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A Window Closing on PPV/VOD?

6 Jul, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik

In the next couple of weeks, prior to the VSDA show I am told, the folks from Warner Home Video and members of the VSDA Windows Committee will have a conference call to discuss Warner's recent announcement of a VOD release of Cradle 2 the Grave that is timed 17 days after the Aug. 12 video street date for the title, rather than the more typical 45 to 60 days.

It's been reported that WHV stated this is a one-time deal, and I will not be surprised if, in fact, this turns out to be the case. There are plenty of scheduling and financial issues that have to be regulated in the management of a creative property within a mega-media company, and sometimes anomalies will happen. We'll have to wait and see what transpires in the upcoming meeting.

Be that as it may/or may not be, however, it is clear that the time frame for studios to maximize their financial return from a movie as it plays across the media delivery spectrum is being condensed. That will no doubt spill over to the VOD/PPV window.

The theatrical lifespan of a movie is growing shorter for blockbusters and small-budget genre flicks alike, though this may not necessarily be impacting ticket receipts or marketing expenses, both of which have been growing in 2003. And so, as films die off sooner in theaters its not surprising for us to start seeing more testing to shorten the window to home video to capitalize on the impact of that condensed, intense marketing campaign for the film. Much to the chagrin, of course, of theater chain executives.

As broadband penetration continues and VOD services proliferate, as digital television grows to become the norm, we should not be surprised, then, to see the traditional PPV/VOD window between home video come under some scrutiny by studios that will send up trial balloons to test the shorter window weather. Like the theatrical-to-video window, this is a numbers game.

Even with shorter PPV/VOD windows, the bigger-budget hit films will still likely do just fine at theatrical and sellthrough DVD, as consumers jump at the chance to see the film when it comes out, then follow up by collecting the features-laden DVD. But things might get more interesting on the second tier, sub-$30 million flick, destined more for the rental market. A shorter PPV/VOD window then becomes an issue for rentailers, especially considering a growing digital TV environment and the penetration of DVD recorders.

The VSDA Windows Committee will have to keep a keen eye on PPV/VOD horizon.

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