I'm looking forward to delivering a research seminar at the University of Leicester on Wednesday. The talk is taken from my current book project, Britain and the Video Boom: An Industrial History (recently contracted by Edinburgh University Press)! Find an abstract and poster below.
Borderline Nasties: the British Video Business, Market Rationalisation and the Product Acquisition Strategies of CBS/Fox, 1982-84
This talk explores a pivotal moment in the history of the video business in Britain: the end of the ‘gold rush’ (1978-81) and the beginnings of ‘rationalization’ (1982-85). It offers an assessment of the ways video programme distributors sought to make their product stand out both to consumers and retailers in what, by early 1982, was a very crowded market. Indeed, the 80 video companies now in operation were collectively supplying approximately 5000 titles to almost 10,000 rental outlets throughout the country. Building on my recent work into how independent video companies coped with these changes (Walker 2016 and 2017), this talk examines the response of a Major company: the recently-merged CBS/Fox Home Video.
Market rationalization coincided with growing concerns from religious groups and politicians about the alleged psychological effects that violent horror films – so called ‘video nasties’ – were having on children (Petley 2011). Accompanying media reportage – which typically outlined gory sequences and features gory promotional artwork – adversely led to a spike in popularity for what were routinely framed in the trade press as ‘nasty’ or ‘borderline nasty’ horror movies; the majority of which were handled by independent companies. The talk shows how CBS/Fox looked to exploit ‘nasty hysteria’ for its own ends, striking deals with a range of independent distributors known for trading in horror and exploitation titles. The talk maintains that buying into controversial, headline-grabbing areas, allowed the Major to ride out rationalisation, increase its market share, and become one of the industry’s biggest players by the end of the decade.