Redline Entertainment, a Best Buy-subsidiary and Minnesota-based youth-entertainment-label, is determined to push forward in the skateboard industry despite slowing economic times. The company hopes this commitment will keep future generations interested in skateboarding and patronizing ‘core shops for years to come.
With the desire to keep a niche they dominated before anyone else, and a recent partnership with Ventura Distribution that will create the largest distribution network for youth lifestyle and action-sports titles in North America, Redline might just be the most vital and dedicated relationship skateboarding has seen in years.
Among Redline’s skateboarding video titles are TransWorld SKATEboarding’s In Bloom, Tony Hawk’s Trick Tips Vol. 1 and 2, éS’ Menikmati, Birdhouse’s The End, 411VM, Hook-Ups’ Destroying America, and the Tony Hawk’s Gigantic Skatepark Tour series. And as a favorable benefit to ‘core skate shops, the company has worked closely with the producers of these videos to assure it isn’t stepping on their toes, or taking sales away from them by selling these videos in the big chain stores before its ‘core skate shop shelf-life is up.
Companies like TransWorld and 411, for example, impose strict time buffers between the release of their videos in ‘core shops and the distribution by Redline to the major chains. Contractually, most of the skate titles Redline acquires can’t even hit the shelves of major retail stores until a few months after their release. With rare exceptions, a month or two (sometimes less) is all it takes for most skate videos to become dead stock in skate shops.
Tim Reardon, owner of Pit Crew skate shop in Frederick, Maryland, doesn’t see Redline as much of a threat overall: “A video has about three to six months before it’s pretty much dead in our shop. Some videos like Flip’s Sorry, Girl’s Yeah Right!, or Emerica’s This Is Skateboarding tend to be the longer-lasting titles. As long as they get their videos three to six months after we do, everything should be fine.”
Distributing to chains like Best Buy, Virgin, Tower Records, Amazon.com, and Suncoast is Redline’s forte-and they know it. It’s a territory that the skate industry has never been able or even had the desire to tackle. “We want to deliver videos that kids shopping at the Towers, Virgins, and Best Buys of the world really want to watch,” says Ryan Dolan, marketing manager at Redline. “We have to be real-a majority of these kids are not going to have an in-depth understanding of the sport.
“We need to entice them with things they think are cool. At the same time, we want our videos to help kids understand the sport, expose them to up-and-coming pros and ams, give them an understanding of the lifestyle of skateboarding,” adds Dolan, saying that for some kids ‘core shops can be very intimidating. “I know it was for me,” he says. “If Redline can sell a kid a Tony Hawk DVD that makes them eventually go into a shop to buy a new board or subscribe (to) 411 for the next ten years, then that’s great.” Dolan also acknowledges that without healthy, independent skate shops, the scene will suffer, which hurts everyone’s business.
The first Redline Entertainment titles that Ventura Distribution will be handling are Tony Hawk’s Gigantic Skate Park Tour 2002, Mike V’s Greatest Hits, and Tao Of Skateboarding, and those can be expected for release at the end of the summer. “Video/DVD plays a key role in connecting ‘core action-sports enthusiasts and teens to the sports and athletes they love,” said Craig Sussman, executive vice president of Ventura Distribution. “As the market moves more mainstream, this segment is primed for mass-merchant retail stores to capitalize on the growing consumer demand in the DVD category.”
Redline’s hands-off approach toward and understanding of the ‘core skateboard world is one of the key factors in the company’s success as a distributor. Redline’s goal is to grow the sport with credibility, and management realizes that the producers of the skate videos will always understand the culture of skateboarding better than they ever will. “We intend to continue to trust their instincts as we grow our business,” says Dolan.
But Redline’s approach and understanding aren’t the only efforts the company makes. Redline advertises the skate videos in magazines and on TV, while Best Buy sponsors skateboard tours and contests. The commitment has been, and will continue to be, a multimillion-dollar one for Redline because it’s about building a comprehensive business at mass retail. “Redline was the first in this space, and we’re committed to it,” says Dolan. “Do we need to be careful of our forecasting in this slower period for the industry? Yes. But will we bail? No.”
Thus far, the Redline/skateboard-industry relationship has been symbiotic. It’s likely to stay that way for a long time if Redline adheres to its “hands-off, long-term commitment” strategy. “Action sports are the core of what we do,” says Dolan. “It’s easy to want to get into the action-sports world right now. Everyone is. But I guess we’ll wait and see who’s around in five years.”