Home entertainment honchos address Future of Film confab

Reports of the DVD business’ decline have been greatly exaggerated, a panel of home entertainment execs agreed during a panel sesh at Variety’s Future of Film confab.

The slump of the vid biz has been exacerbated by the recession, panelists said. But as signs of life return to retail, vid sales are growing.

Mark Horak, prexy of Warner Home Video Americas, noted that sales of Blu-ray DVD titles were up dramatically during last month’s “Black Friday” retail sales weekend compared to the same frame last year. Horak said sales were up for both new and catalog titles, thanks to a big push from retailers.

“Retailers stepped up to really support the format,” Horak said.

Simon Swart, exec veep and general manager at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, added that sales of Blu-ray hardware are also up thanks to discounting by consumer electronic chains.

Blair Westlake, corporate vp for Microsoft’s media and entertainment group, said that a big challenge for mass market DVD sales is the sheer volume of content available to consumers – not just on homevid but via Internet, VOD and mobile platforms. “You’re competing with yourself,” Westlake said. In contrast, for major studios 10 years ago “at any given moment only a small fraction of (library) content was available. You now have an amazing amount of content available.”

And now that there are more options for distributing new and vintage content, the question Westlake said becomes “what business model makes the most sense” – ad supported, or subscription or a la carte payments.

Of course, no discussion of the future of the film biz would be complete without a mention of 3D. Execs were bullish on the format’s potential in home entertainment.

Sports and games will drive consumer adoption of home 3D applications, said John Rubey, prexy of AEG Network Live.

Westlake predicted that one big hurdle would be whether “consumers get their minds around wearing glasses” at home, he said.

The panel was moderated by Marcy Magiera, editor in chief of Video Business.

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