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20th Century Fox Tunes In To Internet TV Opportunities

1 Feb, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

At our most recent TV DVD conference, studio executives decried the lack of floorspace for the endless stream of TV programming finding its way to DVD. Chief among the complaints were how difficult it is to get more space for more shows at retail, the increasing competition for the space there is and the lack of new outlets for sellthrough TV boxed sets.

Some people saw this as an opportunity for small retailers and rentailers to differentiate themselves by carrying TV boxed sets for sale. The suggestion was that the little guys could offer the studios floorspace that discounters and big chains might not be willing to give over to TV boxed sets.

It looks like 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has another idea about extending the life and reach of its TV boxed sets, and it's a smart one. Now you can buy them — well, two of them, anyway — on CinemaNow. The site offers “Playing It Straight” (eight episodes, including five never aired on TV) and CBS's “Big Brother 3” (32 episodes), either just to watch or as download-to-own, which means the end user gets to keep a copy.

Now, that's a smart avenue for studios to take. It banishes all concern for floorspace (although theoretically server space could someday become an issue). It didn't require a tradeoff to get one show on the shelf while another one languished. In the case of “Playing It Straight,” not only did the show get an extended life, it got a first-run life for episodes that would have aired if the show hadn't been cancelled.

DVD has been a great medium for everything from forgotten chestnuts to hit shows and cancelled favorites. In the case of Fox's “Family Guy,” the network even decided to revive the show after cancellation because of its phenomenal popularity on DVD.

Letting VOD viewers watch shows and, perhaps when the audience is big enough, revive them is just another step in the progress of delivering entertainment. And it doesn't stop there. Fox is among the innovators starting to offer content over wireless phones, starting with a new short-form spinoff of the TV series “24,” to be called “24 Conspiracy,” over Verizon's phone service in 60-second episodes (“mobisodes,” they call them).

Fox is making some smart moves, pioneering new kinds of interaction with consumers that could ultimately increase the volume of offerings and the opportunities to get them to an audience that wants them.

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