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    Published on: February 11, 2010

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    Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

    There is a story in the Hollywood Reporter this week about how the Walt Disney Company is making a major change in how and when it releases movies on DVD and Blu-ray. Traditionally, there always has been a 17-week window between the time a movie is released to theaters and when it becomes available for home viewing. However, with its new movie version of Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, Disney has said it will be just 13 weeks, or three months, before the movie is available for sale and rental.

    Now, theater owners have generally resisted any shortening of the window, concerned that it makes it harder to sell tickets at 10 bucks or more a pop. But Disney argues that it pays to be more flexible about the home video business, that theater ticket sales usually peter out after three months, and that a healthy home video business allows it to reinvest in content, which in the long run is good for theater owners.

    Now, this change probably would be good for retailers that carry DVDs. But what is really interesting about this discussion, at least to me, is that it is yet another instance of business-as-usual practices being challenged by reality, and serving as a good metaphor for how we all do business.

    At some level, it seems to me, by debating about the window between theatrical and home video releases, the two sides actually are focusing on old world constructs ... and not really looking at where things are headed.

    We’re probably not too far away from the time when some movies, at least, will be released simultaneously for theatrical and at-home viewing. There will have to be a new economic model, with different fees charged for different kinds of viewing. DVDs probably are going to go away, sooner rather than later, and we’ll be talking near instantaneous downloads onto computerized systems that will be high-definition

    It also may not be every movie. Films like Avatar, for example, because of their technological advances, may have a different releasing schedule than Up In The Air or The Hurt Locker, which don’t necessarily benefit from being seen on the big screen. Besides, in some multiplexes, the screens don’t seem that much bigger than the one in my family room. I have to admit that I lately find myself bypassing more than about 20 theaters to go to an enormous AMC/Loews multiplex with 14 giant screens and stadium seating in Port Chester, New York, simply because it is more compelling and unique theatrical experience - one well worth paying for, in my view, especially for certain movies.

    The point is this one. The world is changing, and rapidly. By focusing on what essentially are old-world models, we delay...but do not stop...the inevitable.

    Arguing about 13 weeks vs. 17 weeks is much the same as arguing about whether we should eliminate one day of mail delivery, ignoring the fact that these days most people use email, not snail mail. it is much the same as newspapers and magazines trying to keep alive the print model instead of aiming for that inevitable moment when they go digital, and their paper versions become museum curiosities.

    In our businesses, it is critical to examine how many of our functions and operating premises are actually doomed to eventual obsolescence ... how many of them exist because they are assumed to be important and necessary, as opposed to remnants of bygone days.

    Too many of them, I’d guess. It’s the old sacred cow problem...and on this one, as I’ve said here before, it is best to stick with Mark Twain, who once said that “sacred cows make the best hamburger.”

    For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Walmart and Procter & Gamble are going into show business together - co-producing a two-hour television movie entitled “Secrets of the Moon” that will run on NBC in April. The movie is described as family-friendly fare that the two companies say “highlights values - such as generosity, honesty and togetherness - that Wal-Mart and P&G executives say are in short supply on television.”

    According to the story, “P&G is spending more than $4.5 million to produce the film, says a person familiar with the matter. It also paid for airtime for the broadcast. Wal-Mart paid some of the costs, including a fee to P&G for the right to be ‘presenting sponsor.’

    “The movie is part of a broader effort by the retailer dubbed ‘Wal-Mart's Family Moments’ to foster more such entertainment, including a film project in coming weeks. P&G, too, says it hopes to continue producing made-for-TV movies.”

    And, the Journal continues, “Advertisers have long complained about the content of TV programs. In 1998, they formed the Alliance for Family Entertainment, made up of more than 40 top marketers, including P&G and Wal-Mart, to push for more family-friendly shows. In 1999, the consortium provided funding to the WB network, helping launch the well-received ‘Gilmore Girls,’ a drama about a young single mother and her teenage daughter.

    “Wal-Mart and P&G's film project is meant to bring a new urgency to that effort. Executives at both Wal-Mart and P&G say that just 23% of American parents are satisfied with the amount of family programming, citing research from the Association of National Advertisers. In a 2009 poll of 2,400 consumers, the trade group also found that ads were less effective when they appeared on shows containing gratuitous sex, violence or drug abuse.”
    KC's View:
    This is interesting on all sorts of levels. Let me count the ways...

    It makes sense that this movie would be on NBC, which is generally pathetic in terms of its prime time offerings.

    It also makes sense that NBC, which likes to make programming decisions for financial reasons as opposed to creative ones (like “The Jay Leno Show”), would do this, since it doesn’t actually have to pay the production costs.

    However, it needs to be noted that the two-hour network television movie has been an endangered species for years...there are almost none produced for the major broadcast networks. (Save for the extremely successful series of “Jesse Stone” movies starring and produced by Tom Selleck and based on the Robert B. Parker novels. And even these only run once a year, despite strong ratings.)

    I actually think that it makes sense to create more family-friendly programming, and just hope they are smart enough to program it for the 8-10 pm hours so that more kids can see it.

    In the end, the success or failure of this strategy will depend on whether people watch this movie. And you’d think that Walmart and P&G have enough clout between them to get eyeballs to TV sets.

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    The Nielsen Company is out with research saying that while “consumers in the U.S. might be trimming the fat from their budgets and diets, but contrary to predictions, they continue to demonstrate a healthy appetite for foods featuring health and wellness claims. From alpha (antioxidants) to omega (omega 3 fatty acids), foods touting the kind of heart-healthy, joint-buffering, free radical extinguishing properties that appeal to aging Baby Boomers dominate the rapid growth list.

    “The big winners on the healthy eating front, each posting double digit growth, were products with label claims for omega, high fructose corn syrup free, antioxidants, gluten-free, probiotic, calcium, fiber and low glycemic and no salt sodium added.”

    In addition, “Other popular claims holding their own included products labeled ‘natural,’ with $22.8 billion in annual sales representing 4% growth vs. 2008. The natural claim demonstrated real star power, outselling organics by more than a 4:1 margin in food, drug and mass merchandise retailers. Sodium claims - a $14.9 billion category dominated by soda products - kept its effervescence, recording no change in dollar sales over the last 12 months.

    “The ‘better-for-you’ health movement to reduce saturated and trans fats resulted in a slender 1% uptick in products with an absence of a specific fat label claim - a $14.8 billion category. Products with a preservative claim still resonated with shoppers, resulting in a 1% sales gain to $14.5 billion. And that perennial favorite claim of ‘reduced calories’ sold $11.7 billion in 2009, up 6% as consumers pursued the elusive goal of weight loss.”
    KC's View:
    The argument here, through all the debate about how long-lasting the so-called “new normal” would be, has been that the recession has not eliminated the aspirational impulse among most consumers. People still have aspirations, and they will do their best to fulfill them within the boundaries of often changed economic circumstances.

    The challenge to the industry is to figure out how to meet these aspirations within the changed economic framework.

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    The New York Times this morning reports that the New York City Industrial Development Agency has approved “millions in tax and real estate benefits Tuesday for the development of two new supermarkets in the Bronx — one near Tremont Avenue and one in Norwood. The projects are the first to be approved under the city’s Fresh Retail Expansion to Support Health program, known as Fresh, which encourages the establishment of neighborhood full-line grocery stores in low-income and underserved communities.

    The goal is to be a game-changer in poor neighborhoods where consumers have not had access to much in the way of fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables, which has led to obesity-related health issues such as high rates of diabetes.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    Interesting story in the CBC about Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Horton’s, which recently banned a New Brunswick paramedic from two of its stores because he complained three times about the coffee tasting burned.

    "In this particular case, we understand the customer had complained multiple times, and no matter what the staff did to make it right, he was unhappy," says company spokesman David Morelli. "He became increasingly aggressive with store staff and was impacting their ability to serve other customers. Our staff work long and hard to please each customer every day. But at some point, we have to respectfully agree to disagree, and suggest we go our separate ways."

    Legal observers say that the paramedic may have a case against Tim Horton’s if he chooses to pursue it...but that it may not be worthwhile to do so over a cup of coffee.
    KC's View:
    Man, if I banned every one of the MNB readers who complained about me, I’d put a hurt on my subscription numbers.

    Someone sent this story to me yesterday looking for a reaction. To be honest, it sounds like the guy wasn’t banned for complaining about the coffee as much as he was banned for the way he complained. At some level, we all need to try to be civil...though if this guy’s paramedic career doesn’t work out, maybe he can move south to the US and run for Congress, where civility seems to be nothing but a quaint memory.

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    Dow Jones reports that Walmart Canada announced three pilot projects designed to broaden its commitment to renewable energy, using solar and wind power to make stores and an Alberta distribution center more cost efficient.

    The innovations were announced at the Green Business Summit that Walmart has been hosting in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the days leading up to the Winter Olympics.

    • The Hollywood Reporter says that Walmart has made an exclusive deal to sell a special “fan’s edition” of “New Moon,” the second movie in the “Twilight” series of teenaged vampire films. According to the story, “‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon Ultimate Fan Edition’ ... will be the only disc release of the sequel to include a seven-minute special feature about upcoming franchise threequel ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’.

    “The ‘Eclipse’ feature includes on-set interviews with cast and a clip from the threequel, which is set for theatrical release June 30.

    The “New Moon” DVD is due out on March 20.
    KC's View:
    I suspect that this will have the desired effect - my 15-year--old daughter (and millions like her) will probably insist on getting this version of the DVD when it comes out. And Walmart will smile all the way to the bank.

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    • The New York Times this morning reports that “after a U-turn in the politics of poverty, food stamps, a program once scorned as ‘welfare,’ enjoys broad new support. Following deep cuts in the 1990s, Congress reversed course to expand eligibility, cut red tape and burnish the program’s image, with a special effort to enroll the working poor. These changes, combined with soaring unemployment, have pushed enrollment to record highs, with one in eight Americans now getting aid.”

    However, there remains some resistance to expansion of the food stamps program in some quarters, with critics saying that it is just another form of welfare that encourages the poor to work less and remain on the public dole.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    BrandWeek reports that Unilever is losing its chief marketing officer. Simon Clift reportedly is stepping down after a 30-year career with the company, saying that he wants to spend more time with his family in Brazil and “pursue other creative opportunities.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    • Stater Bros. reports that its first quarter sales were down 1.1 percent to $959.3 million, on same-store sales that were off 2.2 percent.

    • MillerCoors reported that its fourth quarter revenue was down two percent to $1.71 billion, with earnings that were up 89 percent to $102.2 million, achieved largely through cost savings, the company said.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    Charlie Wilson, the former member of the US House of Representatives from Texas who helped to corral secret support for insurgents fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan during the 1980s, died yesterday at age 76. His exploits were chronicled in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the book by George Crile and the movie of the same name directed by Mike Nichols, written by Aaron Sorkin, and starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
    KC's View:

    Published on: February 11, 2010

    Okay, let me see if I can explain all this fairly quickly...

    Earlier this week, one MNB user criticized me for the positive things I said about an Audi commercial on the Super Bowl:

    While I agree on your take regarding the commercials, the one showing the “green police” and Audi left me feeling different than you.  It reminded me that our big and growing government has decided what kind of light bulb we have to buy (compact fluorescent), has told us what kind of car to drive (hybrid, SUV’s are evil), is telling us what kind of energy to use (wind & solar),  what kind of healthcare we are going to have or at least trying to (government run “public option”), how much money people can make (limitations on CEO pay), and more.  I realize that good humor is based on reality.  The reality of the “green police” is too close to reality for me and I don’t find it funny.

    Yesterday, we ran a long response to this email that essentially took the position that much of what was being stated as “fact” was in fact “B.S.” This correspondent said that the government hadn’t done anything to say what kind of light bulb we have to buy, what kind of car we have to drive, what kind of energy we have to use, how much money CEOs can make, or what kind of healthcare we have access to.

    And I agreed with him.

    I was wrong. So was he. At least in part.

    I can’t possible run all the emails on this subject that I got yesterday...but let me at least give you a taste...

    One MNB user wrote:

    I’m sure you’ll get plenty of responses on the “BS” rebuttal of your Audi commercial piece as the world we live in is way too polarized and both those responses to your original piece reek of political polarity.  At any rate, I figured I’d give you a “non-partisan” fact to clear the air a bit as your “BS” rebuttal author was wrong on the CFL issue.

    On 12/17/2007 President Bush signed an Energy Bill that effectively will lead to the end of the incandescent light bulb by 2014 in the USA.  The first author was mad because the CFL was being mandated by the government, but it was signed into law by a Republican (“W”).  The “BS” author was wrong that there isn’t any legislation to validate the first author’s accusations.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    In respect to the BS detector email you had today ... I wish you had vetted HIS/HER email for HIS/HER BS. The writer went through a lot of time trying to make the other person sound incompetent when he/she should have done research before sending the email.

    In fact Congress and President Bush have banned the incandescent light bulb beginning in 2012 and finalized by 2014. A simple search online can confirm this from 2007.

    Also an argument can be made that people's health insurance may not be as good tomorrow as it is today. Simple economics tell you that some companies may drop their coverage and chose to pay the 8% "penalty" imposed by the government for not providing insurance. There are plenty of unethical companies that look for the lowest possible price and don't value their employees at all. Politicians know and understand this and it g! ives them a little more line into the lives of the citizens. I would argue a better solution can be found by both sides working together...although the chances of that are slim to none.

    As to the other points I agree that some is BS or more appropriately named "propaganda" of which both parties are equally guilty. Much of this propaganda is full of half truths meant to scare people.

    So in short your BS detector should have gone off with BOTH emails as BOTH are trying to push their "propaganda". As far as I am concerned the BS detector writer today is as lazy and politically motivated as Glenn Beck.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Not that I want to prolong the agony of this political argument from either side, but in reference to both of your readers' comments on the government banning incandescent light bulbs, this was accomplished in an energy bill which was passed by congress in late 2007 and subsequently signed into law by then President Bush. Among other things, it requires that incandescent light bulbs be phased out of the market by 2014.

    Still another MNB user wrote:

    I have to comment on the reader that responded to comments made by another reader on the green police.

    First on the light bulbs legislation has been passed that will outlaw the use of incandescent light bulbs by 2014. So he doesn't know what he's talking about.

    On SUV's there has been legislation passed that ups the CAFE mileage requirements that will make it very difficult for manufacturers to meet these standards if they sell large SUV's that get lower mileage. This will end up limiting how many they will be able to sell and be able to meet the CAFE standards.

    On wind & solar the Obama administration is spending huge sums of money on "research" to develop these alternative energy. Not forcing us to use these but taxing us to pay for this research. Also the administration is blocking any attempt to increase any domestic oil/gas drilling that would help us become less dependent on foreign supplies. It's happening in NY where I live by the environmental activists trying to prevent the drilling for natural gas in our state.

    And finally on the health care reform efforts that are going on now. Obviously he hasn't read the bills. I have read many pages of them (not all) and have read many articles from different points of view and there are provisions in the these competing bills that will have an impact on everyone’s health care. From increasing costs and premiums, to over time taking away your ability to choose your own doctors.

    So before you support someone who obviously has a political agenda you might want to do some research on what actually are the facts. Because this person doesn't know what he's talking about!

    And, from another MNB user:

    I couldn’t help but comment on the whole “Audi Green Police and BS” thread.

    But I’m just going to say one thing in defense of the person who wrote negatively about the “green police”.  Join the growing crowd!  I found that commercial very offensive.  You can bet I’ll never buy an Audi.

    Doesn’t anyone else think it was stupid to run an ad that runs the risk of alienating a segment of your customer base? This one should go down as one of the all time stupid commercials out there.   Audi’s message got lost…if they had a message…

    And the person who says they want “proof” of actual legislation and is all in favor of waiting until oppressive government rules are in place before we have the right to complain about baseless green initiatives?  Well, if someone wasn’t vocal about it, they would be in place already!  Can’t this person see that tax incentives are already in place and no one asked us to vote on specifics!

    This person and anyone who thinks in a liberal progressive manner will inevitably join the crowd of people who waited too long to address the oppression of their government in a number of historic oligarchies and dictatorships.  They will be doomed to repeat history because they assume government is good and is here to take care of us.  That’s the REAL BS buried in this thread.  The most extreme being Nazi Germany under Hitler.  To fix that problem after “the rules were in place” cost the entire world millions of lives and global hardship of every kind on all levels.  We NEVER want to forget that!

    Why don’t people see that you can’t wait for oppression to happen if you see it coming? 

    Or be complacent about minor oppressions initiated by a bunch of thugs who happen to be in political or economic power? 

    You have to fight every day to maintain your freedoms or they will erode away a little at a time.  You will see “the green police” become reality if you sit around laughing about it instead of addressing the underlying problems with government.

    Y’know, what really tears it for me is when people start throwing around phrases that imply that the government’s efforts to promote greater energy efficiency will start us down the road to being like Nazi Germany.

    Which just strikes me as so much crap.

    Where the original “B.S.” email went wrong, and where I went wrong in agreeing with him, was in the comment about the government deciding what kind of light bulbs we can buy. It is true that the Bush administration signed into law rules that will phase out the use of incandescent bulbs.

    I guess where I would disagree with many of the outraged people who wrote in is in the belief that all government is bad, which seems to be at the heart of many of their arguments.

    I fervently believe that government often goes too far and gets too involved in our lives. I much prefer living in a world where people and companies would behave in a socially, environmentally, financially and culturally responsible way. (Recognizing, of course, that there can be considerable and reasonable debate about what “responsible” means in this context.)

    But I also think that sometimes government needs to show the way...or at least create an environment in which people are provided with incentives to show the way, or at least not discouraged from doing so.

    The incandescent bulb may go away, but government isn’t telling us what we have to buy. in fact, it seems to me a reasonable bet that there are a lot of people and companies trying right now to develop new alternatives that will 1) give more light and 2) use less energy, and be ready for sale by 2014. Is this a bad thing? I have trouble seeing how this is so.

    I know this will ignite further debate, but it strikes me as a reasonable statement that oil is a finite resource. We can argue about when it will run out, but it is, by its veery nature, finite. So if government believes that we can use less oil if companies create more efficient cars, this strikes me as a good thing. And I’m sure that while what we currently think of as SUVs may go away, something else, something new, something even better will be invented. (There was a time before the SUV, after all.) Is this a bad thing? I have trouble seeing so.

    I would be among those who would argue that the entire debate about health care and insurance reform has been completely dysfunctional. But that doesn’t mean that government shouldn’t address it. (It may mean, however, that government is incapable of addressing it. Which is a different problem.)

    It seems to me that there should be a reasonable debate about how much money CEOs should make when CEOs run companies that had to be bailed out by the federal government. Now, I know that this is a highly complicated and charged issue... But as a taxpayer, I at least think that companies that needed my money to survive perhaps ought to be held to a different standard than those that did not. That said, encouraging free enterprise and innovation ought to be the highest priority...and we need to find a reasonable balance.

    I could go on and on. But the one thing I am going to try not to do is demonize either side, or be an ideologue. Sometimes I slip, but I am going to try.

    But it seems clear to me that not just the words, but the tenor of this discussion, demonstrate why all of the institutions charged with governing seem to be so dysfunctional.

    One other thought, if I may.

    I wonder how many assiduously anti-government people in Washington, DC, have been complaining over the past week because there haven’t been enough snow plows to deal with the series of snowstorms that have ravaged the area.

    Because we at least ought to agree that government ought to be good at shoveling snow. Instead, lately, it seems that it is much better at shoveling something else.

    Speaking of snow, Michael Sansolo had a piece earlier this week about the importance of being prepared...and using his failure to keep his snow blower working as a metaphor. Which led one MNB user to write:

    I appreciated Michael’s admittance of failure to perform maintenance on his snow blower. Perhaps, if others had heeded this advice, things might be a bit better for his family.

    I received the following communication from my close friend over the weekend….
    My dad was working in their driveway Saturday (2/6) afternoon trying to dig out from the snowfall.  The area where my parents reside received between 18" - 24" of snow.   He had been working for a few hours when he came back in the house feeling a bit sick.  My mom noticed he was pale and had him sit down to rest.  A few moments later my dad was non-responsive.  Mom called 911 and paramedics were on the scene with minutes.  Unfortunately, they were unable to resuscitate and he passed away before arriving at the hospital.

    This is a sad story that happens all too many times in the snowy conditions of the north (It is one reason I choose to live in the South). I am deeply saddened by the weekend’s event and want others to remember that physical exertion in the cold environment can have consequences. Fortunately, for Michael, it was just sore muscles and little dose of humility.

    On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

    Just wanted to say thanks for your recent RIP on Robert B. Parker.  I had not heard of him before reading your piece, and was so intrigued I am now listening to the entire Spenser series (now on book 3 – Mortal Stakes).  What a great character and incredible writing style.

    True. His next book, “Split Image,” is out in just about 10 days. I can’t wait, even if it is with a certain sadness that we’re coming to the end of a great run.
    KC's View: