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10 Big Ones

10 Aug, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

We’re getting ready to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Yes, it’s been exactly three decades since Stuart Karl, who would later rise to fame for launching the Jane Fonda fitness video series, started publishing what was then known as Video Store Magazine in the garage of his Orange County, Calif., home.
To celebrate our 30th birthday, we are planning a special issue next month, and a key part of that issue will be a retrospective feature highlighting what our editors consider the 10 biggest stories of the home video era.
This task gets harder each time we celebrate an anniversary, since so much tends to happen every five years. Since our last anniversary issue was published in 2004, we’ve seen an end to soaring year-over-year DVD sales gains, the launch of a new format, a divisive format war and the unexpected resurgence of rental. We’ve also seen the emergence of digital delivery. Five years ago YouTube, “user-generated content,” Hulu and EST were in no one’s vocabulary; today, they’re every bit as much a part of our business as DVD, Blu-ray Disc, sellthrough and rental.
I’d like to throw my own personal list of the video era’s 10 biggest stories out there for our readers to review. This list was compiled one morning on my Blackberry during my daily pre-work hike, stream-of-consciousness style, and is presented here in reverse chronological order. I’d love to hear from you—please email me with your comments at tarnold@questex.com.
10. The resurgence of rental (and studio haplessness as kiosks proliferate but share none of the spoils, at a time when the economy, and DVD sales, take a tumble).
9. Digital delivery takes off (not so much streaming and downloading of movies as the fast acceptance of alternative forms of entertainment, from YouTube clips to Hulu).
8. The launch of Blu-ray Disc (and the protracted format war that preceded it).
7. Rental’s do-or-die transformation (from traditional brick-and-mortar to the Netflix subscription model and the proliferation of kiosks).
6. Sellthrough’s explosive growth, 2001-2004, and home video eclipsing theatrical as Hollywood’s primary revenue stream.

5. The demise of the independent video rental store (round two, as DVD takes the business sellthrough and the mass merchants take over).
4. The launch of DVD (which changed consumer habits from renting to buying and took our industry to new heights).
3. The rise of the public video chains (which grew the business but also undermined the base of independent rental stores, triggering significant changes in the way the business operates—including revenue-sharing, supply-side economics and direct selling by studios).
2. The First Sale Doctrine, which solidified retail’s right to rent just as our first format war,
between VHS and Beta, was beginning to wind down.
1. Andre Blay birthing the business by licensing 50 films from 20th Century Fox and releasing them on videocassette.

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