Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Xtra... Xtra...

News broke yesterday afternoon that Xtra-Vision has come to the brink once again, just two years since it was last saved from oblivion. While the usual bug-bears (aka hares) have been raised it's fair to say that the writing's been on the wall for the home entertainment rental sector for some years now.  The talk of illegal downloading sounds like the mutterings of an ostrich with its head buried six feet under.

LoveFilm, Netflix, Sky and a myriad other legal, easier and cumulatively cheaper sources of feature films and box-sets are conveniently overlooked in this pointless finger-pointing. As I discovered myself this week, while sitting at the kitchen table, even a brand new but rare-ish back catalogue UK title from an Irish director can be got from Ebay, for the price of a rental.

Added to this litany of woes the local supermarkets and chain stores are, legitimately, carrying plenty of titles at dump-bin prices. For anything else there's Amazon or, if you're in one of the cities, a specialist video outlet where the staff know their Ozus from their Oshimas.

The last time I passed an open Xtra-vision outlet it looked like a sort of seedy sweet shop that sold some videos and games over the counter. I read that the majority of its business now, going into receivership, is in consumer electronics, an already hugely competitive retail market for which the writing's on the wall for bricks and mortar businesses.

None of this will bring any solace to Xtra-vision's 1,000 staff, on both sides of the border, or to the folks who rescued the business just two years ago and renegotiated lower rents with the landlords of viable outlets. To this passerby, at least, the rescue didn't appear to rejuvenate or re-launch the thirty-four year-old brand that rode the VCR wave with huge success.

VCRs have now been dumped, recycled and fly-tipped by the million. DVD players are headed for the same fate. Even the life of Blu-ray, the format's great hope, can be described as terminal.

So much for show, it's always been business.

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