You may have read what Universal Studios decided to do on its summer vacation: take on redbox, the successful DVD rental kiosk operator. On a late August day, reps from Universal decided to show up on redbox's doorstep and demand that company execs sign an agreement – that was a lose/lose situation for redbox – by the next day.
Why exactly Universal decided to confront redbox in this way is not clear, but what is clear is redbox would no longer be competitive with Blockbuster and other video rental outlets on renting Universal's videos if it has to wait 45 days after the release date to rent those not-so-new releases to the public.
Did Blockbuster complain to Universal? That was my first reaction, but I guess that wouldn't make sense if Blockbuster is also getting into kiosks.
I'm sure Universal's distributors – VPD and Ingram – were not too thrilled with Universal's actions since redbox is a big customer, but what can they do? Universal is certainly the Goliath in this drama.
But redbox has put a rock in its sling and aimed it right back at Universal by filing a lawsuit claiming infringements on redbox's rights to DVDs it's purchased, violating antitrust laws and interfering with its relationship with its suppliers.
Did Universal want a bigger cut of the profits? According to the lawsuit, Universal wants 40 percent of redbox's rental revenues on Universal's videos.
The lawsuit also reveals some interesting statistics:
redbox had 125 kiosks in 2004, had nearly 6500 by the end of 2007 and expects to exceed 12,000 kiosks by the end of 2008.
To date, consumers have rented more than 200 million DVDs from redbox.
Consumers average approximately 50 DVD rentals per day per kiosk.
Consumer demand has supported redbox' s expansion such that redbox has installed a new kiosk, on average, every 90 minutes somewhere in the United States this year to date. As part of this expansion, redbox has hired over 600 new employees this year.
While Universal is the first studio to try this tactic, I'm sure the other studios are watching with interest. Should Universal win, they'll probably follow suit and that could seriously undermine redbox, DVDPlay and other DVD kiosk operators' ability to compete with the likes of Blockbuster, Netflix and Apple iTunes.
Personally, I'm a big fan of DVD rental kiosks. Ever since I rented my first videos from redbox in November 2006, I've been a loyal customer. The price/value relationship is too good to beat; I'm also a fan of self-service kiosks in general and I'm still mad about those late fees video stores charged me over the years. (Full disclosure: redbox chief executive Gregg Kaplan joined the Association's Advisory Board in April 2007.)
DVDPlay says that Universal asked them to sign a similar agreement and they've refused, so a least there's some solidarity among some of the DVD kiosk players, though Polar Frog Digital's chief executive Todd Rosenbaum takes a different point of view, which I don't really buy. He complains that redbox doesn't pay licensing fees and then admits his firm (which makes DVD burn-on-demand kiosks) doesn't either. He also claims redbox buys "closeouts of products," which may be true for some of their DVDs, but the majority of their products seem to be new releases.
Let's hope David (redbox) prevails against this Goliath (Universal) for the sake of our industry and for the sake of the consumer.
This opinion is in response to Residents angered over bright L.A. digital billboards, posted on Digital Signage Today from the New York Times on Nov. 6, 2008.
Digital billboards have gotten a bad rap in the past few years. People from all over the country are fighting with their state governments over the installation of digital billboards in place of traditional static billboards, but since only a small percentage of the nation’s 450,000 billboards are digital, many have not even seen this new technology in person. I am here to say, give digital a chance.
There is one thing you have to realize about Clear Channel, Lamar, CBS Outdoor and other digital billboard providers: They aren’t trying to make your town Las Vegas or Times Square.
Digital billboards on the sides of highways have Federal Highway Administration Standards that they have to follow. They cannot contain flashing, intermittent, or moving lights, only static digital images. Often times, the static digital images are of such high resolution that they are indistinguishable from standard billboards.
Also, the FHA says that those images can only change every four to ten seconds, so for someone traveling at 65 mph, there is a good chance they will not even see the billboard change at all while passing it.
Regardless, studies from Virginia Tech University and Tantala Associates have shown that digital billboards do little to change driving habits and that “digital billboards have no statistically significant relationship with the occurrence of accidents.”
That being said, there is no FHA regulation concerning the brightness of billboards, only a statement issued that says signs should be "not unreasonably bright for the safety of the motoring public." But many of the complaints come from nearby residents who say they are too bright for their proximity to residential neighborhoods. As digital billboards begin to proliferate, I think that nighttime brightness is an issue and standards should be in place to lower the lumens at night.
Good for advertisers and the public
It’s true that digital billboards can mean good things for advertisers. Tracy Libertino, an analyst with Accuvia Consulting, said 94 percent of those who saw a digital billboard recalled the product being advertised, versus 43 percent for static billboards. But maybe you don’t advertise, so why do you care?
Digital billboards have ability to provide immediate information, which means they can be (and have been) used for public safety purposes. On Feb. 12, 2007, a 14-year-old Minnesota girl went missing. Several digital billboards in the area immediately ran a multimedia Amber Alert and the girl was found the next day.
In Huntsville, Ala. last year, police started a manhunt for a registered sex offender. Lamar Advertising Co. and the local Crimestoppers organization ran suspect sketches on several digital billboards in the region and within several hours the suspect was captured.
Digital billboards can also serve as real-time traffic updaters, an upgrade from the huge orange-lighted screens that hover over highways presently. With a bigger screen, digital billboards will allow more information to be provided to drivers than was possible on the previous boards.
The claims that digital billboards cause traffic safety problems are unsupported. Also, I think that residents should be considered regarding the brightness of digital billboards, but let’s not forget that standard billboards are illuminated at night with high-bright halogen lights. Digital or not, that issue is not going away.
It's the holy grail of any business that deals in cash: the closed loop cash management system. When cash moves from customer to till, and from till to bank, businesses must ensure that the cash's exposure to threats like theft are minimized. It's even more important when cash is stored in a self-service device, such as a kiosk. How can that cash be protected? Ed McGunn, president and chief executive of Corporate Safe Specialists, explains how kiosks can be secured.
I’m finally getting a chance to wind down after a whirlwind week in New York at The Digital Signage Show. I’ve been to a lot of tradeshows over the years (see right), and I have to say that this was a world-class event.
I’ve been going to KioskComs for three years now. The organizer, JD Events, in my opinion has always done a good job supporting the kiosk side of things. Two years ago, they added a digital signage component, which was met with a lot of criticism from the industry. The first digital signage event wasn’t much to write home about – I believe it was one aisle with some digital signage vendors, and still a lot of crossover from the kiosk side.
It’s interesting to see how the event has morphed over the past two years, however. The perception in the industry for The Digital Signage Show has completely changed. This year’s event was a “must attend,” drawing companies from all over the U.S. and attendees from other countries. It was even deemed worthwhile enough to pull some journalists from overseas. I think we can safely say that it is no longer a regional show.
It was reflected in the attendance also. Joel Davis of JD Events said that qualified attendee registration was up five percent.
I think the reason for the growth is rooted in the quality of the educational sessions that occur during the show. Lawrence Dvorchik et al. have obviously been working to come up with some unique attractions, and its paying off.
The Cooking Up Content session was very well-received and was the highlight of the education tracks. Moderator Lyle Bunn walked attendees through a complete demonstration of content development over the two days at the show. All the while, exhibitors could look in on designers from Show + Tell, Cisco and Heads & Tails as they pieced the spots together on the show floor.
The Tech Tracks were also very well attended – they are going to need more seats for these in the future.
The main conference sessions went off well because they were graced with names like Target, Coca-Cola and Justice Clothing Stores. These folks were bombarded with questions following each session. Bottom line: People want to hear about real-world experiences from big-name users. Keep them coming!
The DIGI Awards was touted as a digital signage highlight, but failed to live up to any expectation. There were about 15 in the audience, and the award winners were monotonously rambled off over a 45-minute time frame. Neither the show, nor the hosts of the awards provided attendees or press with the list of winners following the announcements.
(I worked to jot down each award winner, but failed to complete the list accurately. I posted an accurate list today, though.)
I sat next to, and was able to commiserate with Dave Haynes, who also commented: “The crowd for the awards was very thin and the event had all the glitz of the grand opening of an auto body shop in Brainerd.” I suggest JD Events put some time into bringing these awards up to par with their own Excellence Awards or DSE’s Apex Awards if they are going to continue to host them.
Other than that, a good show. Hats off to JD Events.
As the Nasdaq continues to fall and industry players scramble for bailout money, what does the future hold for the self-service industry? V. Miller Newton, president of the Self-Service & Kiosk Association, comments on the gravity of the situation, while offering a ray of hope.
EnQii president says digital signage product in consumers' hands and money in merchants' wallets
Stuart Armstrong, president of EnQii Americas, explains how conversion is a key metric for retailers. This involves getting consumers to walk out of the store with at least one item, if not more. Can digital signage make that happen? Find out in this two-part video series.
Since it was launched in July, the Self-Service & Kiosk Association's membership drive to bring new user/deployers into the fold has resulted in more than 70 new members. The list contains high-profile names like Delta Air Lines, Fifth Third Bank and the U.S. Navy. The drive continues — and at KioskCom in New York City, executive director David Drain was ready to showcase the many benefits that membership provides to deployers. Click the video below to learn more.