Wrestling is big right now, especially for rental, although the Tae Bo craze has peaked, retailers told SN. NASCAR and hunting tapes have a regional following. Fitness tapes provide a boost to January revenues, and when local sports teams do well, the sales of video highlights follow suit.
Meanwhile, suppliers and savvy retailers are keeping an eye on what the new DVD format, which allows quick access to specific parts of programming along with multiple camera angles and commentaries, will mean to the special-interest market.
"There's money to be made in special interest," said Darlene Kiefer, services coordinator at Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio. "You just have to know what to bring in and the right time to bring it in, and then experiment with it a little. It's a good way to increase your return on investment and your gross profit," she said.
Seaway Food Town brings in fitness tapes after the first of the year "because everyone has their New Year's resolutions. They sell well in January and into the first part of February. We've also brought in some golf tapes and they moved OK -- we had some staff members who are good golfers help pick the tapes," said Kiefer. "Tae Bo did wonderful for us," but has since slowed down. "We made some good money on that," she said.
Most special-interest product segments are "hot and cold," said Clifford Feiock, video coordinator for Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis. "It seems like there are some new offerings available now. Warner is doing some good things with the National Geographic titles. We have never had those at a sell-through price that made sense and it sounds like the package they have put together for the year 2000 may sell. It is something we are certainly going to look at," he said.
Interest in wrestling has fallen off for Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., "but NASCAR is really strong," said Craig Hill, video specialist. "We had a Tae Bo craze for a while, but that has fallen off. Right now, the hunting videos are real strong for us," he said.
Harps has a long history of renting and selling hunting videos, he noted. "We keep on top of what is out there. Some of the women who run our departments are married to guys that hunt. So they have an insight as to what everybody wants to see," he said.
Events like the World Series also make for good sales. "Anytime there is a sporting event or things like that, we build displays to go with it. Hopefully, if the series is good this year, the sales will be good on that tape. Everything is seasonal in special interest," said Hill.
Said Maria Boye, video buyer at Angeli's, Iron River, Mich., "When the Packers went to the Super Bowl, those tapes did real well." Also, wrestling remains a strong rental item, she added.
"Wrestling tapes have done well in supermarkets that have in-line sections," said Bill Bryant, vice president for sales, grocery and drug at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "Some of the retailers have reported very strong sales in this category," he said. Tae Bo still has "some legs on it," as does the fitness market, although it has declined consistently in the last three years, he said.
DVD, however, could reinvigorate the special-interest category, Bryant said. "You can zero in on a specific part of the title rather than having to fast forward and rewind." Many special-interest titles are not as linear as a movie. "A lot of people who use the exercise tapes go to a specific point on the tape, and with DVD, with the touch of a button, you can go directly to that portion of the title. That would be a real advantage to that consumer," he said.
"I think that DVD would be great to utilize for special interest as long as they keep the price down," said Feiock of Nash Finch. "It's got to help, because it offers so many more options and features," he said.
DVD can greatly enhance the experience of watching a sports video, said Joe Amodei, senior vice president of sales, distribution and retail for USA Home Entertainment, New York, speaking during a panel discussion at the East Coast Video Show last month. "There are so many things you can do with sports programming when it comes to DVD. For example, we can pick up every single camera feed on every single play. On the Super Bowl DVDs, we pick up more than one broadcast, or both teams' local broadcast, or the national, Spanish or French broadcast. Then we can include the individual bios of all the players on both teams." The Super Bowl DVD released last year had 16 hours of footage, he noted.
"We plan to do this for the World Series tapes, and possibly some All Star tapes, and then go back and try to get extra footage on some of the older World Series tapes and apply it to DVD," he said.
The concept also works for other special-interest programming, notably videos of theatrical plays, said Amodei. For example, when USA's predecessor company, PolyGram Video, released "Cats" on DVD, "We ended up shipping about 35% to 40% more than we ever thought we would and there are no returns. You can film a successful Broadway play from 16 or 17 different angles, which takes the audience out of the seats and puts them on stage with the characters. It just enhances the programming," he said.
DVD and special interest "are an opportunity, but not necessarily a focus" at Disney, which has some special- interest titles, including those from ABC News, said Mitch Koch, senior vice president and general manager of Buena Vista Home Entertainment North America, Burbank, Calif. "Our strategy centers around the programming rather than the format," he said.