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THE MORNING BUZZ: DVD's Extras May Save the Day Again

6 May, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

We've heard a lot of talk over the years about how video-on-demand will eventually kill home video.

Has anyone ever considered that DVD might kill video-on-demand?

The wave of VOD trials and rollouts going on in markets all over the country have this in common: customers can click and watch any movie from a “virtual library” of titles for 24 hours, with full pause, rewind and fast-forward features, at a cost of about $3.95 for new releases and $1.95 for older films.

I can see where this might be a tantalizing proposition for renters, although the key variables, in my mind, are the size of the selection and how much the consumer values the shopping experience.

But considering the plummeting street price of DVDs – catalog titles are selling for as little as $5 or $6 at chains like Wal-Mart and Best Buy – and prices coming down on DVD jukeboxes, an argument might be made that an affordable and equally convenient alternative to pay-as-you-go VOD might be a home library tailored to your specific tastes, with all your discs inserted into a changer capable of holding, say, 300 movies (Sony already has a CD changer with that capacity).

It's the same concept—hundreds of movies at your fingertips—but it won't cost you every time you want to watch something. And let's face it, some movies – particularly those geared toward kids, but also some of those complex grownup movies like The Matrix and Memento – do warrant repeat viewing.

The same goes for older movies—I happened to watch the DVD of an old Western epic called How the West Was Won, and I was so enamored that over the subsequent nights I watched it again with my wife and then let my parents borrow the disc so they could watch it as well. Now my kids are into it and that film has probably been seen 10 or 12 times—which would have cost a fortune on VOD.

And then there's all the special features that come with DVDs, that VOD will most likely never be able to approach, much less replicate. The behind-the-scenes interviews, the “making of” documentaries, the deleted scenes and commentaries – dismiss it as much as you like, a lot of this stuff does get watched.

What's more, thanks to DVD, the American public is getting acclimated to “movies and more.” Rent or buy a DVD and you typically get four to six hours of entertainment, instead of the 90 minutes to two hours from the movie alone.

When VOD finally rolls out nationally, will Americans still have an appetite for vanilla?

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