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Show Attracts Big Chains, Influential Consumers

19 Jul, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

EMA's Home Media Expo 2007 wraps up.

LAS VEGAS — Home Media Expo 2007, the latest incarnation of the video retail community's annual convention and trade show, finally succeeded in doing what organizers have been trying to do for years: Be relevant.

The show this year attracted some significant chain retailers as well as influential consumers from the Home Theater Forum, two important audiences for studio sponsors.

As a result, studio presidents who hadn't been to Las Vegas in years made the trek out this time, and those who didn't sent teams of executives for private meetings with key retailers.

One high-ranking studio marketing executive said she was wowed by the retailer turnout. “We had a great meeting with Target,” the executive said, “and we had never done that at the show before.”

Other retail attendees included executives from chains such as Best Buy, Amazon.com, Fry's Electronics, Costco and Circuit City.

The show also took a consumer angle during the opening business session, with a panel of entertainment-consuming “Power Users” assembled by research firm The NPD Group.

“We retooled the show to focus on consumer attitudes, and that was very well received,” said Bo Andersen, president of the sponsoring Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). “Although foot traffic was lighter this year, the quality of the business meetings, seminars and networking was exceptional.

“What I'm hearing from people is that they had a very good show.”

Studios backing both rival high-def disc formats courted the video enthusiasts from Home Theater Forum, invited to the show for the first time by the EMA.

The Forum's Ron Epstein praised the event, saying enthusiast attendees were likely to try it again next year.

Many members of the trade were pleased with the deal-making scene.

First time EMA attendee Subin Vaughese, owner of Liquid Media, an upstart disc replication company in New York, said he had come to the show looking negotiate deals and meet clients. And he did.

“I've closed some deals, and I'm off to meet with another client and then tomorrow I'm out of here,” Vaughese said.

A representative from Image Entertainment, which significantly raised its profile at the show by hosting the Image Comedy Showcase, said July 18 their suite had been busy everyday.

“And there is still tomorrow,” she said.

The Independent Dealers of Entertainment Association (iDEA) announced Idea Net, an online network intended to help members establish online movie rentals and sellthrough business.

Working with a centralized network, indie retailers will be able to chase online revenue through their respective store Web sites.

Some indies, however, felt left out at the show.

Al Welch, the owner of Video Village in Rockwell, Texas, said his 20th EMA underscored the fact the confab had bypassed the independent retailer in favor of big box retailers.

He said he looked forward to attending the iDEA cruise for independent retailers, which he attended last year.

“It was excellent event,” Welch said. “It was intimate with great give and take.”

A representative with first-time exhibitor Vina Distributors, a Los Angeles-based distributor of Mexican fare, said the EMA and National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) should revisit merging their respective trader shows.

“We have the same customers,” said Vina rep Tim Lamonte. “Maybe this year with [EMA] being slower, both sides will make it happen.”

Distributor BCI, a division of Navarre, which recently sold its music distribution unit, disagreed.

“We don't have any need for NARM,” said a representative.

She commended the EMA suite format as being easier on exhibitor staffers than standing in panty hose in a suite on a showroom floor.

Additional reporting by Thomas K. Arnold and Stephanie Prange.

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