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Still life in DVDs, says Warner Bros exec

Warner Brothers executive Josh Berger said that there’s still life left in DVD sales and physical formats, even though Hollywood is now starting to face its digital future. 

Speaking at the PEVE Entertainment conference in London yesterday, Warner Bros’ UK president and managing director for UK, Ireland and Spain said that he was “still a believer in having places to buy movies – physically or even digitally – on the high street,” and admitted that the threat of HMV and Blockbusters closing “is not great for our business.”

“Like many other products, we know that a huge percentage of our content is bought on impulse when people see it – if it’s merchandised well, if it’s priced properly. Losing that physical presence is a huge problem. If it goes away and you don’t really get it back, or you get it back at a percentage less through the online players,” said Berger.

Though he claimed that movie and TV industry could not afford to help prop up retailers, he said they had been helping them “as much as we can” through incentives on terms and in marketing and presenting their product.

“We saw what happened with HMV – they sold a huge amount of stock when everybody thought they were going out of business. There’s still a huge appetite to buy DVD. We would like, obviously, to see that continuing in so far as it can, but it’s going to require that HMV and Blockbuster and the remaining physical retailers get that equation right,” Berger said.

In spite of this, he admitted that Warner Bros Entertainment’s January appointment of Kevin Tsujihara as CEO  “points to the situation in Hollywood today where we’re facing the digital future – the changing behaviour patterns of consumption.”

Tsujihara, who took up his role on March, was previously president of Warner Bros Home Entertainment since 2005, and oversaw the company’s home video, digital distribution, videogames, anti-piracy, and emerging technology operations. Considered by many as a surprise appointment at the time, he fended off competition from Warner Bros TV Group president Bruce Rosenblum and Warner Bros Picture Group president Jeff Robinov to take the top post.

In terms of management, Berger, who is one of the first Warner execs to have responsibility over a number of different areas including TV shows, films and videogames, added: “Consumers don’t distinguish between theatrical, video and games. They consume content in a variety of ways in different places, whether it’s at home or buying at retail. It’s important for companies to make sure that they are shaped in a similar way to how their customers and their consumers consume what they make.”

On the programming front, he said that Warner would not start to locate US series here in order to take advantage of recent government tax credits, but would do shows here if it was “sensible” from a content point of view. Last year Warner launched a new £100 million (€117 million) film and television studio complex just outside London.