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Summer Vacation Trip Rx: DVD

18 Jul, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

With summer vacation in full throttle, families are hitting the roads to get away from the daily grind — but not necessarily 21st century amenities like streaming video and Wi-Fi.

With national park attendance projected to top last year’s record 315 million visits, millions of millennials, smart phone-dependent teens and other connected folks traveling to small towns and mountain regions are discovering that streaming Netflix or YouTube can be wishful thinking no matter how many “free Wi-Fi” promises are made in brochures.

Despite living in a wireless world, connectivity remains an issue in remote areas, especially when local networks are inundated by excess demand. As a result, DVD continues to be important to consumers looking for access to video content in Internet-challenged areas.

In Estes Park, Colo., at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, broadband requirements of the town’s 5,000 residents are pushed to their limits as nearly 1 million connected visitors, campers and RVs invade the region in July alone. Good luck binge-viewing Showtime’s “Billions,” or even getting email.

“Spotty Internet coverage is definitely beneficial for physical media, but I think that is becoming the exception rather than the rule,” said Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

Pachter said he recently rented a condo on Catalina Island and called to complain it didn’t have Wi-Fi. The rental office assured him that this was the exception rather than the rule.

“I really only wanted Wi-Fi so my kids wouldn’t run up our data charges. Internet is getting pretty cheap, and it is likely that you’ll only find access difficult in wilderness areas," he said. "Accordingly, I don’t think that lack of Internet coverage is likely to save DVDs from extinction.”

Maybe, but as families hovering around a Redbox kiosk at a convenience store in Colorado Springs demonstrates, old-school DVD (and Blu-ray) entertainment can be a savior in the short-term for disaffected kids stuck in a car with a portable disc player.

“They fill the whole parking lot during the summer,” said Casey Wright, manager at Showtime Video in Loveland, gateway to Rocky Mt. National Park on U.S. 34. “We are the only movie rental place around.”

Wright says most clients are out-of-towners and the elderly (“they still read newspapers,” he says surprisingly). Many of the latter, he says, have been frequenting the store for 20 years.

Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox, says demand for disc rentals remains high in regions where reliable Internet and broadband is suspect due to seasonal demands and geographic challenges.

“It’s one reason we announced a national expansion to more than 1,500 new locations this year, and even more locations next year,” Smith said.

Indeed, as Redbox expands, the traditional video store footprint continues to shrink. Showtime Video has downsized to just one store after operating three locations for years.

“But we work with late fees way better than the [Red]box,” Wright said.


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