Blu-ray is biggest player at convention

Home Media Expo 2008 in Las Vegas next week

Home Media Expo 2008 returns to its traditional Las Vegas home Tuesday-Thursday with the spotlight squarely on the Blu-ray high-definition disc, which studios hope will reinvigorate packaged media after three years of flat DVD sales.

"Blu-ray is the perfect evolutionary product for the future of hard goods retailing and the industry's best promise for incremental growth," said Bo Andersen, president of the Entertainment Merchants Assn., producer of the annual trade show.

The 27th annual show, at the Palms Casino Resort, will unite several thousand studio executives, analysts, distributors and, most of all, retailers, who have long been the backbone of the association and the show.

For most of the show's life, the dominant retailers were rental dealers, first mom-and-pops and then executives with such regional and national chains as Blockbuster and Movie Gallery. But as the industry moved from rental to sell-through with the launch of DVD in 1997, so did the show's focus, and today representatives of most of the big retail sellers of DVD, including Target and Amazon, will attend. Today, home video is a $23 billion business.

Major topics of discussion are those in which the big retail chains are keenly interested: how studios and retailers intend to work together to hasten consumer adoption of high-definition discs and develop a profitable digital delivery model "while continuing to support the phenomenally successful standard DVD format," Andersen said.

At the opening business session, Fox Home Entertainment head Mike Dunn, Blockbuster CEO James Keyes, Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey and Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, vp corporate development and GM of the Blu-ray Disc Group at Panasonic Corp. of North America, will share their views on what needs to be done to ensure Blu-ray's widespread adoption by consumers.

The session also will feature a demonstration by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment of the new "BD Live" technology. BD Live connects a Blu-ray player to the Internet to allow the consumer to customize the viewing experience, chat about the video with fellow viewers as they watch the movie, play interactive games with others online and obtain exclusive downloadable supplemental content.

Blu-ray potential and special features, as well as digital copy, also will be the focus of some of the presentations to the Home Theater Forum, the influential online community for home video enthusiasts.

The show also will explore the other direction in which home entertainment is heading, the digital delivery of movies over the Internet, cable or satellite. A Digital Media Day program on Thursday will examine consumer consumption trends and forecasts, marketing, etc.
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