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Panel: Catalog Caught in Balancing Act

19 Jul, 2013 By: John Latchem

SAN DIEGO — Panelists at the Blu-ray Producers panel July 18 at San Diego Comic-Con International reflected on the increasing trend of major studios licensing their catalog to smaller distributors for Blu-ray releases.

One problem for studios, noted Cliff Stephenson, disc producer for the upcoming first season of “Hannibal,” is the expectation of deep discounting associated with DVD.

“The studio economically can’t put it out for $10,” Stephenson said. “They’ve got no retail support. Stores aren’t devoting as much space to physical product. Most people buy catalog at Amazon. But If you look at the new-release titles, those are doing fine. It’s the catalog they’re having a hard time pushing through.”

“The smaller companies can’t afford too many misses because of the margins,” said Bill Hunt of TheDigitalBits.com. “They’re trying to do the best remastering but all that costs money.”

“The big companies can’t do it either,” Stephenson said. “It’s just not worth the effort to them for the small return they get.”

The costs associated with disc production would seem to indicate catalog titles are subjecting to the whims of an industry moving toward streaming or downloads, though panelists were hesitant to admit the end of physical media was in sight.

“Streaming is not replacing physical media,” Hunt said. “The industry might have hoped it would, but you can’t charge $29.99 or $39.99 for a download. People just won’t tolerate it. Streaming is replacing the rental experience.”

“There’s a misconception that people have that streaming will lead to this magic video store in the sky where everything ever made will always be available, and that’s clearly not true,” said Adam Jahnke of TheDigitalBits.com. “It’s basically an alternative to cable and satellite. Streaming is going to be clearly a cable killer once HBO Go decides to be available to anybody and not just HBO subscribers.”

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