Will Veronica Mars Save the Custom Install Market?

veronica-mars-0214Everyone who’s ever been to CEDIA EXPO loves it.

And, what’s not to love? It’s basically a big-boy toy fair. The biggest TVs debut at CEDIA. 3D debuted at CEDIA. 4K resolution TVs debuted at CEDIA. Wireless audio was first shown at CEDIA. Wireless HDMI — you guessed it: CEDIA.

But, the HomeAV market, in recent years, has suffered. First, there was Best Buy. Then, Amazon.com. Then, showrooming — the act of going to a store to get educated on what is available and how to use it and then check the prices, only to turn around and walk out and shop online for the best price.

And, now, companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft have sucked away entire segments of the market by encouraging us to watch TV on our phones, share music freely, wirelessly send stuff from our tablets and PCs to any room int he house with a $29 dongle or a $99 set-top box and now we can watch ANY TV show or ANY movie we want without ever buying it.

All that happened, by the way, during a recession — so you know what thats done to every segment of AV. Well, double the loss and you have the HomeV market. High-end homebuyers just aren’t spending money on home luxuries like they used to.

Sure, there was the claim by some AV publications that “Staycations” (at-home vacations where people spent money upgrading their home luxuries instead of spending money on elaborate vacations) would be the trend so the HomeAV market wouldn’t feel the recession. Wrong! Didn’t happen.

Instead, the market turned down. In fact, attendance at the best HomeAV show in the world (CEDIA) has been flat — at best — over the past five years. Bummer.

But, the return of a hugely popular TV series and its debut on the big-screen could end up being the springboard for an AV future that could turn, forever. And, we could see rapid growth.

That series: Veronica Mars.

Veronica Mars was on the CW network (UPN was its debut network) from 2004 to 2007 and featured Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars, a student-detective in the fictional town of Neptune, California.

Well, the series is coming back, sort of. It will make its theatrical debut on March 14th and it will be THE FIRST major studio release that debuts in the movie theater on the exact same day as it does in fans’ homes via iTunes, Amazon, etc. Yes, there have been independent movie releases that have tried this, but NEVER has one of the Top 6 studios done it. Thanks to a unique deal masterminded by Warner Bros. Studios, the movie will show up in AMC, Regal and Cinemark theaters and on the Internet at the same time. So, take your pick — watch it at home or go to the theater. And, the series had about 3 million live viewers an episode when it originally aired and is said to have had just short of 10 million watchers via streaming since it was cancelled back in 2007.

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So, what’s this have to do with the HomeAV market?

Well, if this does well, look for many, many more studios to do the same thing — release movies in a theater and on DVD or streaming simultaneously. This is not a trivial thing, but is doable and the entire process of distributing movies can also benefit from this beta-test move by Warner Bros. You see, what’s interesting is that Warner Bros is actually “renting” the theaters that the movie will debut in — so as to get around the normal 8-10 week screening time and revenue share that studios usually have with exhibition houses. It’s a novel idea and it shows forward thinking on the part of the studio. So, the theater chain gets a guaranteed payout (no matter how many people actually attend the movie) and the studio gets to simultaneously release the movie for at-home viewing.

And, as far as the HomeVA market goes, this can only be good for the future. When people see that you can watch a movie in your home on the same day as it debuts in a theater, people will re-think their investments at home. You see, seeing a movie for the second time is perfectly fine on your 45″, 55″ or even 60″ HDTV. But, seeing all your first-run movies that way; nah. People will want to build mini-theaters or screening rooms, again, to get that theater-like experience.

Won’t they?