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Lessons From the Next Generation

22 Apr, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I feel vindicated. For months, I've been railing against analysts' projections that electronic sellthrough will be The Next Big Thing and ultimately banish packaged media, regardless of the Blu-ray Disc, into the hinterland of failed technologies.

Now, a new study suggests the downloading phenomenon that turned the music industry on its head may not be on the threshold of an encore.

The study from The Convergence Consulting Group Limited of Toronto predicts miniscule sales gains for download-to-own films and TV shows over the next few years. It also notes that average per-movie download sales through Apple's iTunes, the king of the hill in the electronic sellthrough universe, actually slipped in the last year, from 13,000 in 2006 to 10,000 in 2007.

That jibes with what I am hearing from my own kids, three boys between the ages of 5 and 12, who according to the vaunted cadre of know-it-all analysts represent the next generation of consumers — a group they say has no interest whatsoever in packaged media and will flock like lemmings to the Internet for all their entertainment needs.

Tell that to Justin, Conner and Hunter. The two older boys are avid downloaders of music, preferring to buy tunes they know and love for 99 cents each from iTunes rather than fork over $12 or $15 for a CD of one or two favorite songs and a dozen or so unknowns.

But when it comes to movies, they are DVD and Blu-ray all the way, rationalizing that it makes absolutely no sense to buy a movie over the Internet for $20 or even $12 when for the same capital outlay they can buy a pre-recorded DVD of the same movie with a far better picture, surround sound and a wealth of bonus materials.

And make no mistake: Bonus materials are a definite selling point, even to kids like Justin and Conner, who absolutely loved the making-of featurette on 20th Century Fox's Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte — so much so that the next day they demanded to see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the film in which the behind-the-scenes feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford prompted aging movie queen No. 2 to drop out for the second go-round, with Olivia de Havilland taking the part in Charlotte originally pegged for Crawford.

As for 5-year-old Hunter, his response to the question, “What do you want for your sixth birthday,” really says it all.

“A Blu-ray player for my room,” he said in all seriousness.

He'll probably get one.

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