LOS ANGELES -- The national video show held here last month was characterized by a greater focus on business, with fewer parties and celebrities.
Attendees and exhibitors interviewed during the show said they liked it that way and wished for more of the same in the future. Some said they envision the event becoming more like the annual convention of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, Marlton, N.J., which emphasizes closed-door meetings and educational programming over a small exhibit floor with mostly secondary suppliers.
National Video Week, July 8 to10, included three elements: the annual convention of the Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif.; an adult video exhibit area; and an exposition called the West Coast Video Show. Revised numbers released the week after the show revealed a 17% increase in attendance to 11,887 from 10,125 in Las Vegas last year. There were 325 exhibitors, down from 350 last year. Next year, the show will return to Las Vegas in July, although the dates and venue have yet to be determined by the VSDA and Advanstar Communications, Milford, Conn., show co-owner.
Retailers appreciated the seminars and the opportunity to meet with studios to discuss their concerns about rental copy-depth programs. "It has been very good on the informational side," said Clifford Feiock, video coordinator at Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis.
The absence of big studios like Disney and Fox from the show floor, and smaller booths of many other big studios, had no effect on retailers like Feiock. "Most of my meetings with the studios have been behind closed doors and they wouldn't have had anything to do with the show floor. So the main studios wouldn't necessarily have to have a presence here," he said.
"The studios have been a lot more receptive to the challenges facing the grocery industry," said Brad Ferguson, video buyer for Studio 100, a Supervalu division based in Park Hills, Mo. "I think they are going to look at some of the programs that might be adjusted to work for the grocery retailer."
"We're here not necessarily to see anything, but to deliver a message to the studios that things have got to change," said Kirk Mueldener, director of video operations for Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa. "They are hearing the message. But we'll see what happens in September."
The lack of attendees at the opening general session "shocked" Robert Feinstein, president of Marbles Entertainment, Los Angeles. "But when I came to the trade show floor, it seemed like there were a lot of people here, so I felt a lot better about it. I think that the people who are here are the survivors and very, very interested and anxious to do everything they can to make their business survive and prosper,
"I personally have gotten more out of this year's show," said Darlene Kiefer, services coordinator for Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio. "I have gotten more business accomplished, had an opportunity to talk to more studio people to convey our important issues to them, and to get feedback from them also."
It was a quieter show than in the past, noted Denise Darnell, video supervisor at Southeast Foods, Monroe, La. "I've noticed that everyone is walking around with long faces. No one seems to be as excited as I hoped they would be," she said.
The educational component of the show is more important to Darnell than meeting the studios. "We talk with the studios quite often anyway so it is not like this is my only opportunity to see all of them."
This was the first time at the show for Bob Gettner, video buyer/coordinator of B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb. "From what I've heard, in the past, it has been more of a party show. But this year it seems like it has been real informative. I got a lot out of the two seminars that I was able to get to."
"Many of the retailers were very encouraged with their studio meetings at VSDA and now they are eagerly waiting for the follow-through from those commitments," said Bill Bryant, vice president for sales, grocery and drug at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "We felt that there was very strong attendance by supermarkets this year," he added.
Bryant said he sees the show format becoming more like NARM's. "The show is becoming more business-oriented, with more sit-down meetings. We expect that trend to continue. We've also heard that from a lot of the major studios, as well," he said.
"I see the show evolving more into the way NARM is," said Patrick Beare, director of national sales, rack services/video, at Valley Media, Woodland, Calif. "Because of retail consolidation, there are less retailers attending and the show is more businesslike. So I see it getting smaller, and ultimately probably combining with NARM."
But the current exhibition-oriented format works, said John Fincher, national account sales at Baker & Taylor, Morton Grove, Ill. "There are enough individual retailers out there to justify a show like we have. It's just a matter of bringing our expectations in line. Yes, the majority of the quality meetings take place off the floor, but as distributors, for the chance to meet potential customers, we like the exhibition format," he said.
Studio executives chose their words carefully when talking about any possible changes in the format of the show, although in off-the-record conversations, there was strong sentiment for a NARM-style show.
"The show is going to continue to evolve as the business evolves and it needs to reflect the new dynamics of the business," said Steve Feldstein, vice president of corporate and marketing communications at Fox Consumer Products, Beverly Hills, Calif. Fox did not have a booth, but had meeting rooms in the convention center.
"It's moving in the right direction, in that information and communication are probably more valuable than showmanship in this day and age," said Mitch Koch, senior vice president and general manager at Buena Vista Home Entertainment North America, Burbank, Calif., which did not exhibit and did not have meeting rooms at the convention center. Koch noted that Buena Vista is spending more on consumer advertising this summer promoting its rental titles than it did last year on the trade, including the show.
"It's not so much a contraction of the spending, but more a reallocation, and we believe that the reallocation should go toward the consumer," said Koch. "From an information/communication point of view, as an industry we need to spend time developing and thinking about how to reach and invigorate the consumer in the video category, particularly as competing technologies vie for our consumers' eyeballs," he said.
The one studio that had an exhibit the same size as previous years was Universal Studios Home Video, Universal City, Calif., which focused on the title, "The Mummy." "We wanted to create a buzz and let everyone know that we are here and we are going to be the No. 1 supplier in the fourth quarter," said Craig Kornblau, president. Overall, the show was "a little quieter than I expected, but we've had some tremendous off-the-floor meetings."
Smaller suppliers agreed that the meeting rooms will become more important for the video show. "To me it seems that the industry is headed in the direction of a format like NARM," said David Walmsley, director of home video at A&E Television Networks, New York. "It is going to be less focused on floor traffic and more focused on private meetings between the buyers and sellers," he said. "This show is going to continue to have less and less of an impact on the industry," said Greg Glass, director of sales, video and DVD for Simitar Entertainment, Maple Plains, Minn. "As the industry continues to be controlled by less and less suppliers and less and less major retailers, more of this business can be done behind closed doors. Unless something happens to spur on the independent video rental stores, this convention will soon take the same form as the NARM convention. There will just simply be one big party in the ballroom of a hotel, and we won't need all this hoopla anymore. That looks to be inevitable," he said.