Darkhorse Plans To Bring Cohesion To Surf-Video Market

The surf-video market has been plagued by an unfortunate domino effect: the independent producers don’t have the marketing dollars to promote their films, so the consumer doesn’t get excited about the movies, so the films don’t sell at retail, so the shop owners don’t care about surf videos.

Donaldson Miele and Jesse Ruyes, veritable veterans of the surf-video business, plan to put an end to this avalanche. The two, who both ran Billygoat Productions, have teamed up with Drew Todd (Lost’s video editor) to form Darkhorse, a new ‘core-sports multimedia distribution and marketing company.

During his tenure at Billygoat, Miele realized the video market was fractured, and the business needed some cohesion. “Most of them video producers are just trying to maintain a lifestyle,” he says. “They don’t know how to appropriately market the products, and they don’t know what to expect in terms of total sales. Someone’s got to step in and unify them.”

Through alliances with shops and producers, Darkhorse hopes to bring needed sophistication into the surf-video marketplace, which should be sweet music to all those number crunchers out there. “Right now, there’s no tracking,” says Ruyes. “No one knows which videos are moving in which shop. We’re going to focus on tracking, sales monitoring, and the sales breakdown at each shop so we can make their media section a lot more productive.” Darkhorse will provide its accounts with monthly sales reports and a newsletter filled with market trends and upcoming releases.

Before any tracking reports come out, Darkhorse’s initial goal is to develop a central media center in each shop. Ruyes says making impulse-buy items like videos and magazines more accessible will increase sales. “Magazines, books, videos, DVDs, games, posters — they’re scattered all over the shop,” says Ruyes. “Our focus is to bring it all together and give the consumer something visually appealing.”

The focal point of the media center will be an online, touch-screen kiosk that will allow customers to purchase any video, CD, or game that’s not in stock at the shop. “It’s going to complement the store,” says Ruyes. “A smaller shop may only have space for twelve videos, but they’ve got 200 videos accessible through the Internet.” Shops will get credit for the videos sold online at the shop. Video Action Sports offers a similar kiosk, called SportScan, where customers can view an 80-second clip of the titles that are stocked on the display.

Another important aspect of Darkhorse is its team of in-house reps. Video sales are traditionally a cold-call operation, and Miele says that’s one of the reasons shops haven’t been maximizing their video business: distributors aren’t in the shop, so they can’t get a feel for what would work best. “Other distributors don’t have any relationships with retailers,” says Miele. “We participate in the sports, we’re fans of the sports, and we know good videos.”

Bringing together a grip of independent producers and quantifying the marketplace is no small order, but Darkhorse has the experience and drive to do it right. “It video sales should be something that’s taken seriously,” says Ruyes. “If you have somebody managing that side of it, shops could be selling ten times the amount.”