In a move that could have profound implications for the entertainment technology industry, the New York-based Entertainment Services and Technology Association (ESTA) is launching a global market research program, in concert with the trade organizations APIAS, CITT, PERA, PLASA, USITT, and VPLT. The aim is to provide manufacturers around the world with accurate market information for use in business planning, product development, charting trends, obtaining financing, and valuing their businesses.

The study will answer questions that have proved elusive until now. It will reveal the size of markets for specific product categories in both wholesale dollars and, where applicable, units broken down by geographic area. This means that, for the first time ever, companies will be able to accurately track their market shares, compare sales trends for specific product segments, and identify sales patterns of products by geographic regions worldwide. The geographic breakdown consists of several categories the United States, North/Central America, South America, Europe, Africa/Middle East, and Asia/Pacific Rim. The report will also chart growth by product category against the same quarter in the prior year and on an annual basis, and will indicate what percent of an overall product category is represented by a specific subcategory.

ESTA president Mike Wood says, "If you are a manufacturer in the entertainment technology industry, there are two questions that you are probably asked more than any others: How big is the market for your product and what is your share of that market? The best you are able to do is guess the answer - it may be a very educated guess, but it is still a guess. And as one manufacturer put it, `Your guesses don't always hold up very well under cross-examination.'" He adds that the information contained in the report will be invaluable for anyone looking to fund growth or acquisitions, as well as anyone planning to put their business up for sale.

Companies worried about their privacy can be assured that numerous safeguards have been put in place. ESTA has engaged an experienced accounting firm to receive and compile all data and to prepare and mail the report. Information will be aggregated at a total level; it will be impossible to identify the sources of the data. To achieve this, at least three manufacturers in each product category in each geographic area must agree to participate in the report on a continuing basis for it to be undertaken. If only three manufacturers agree to participate in a given category, or if a single manufacturer exceeds 50% of a product category, ESTA will ask each participant for their written permission to proceed. Only participating companies will have access to the reports.

Companies may sign up to participate in the initial report from now through December 2000. The next opportunity will not come until January 2002. No company will be allowed to join the report partway through the year, as this would skew the numbers and growth calculations for the year. For more information about the ESTA Market Research for Manufacturers, or to get a sign-up form, contact any member of the task group or Lori Rubinstein in the ESTA office at 212/224-1505, or by e-mail at lrubinstein@esta.org.