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Why is Selling a Luxury AV Lifestyle So Hard?

by John Sciacca I had an a phone call from someone the other day. And we chatted about this and that and it quickly became apparent that this person has a way, WAY, like SUPER WAY more high-end lifestyle than I do. (I was going to write “than I ever will” but, well, that just made me feel sad and like there was no

by John Sciacca

I had an a phone call from someone the other day. And we chatted about this and that and it quickly became apparent that this person has a way, WAY, like SUPER WAY more high-end lifestyle than I do. (I was going to write “than I ever will” but, well, that just made me feel sad and like there was no hope for future Sciacca.) He was talking about fancy cars, and his celebrity neighbors, and high-end this, and private country club that and mega-expensive audio the other, and basically anything that I’d done, he’d already done it longer, harder, faster and more expensiver. I mentioned a book I liked, he knew the author. I mentioned a golf course, he was a member.

In very short order, it became clear that he and I ran in mega-different circles. (Well, I run in circles; he travels in a private, well-appointed sphere with servants delivering well-aged beverages.) The point was, this guy has some walking around money. Some long green. A phat wallet. He probably even has a Black Card. (Is there a polite way to ask someone you’re just speaking to for the first time if they do? I mean, I don’t often let expected behavior in polite society stand in my way of asking those potentially awkward questions but, “You sound rich. Let’s cut right to the chase…have you got a Black Card or not?” just seems a little too off-putting even for me.)

Anyhow… He mentions that he is going to fly somewhere for a wedding that’s coming up. And his comment was, “This is going to cost me close to $6000 by the time I buy two First Class plane tickets.” (Foreshadowing warning! Place a mental bookmark on that statement, will you?)

So, later on the topic of Kaleidescape comes up. I mean, it’s one of the few “You want to talk about luxury? OK. Let’s talk. I’ve got a Kaleidescape. Two zones! Boom! Now you go!” high-end products that I’m able to discuss on an authoritative basis. But he kind of pooh-poohed the whole thing. Sure it was cool, but it was expensive, other devices like Apple TV and any Netflix streamer delivered a similar experience, movies-on-demand, movies in the cloud, blah, blah.

After hanging up, I kept returning to his comment about the plane tickets. He never even considered flying Coach, which would have probably cost around a tenth of the price. In his mind, he was taking a flight and that meant going First. And the more that I thought about it, I thought how similar that experience was to selling a luxury audio/video experience. Specifically the Kaleidescape experience. And why would someone fully embrace the one – flying First Class – while totally dismissing the other?

Let’s compare, shall we?

The Overall Experience
OK, I’ve had the opportunity to fly a lot, and I’ve reached Gold level “Elite Status” this year. And part of the Goldmember package is fairly frequent upgrades to First Class. Now, I will readily admit, the front of the plane is not black-and-white different from the back, but it is definitely nicer. Yes, yes, I know you pass through on the way back to coach — and, please, do hurry along won’t you? And try and avoid eye contact or leaving any unpleasant lingering odors in your wake. We’re up here trying to forget about you back there behind the curtain — and it might not look all that different, but believe me, those subtle betterments all add up. Wider, leather seat with lots of leg room, pillow and blanket, free drinks, snack trays or better food, a flight attendant that generally does an admirable job of disguising the fact that she hates her career. Even before you get on the plane, First Class-ies get to generally use a shorter line through security screening. While you are waiting for that family of 8 to unpack all of their strollers and get all of their shoes off, I’m breezing through security on my way to a Club Lounge. The experience is better.

Same with Kaleidescape. The experience is just…better. WAY better. The way it sorts all of your movies by cover art, or title or genre or rating or run time or actor or director. The way that you’re given a brief description of the movie. Or that you can instantly view a trailer (if it’s on the disc) or jump right to a song in a concert or browse TV shows by episode or create a full-blown experience geared towards kids. If you have more than 50 movies in your collection, you will not only watch them more, but you will enjoy them more. And the more movies or music you have, the more you’ll dig it.

The Getting There
Ultimately, the people in the front of the plane and the people in the back of the plane arrive at the same destination. Barring any kind of weird, breaks-off-in-mid-flight nonsense — where, I’m *pretty sure* that the entire First Class cabin becomes a life-sustaining capsule that gently and safely floats down to the earth, with gyro-stabilizers so not even a single precious droplet of scotch is upset during the commotion — the First Class people aren’t arriving anywhere any different than the people in Coach. They also don’t arrive like 2 hours sooner. They are just paying for a better experience before and during the flight.

Same with Kaleidescape. Ultimately it is about watching the movie. Does it do a different job of it than a standard DVD or Blu-ray player? Meh… Possibly. Maybe. I mean, the video processing in the Kaleidescape is terrific and there is some definitely arguments to be made about improvements of reading data off of a hard disk versus off of a spinning disc, but at the end of the day, it’s about watching the movie. And once you’ve pressed play, it’s the same movie. Just like the plane doesn’t drop First Class off in Fiji and Coach in Desperation. Kaleidescape isn’t going to magically serve up colorized versions of Casablanca. Nor will it abridge a lame British period mini-series into an almost bearable 46 minute chunk. (Believe me. I’ve tried. Dana will be *right there* telling you to put the remote down and be quiet. Ever ready to remind you that she watches all of your movies. No. Kaleidescape will be unable to help you here, my friends.)

The Speed
One of the nice perks about flying First Class is that you get to board first, get into your seat, have a pre-flight checklist drink brought to you and then you get to get OFF the plane first. Is this extra 5-10 minutes *really* worth a 10-times multiple for the ticket price? No. But it’s nice. And if you’ve ever buzzed right off the plane amidst the struggle and commotion of those people back in Coach fighting their oversized carry-ons out of the overhead bins, then you know how nice those extra moments of sanity can be.

Kaleidescape speeds up the movie watching process. Press play, movie starts. Bang. No trailers, no FBI warnings, no searching for newer versions of firmware, no forced Disney indoctrinations, none of that mess. Pressing play equals watching movie. This is especially noticeable on Blu-ray discs, which now start in well under 10 seconds. And by start, I don’t mean “and now bring up that ‘checking for updates’ screen.” I mean START-start.

“But, John,” I hear you whining, “I don’t mind waiting those extra 45 seconds. That gives me a chance to pop some corn or tussle my son’s hair or wonder if I’ll like the movie.”

And to you I say, “Yeah, I know. It totally DOES feel like forever.” Sure, that 45-seconds might not be worth a multiple in price, but it’s another one of those First Class lifestyle things. It’s better. Unarguably, easily definably, and demonstrably better.

The Service
You are taken care of in First Class. Want an extra drink? Here’s 3 mini bottles for you. Feel like grabbing some chips? Take as many as you like. Don’t want to wear your jacket? Let someone hang it up for you. Need to know the weather or a gate in a connecting city? Let’s get the pilot to find out. The service is better.

Service is a huge part of the Kaleidescape experience. Sure, they do things like monitor your system to proactively respond to any kind of massive problem — system too hot, system off-line, hard drive number 2 looks sick — but that’s not the service I’m talking about. The *real* service is in collection management. I think I have close to 200 movies now. Maybe more. I don’t honestly know. They used to be haphazardly spread in a giant stack under my pool table. It was a nightmare mess. (Here. Take a look.) Or in jewel cases in my dining room hutch. Before I loaded them into the Kaleidescape, I had MANY movies that were still in plastic wrap. I’d bought them, but never bothered to watch them. Now, they’re all there, up on the screen, a single button press away from enjoying them. Want to watch that explosive diarrhea scene from Dumb and Dumber? (Go on. You know you do.) Tag it as a favorite and watch it whenever you want. Enjoy the epic gunfight from Heat? It’s right there. Just press play. In the mood to hear Slow Dancing in a Burning Room from John Mayer? Again? And then a few more times? Enjoy. That’s the service.

The Eliteness
All that other stuff, yes, it’s great. But at the risk of sounding overly douchey, one of the biggest perks of flying First Class is the exclusivity of it. Something about being in that private club of 16. (The typical number of seats in most domestic First Class cabins.) And seeing “FIRST” or “SEAT 1A” on your ticket and boarding when they call for “Now those flying in our First Class cabin may board at their convenience…” Yeah. All of that. It makes you feel different; special and better different. Because not everyone is getting it. (The only plane that makes a mockery of this analogy is the Concorde, where every seat is First Class. And, if you want to throw the Concorde up in my face, well then bully for you! Enjoy your supersonic, transatlantic flight and Dom Perignon and linen napkins! Enjoy it ALL!)

Owning a Kaleidescape has an elite feel to it as well. Chances are, none of your friends or guests have ever seen — let alone own — anything remotely like it. You pull it up, they see the covers, they’re impressed. You jump through demo clips of your favorite films, they’re stunned. You tell them it all fits in two boxes the about the size of their old VCR and is easy enough for your 4-year to control, they’re flabbergasted. If you think this also means they’re assuming that you are also a better person than they are, that your wife is more attractive, that you have way more sex and that you have a giant penis, well, uh, OK. Hey, it’s your world.

It doesn’t even have to be about travel. It could be a wristwatch. I can’t tell you how many of my customers own gold, $25,000-plus Rolex watches that flinch when presented with a big tech purchase. And unless you are buying your Rolex to do some Comex ultra-deep-sea dwellering (and, Man! I hope you are!), then there is almost nothing that the Rolex offers you beyond the status of being able to say “I own a Rolex.” (I have a Submariner. I love it. I never take it off. And owning it makes me feel good. But, I’d be totally lying if I said it kept time as well as a $10 quartz watch you’d pick up at Wal-mart.)

These are all luxury choices. Lifestyle choices. They carry a premium price. But what I don’t get is how someone could be so willing to splurge on the one — an extravagance that lasts a very brief amount of time with travel, perhaps 5 hours or so — but be unwilling to consider the other that lasts for years. Or gladly writes the check for one, but dismisses the other as outrageously expensive. And I’m not even talking about people that say, LOVE travel (or telling time) and HATE movies. Or people that LOVE movies but that live in a cardboard box under the overpass. I’m talking about people that are into technology AND have the discretionary income available. So why is that such a hard concept to get across?