An odd article in the NYT today (Sunday) about how niche and obscure DVDs are being forced off the shrinking retail shelf. It says that DVD sales are flat for the first time in history, and quotes traditional retailers saying things like this:
“We’re all drowning in a sea of DVDs. Five or six years ago maybe a hundred titles a week would come out. Now we’re fighting 200 or 300 titles every Tuesday.”
It also offers the usual complaints about the brutal economics of shelf space:
“If you’re a retailer and carry 100 titles, you’re still going to get 80 percent of your sales from 20 of those titles,” said Jay Douglas, a vice president at Ryko Filmworks, which distributes numerous indie labels including No Shame Films, Heretic Films, Severin Films, Discotek Media, Mondo Macabro and Grindhouse Releasing. “If you carry 10,000 titles, the 80/20 rule will still apply. The question is whether you want to devote that space to entertainment software or to something else?”
But what's odd about the article is that it doesn't mention Netflix and the other DVD rental/retail stores that have effectively infinite shelf space. Netflix now has 75,000 DVDs in stock, a number that is growing by about 10,000 a year (ie, about "200 every Tuesday"). Amazon lists nearly 178,000 titles. Sure, these online retailers are still less than 15% of the business, but they're the biggest single driver of niche DVDs. And as the DVD market shifts away from bricks and mortar and towards choice, they will only grow in importance.
Traditional retail sucks at giving us massive variety and serving minority taste? Duh.