entertainment industry has embraced digital content and delivery,” Andersen said. “Digital technology has been substantially evolving and provides additional growth opportunities for studios and retailers.”

Other highlights of the show:

  • TV Legends: Beloved classic TV stars Don Most (“Happy Days”), Josie Davis (“Charles in Charge”) and others will celebrate the success of the TV DVD business, which now generates more than $3 billion in annual consumer spending, with a panel and a cocktail party.

  • Home Entertainment Awards: The EMA will once again honor the best DVDs of 2007 and also single out individuals for special awards. This year's recipients include Jon Chu, who will be awarded the Breakout Director of the Year; Ed Begley Jr., who will be honored as Humanitarian of the Year; Cam Gigandet, Rising Male Star of the Year; Henry Jaglom, Independent Career Achievement Award; and Pauly Shore, Comedy Entertainer of the Year.

  • As part of the show, the EMA will stage a “Salute to Classic TV” in which Most and Anson Williams will be honored as Legendary Television Duo, Paul Peterson (“The Donna Reed Show”) will be honored as Legendary Television Son and Charlene Tilton will be honored as the Legendary TV Bad Girl.

  • Special Screenings: Throughout the show, retailers will be treated to special screenings of films bound for DVD, including Never Back Down, presented by Summit Home Entertainment and introduced by star Cam Gigandet, and the 1985 cult classic Kiss of the Spider Woman, with William Hurt and Raul Julia.

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