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THE MORNING BUZZ: Extras Increasingly Essentials on DVD

1 Apr, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

Studios may consider DVD supplemental material a neat, if not essential, valued-added item on the disc format, but consumers may be coming to expect the special edition treatment.

To satisfy consumers, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment last month announced the addition of a disc of extras to some of its Superbit titles. Originally, these releases were designed to offer boosted picture and sound quality instead of extras. The idea was to use the discs' entire capacity on the feature itself, rather than on things like "making-of" featurettes and deleted scenes. Now the studio has decided to make select Superbit titles even more "super" by adding a disc of extras to the mix and calling the double-disc series "Superbit Deluxe." Superlatives aside, it looks like extras are increasingly becoming essential on DVD.

In July 2001, Video Store Magazine did a survey of independent retailers asking about the value of DVD extras. At the time, 60 percent of the retailers surveyed reported extras were important to their customers – and that was nearly a year ago. Now that retailers carry more DVDs and consumers are more familiar with discs, that percentage may have grown. Among the top extras in the July 2001 survey were outtakes and deleted scenes, with 48 percent and 46 percent of surveyed retailers, respectively, reporting that customers look for these features. Close behind was "making-of" information at 45 percent.

My own experience bears out the importance of extras to the consumer. As I commented last week, many parents in my informal 4-year-old birthday party survey mentioned extra features like deleted scenes as reasons they like DVD. In my own household, my husband and I will often look at the supplemental material before we watch the movie – especially if we've seen the film in the theater. With A.I. Artificial Intelligence, for instance, we watched the extras first one evening because we didn't have time to view the whole film and we'd already seen it. In that case, the extras, which detailed the special effects, were almost as much of an attraction as the movie itself.

While it remains to be seen if studios will continue to toe the line on (i.e. pay for) supplemental material – and if consumers will squawk much if it disappears – evidence suggests it is appreciated in the marketplace. Unlike its older cousin VHS, DVD with its extras is not just a small copy of the film, but a unique and interactive home viewing experience.

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