Remembering Industry Veteran Bill Southard

The news of the passing of our friend Bill Southard struck all of us really hard. I use the terms “our” and “us” because Bill was a friend to everyone who ever worked in the home entertainment business. Just take a look at the outpouring of grief on social media from those that knew Bill and you will find a sadness that fills their hearts in every message posted.

Joe Amodei

Bill was just one of the good guys that stayed true to his love of God, his wife, Susan, and their son, Andy. He was also a great worker who excelled in any position he was in. It’s no secret that over the years the family of home entertainment folks has shrunk to a precious few, but Bill was able to withstand the mergers, layoffs and closings to still enjoy a position at Ingram Entertainment.

They were lucky to have him.

Bill was one of us that was there from the beginning. I worked with him at PolyGram Entertainment. Always a pleasure to be around, Bill treated customers in a way that we all learned from. In an age where you were expected to entertain, Bill became legendary for his extravagant VSDA dinners. If you were lucky enough to attend, you never forgot it. If you witnessed a long stretch limo pulling up in front of the hotel, you knew it was Bill. He treated the customers like they were royalty and reaped the rewards for doing so.

But Bill was more than a good co-worker. He was a true friend. Even though an entire country stood between us, he was still one of the first to reach out to me when I lost my daughter Kate and subsequently was one of the few who knew and helped me through a bout with cancer a few years back.

At times months would pass where we didn’t talk, but I always knew he was there. I’ll miss knowing that. I’ll also miss him calling me “Joey.” My closest friends call me that and throughout the years, whenever I heard his voice, I knew it was a pal on the other line.

People come and go in our lives, but some live on in our hearts long after they have gone. They leave a mark. Bill always had the sense that we will all be together again in heaven, and I think of that today. It’s comforting. One of the best gifts I have ever received is a Bible Bill gave me years ago. He had my name engraved on it. It sits on my bookshelf here in my office as a reminder of our long friendship. There are a lot of us out there that have similar stories of Bill. We are all so lucky to have had him as a friend.

See you up there buddy.



Joe Amodei is president and CEO of Virgil Films & Entertainment.

Ingram Entertainment Buys Rival Baker & Taylor’s Retail Entertainment Assets

Ingram Entertainment Inc., for years the leading national distributor of home entertainment products, announced Jan. 14 that it has purchased certain assets of the Baker & Taylor LLC entertainment products distribution business, such as retail customer agreements for the purchase of video and audio music products.

The purchase, which does not involve book products or the Baker & Taylor businesses that provide support and services to public libraries, retail booksellers and publishers, took effect Jan. 11.  Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

David Ingram, chairman of Ingram Entertainment, said structural changes in the physical home entertainment marketplace led to a deal with Baker & Taylor.

David Ingram

“Acquiring these entertainment assets of Baker & Taylor will enhance our financial performance by enabling us to process more units through our existing facilities throughout the country,” he said. “Those efficiencies will better position us to work with our suppliers to provide our retailers – including former Baker & Taylor retail entertainment customers – with the products they need for the success of their businesses. We look forward to the opportunities this transaction provides for our suppliers, customers, and associates.”

Bob Webb, Ingram Entertainment’s president and CEO, added, “Baker & Taylor has been a respected competitor and a valued contributor to the home entertainment products distribution business for many years.  Ingram Entertainment looks forward to the opportunity to increase our sales of products to video, audio music and online retailers.

Webb also expressed appreciation to all the personnel at both Ingram Entertainment and Baker & Taylor who assisted in the purchase and will be assisting in the transition.

Bob Webb

Baker & Taylor president David Cully said the sale of his company’s retail entertainment assets “will allow both companies to bring greater value to customers through the strengths of our respective wholesale distribution businesses. For Baker & Taylor, that means delivering the most innovative and efficient content distribution services to our retail, public library and publisher service customers everywhere.”

In a similar transaction, La Vergne, Tennessee-based Ingram Entertainment in June 2014 purchased the assets of V.P.D. IV Inc. of Folsom, California.

V.P.D. (which did business as Video Products Distributors Inc.) also was a distributor of DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, video games and gaming systems.

During the heyday of the VHS era, when independent rental stores still accounted for the majority of the home entertainment business, most video cassettes came to mark through third-party distributors like Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Major Video Concepts, Artec, WaxWorks and Flash Distributors.

Distributors met each spring in Indian Wells, California, for annual meetings with studio executives, where through their trade group, the National Association of Video Distributors (NAVD), they lobbied for better pricing and terms as well as a standard Tuesday street date for new home video releases.

The rise of national video rental chains, most notably Blockbuster, saw studios establish direct relationships with key retail buys, minimizing the importance of third-party distributors. This trend accelerated with the advent of DVD.

During the heyday of the VHS rental cassette, distributors were so powerful that most held their own annual trade shows for retail clients. Media Play News publisher Thomas K. Arnold was a frequent speaker at the annual WaxWorks show in Owensboro, Ky. He is shown here in October 1996 with WaxWorks VP Noel Clayton.

FandangoNow’s Cameron Douglas Elected EMA Chairman

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango’s on-demand video streaming service, FandangoNow, has been elected chairman of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

Douglas replaces Jonathan Zepp, head of worldwide movies and TV partnerships for Google Play.

Other officers include vice chair Suyin Lim, senior director, global content acquisition, Sony Interactive Entertainment; secretary Michele Edelman, EVP, marketing and content strategy, Vubiquity; and treasurer Matt Hill, head of vendor management, Amazon Prime Video.

EMA past chairmen Bob Geistman, EVP, sales and marketing for Ingram Entertainment, and Marty Graham, SVP, comScore, as well as Bill Kotzman, partner product manager, TV/film, Google/YouTube, will also serve on the association’s executive committee as at-large members.

Other members of the board are Amit Balan, head of marketing, Vudu; Lori Flynn, VP, content, Redbox Automated Retail; Ryan Gorman, director, merchandise buying, video games, Target; Pedro E. Gutierrez Jr., director, digital stores movies and TV business and category management, Microsoft; Steve Harkins, VP and GM, Baker & Taylor; Bill Miller, VP and divisional merchandise manager, DVD, Blu-ray, and Games, Trans World Entertainment; Jason Peterson, CEO, ContentBridge Systems; and Mark Vrieling, CEO, ScreenPlay Entertainment.

“In the ever-changing world of home entertainment retailing, we need an organized industry association more than ever,” said Douglas in a statement. “EMA collectively advocates for anyone involved in the consumer delivery of content, promotes and encourages adoption of standards, and establishes trade- and consumer-focused best practices. I am proud to devote my time to an organization so important to our industry.”

“The companies on EMA’s Board of Directors represent the spectrum of the home entertainment industry, including video and video games, physical and digital, and sellthrough, rental, and streaming,” said Mark Fisher, EMA president and CEO, in a statement. “These directors personify the diversity of products and business models in our industry and will help ensure that the industry’s trade association meets the needs of all market segments in our incredibly diverse industry.”