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Disc Deluge

27 Nov, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold

While final numbers or even preliminary numbers aren't in, early reports indicated Black Friday was a huge day for the home entertainment industry, with consumers crowding into stores like Walmart, Target and Best Buy and leaving with armloads of heavily discounted DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

The deluge indicates one thing: Disc sales have become increasingly price-sensitive, although maintaining this pace will bring us closer and closer to the tipping scale, where it's more profitable for studios to sell fewer downloads than mass quantities of uber-cheap discs.

The one saving grace is that retailers, not studios, took the hit this time around. But while we may exult at the gobs of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs that were snapped up by bargain-hunting consumers, we must also accept the sobering thought that selling DVDs for under $2 and Blu-ray Discs for $5 is simply not sustainable.

We don't want to train consumers that this is the new reality, that this is all that discs are worth. But I think consumers are smart enough to know that Black Friday means some truly incredible deals--heck, Walmart was selling laptops for less than $200, while Best Buy had a Toshiba Blu-ray Disc player for $59.99--and that once the post-Thanksgiving discount madness is over, they will once again be charged more realistic prices.

For the sake of our business, I'm hoping Black Friday rekindled the emotional bond consumers in the not so recent past developed with their movies and TV shows. The concept of owning and collecting, after all, was an outgrowth of DVD, a relatively new habit. When our collections began to spill out onto the floor and laundry room cabinets, we applied the brakes, and while many of us do intend to replace at least our favorite movies with Blu-ray Discs, the troubled economy has prevented us from doing so.

Black Friday turned even the most cautious collectors into hoarders. At Best Buy, I saw lines of people with huge stacks of DVDs ($3.99) and Blu-ray Discs ($7.99-$9.99) in their arms; at the Target store in Oceanside, Calif., that I visited, every single $7.99 Blu-ray Disc was gone by 10 a.m.--and we're talking catalog titles such as Serenity, Taken, Wanted and the three Lord of the Rings films, which from what I'm hearing were the first to go. Walmart was an utter zoo, thanks largely to more than 90 DVD titles--including Ice Age, Sex and the City and the Bourne and Lord of the Rings trilogies--priced at just $1.96 apiece. Walmart also blew out some 60 Blu-ray Disc titles at $5, including Batman Begins, Live Free or Die Hard and The Dark Knight.

Obviously, these prices can't last, but they sure caught the consumers' attention. And with economic recovery, true economic recovery, still months, if not years, away, we need jolts like this to keep packaged media in the spotlight--and in the home. We need mass feeding frenzies to ensure consumers don't lose their appetites for buying discs, for owning and collecting movies.

We just can't do it all the time.



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