Extras Should Be Just That11 Nov, 2007 By: John Latchem
I recently found myself watching the second season of “My Name Is Earl” on DVD, and one of the episodes, “Get a Real Job,” suggested I find the scratch-and-sniff card in the box to rub certain scents when a number flashed on the screen. Trouble is, the box didn't have the card. I later learned the card was a Best Buy exclusive.
Including the numbers on the DVD version in essence makes the scratch-and-sniff card part of the viewing experience, and without it the numbers can be distracting to anyone who doesn't know what they are. Anyone wanting to enjoy the full experience of the DVD set had to buy it from Best Buy before the promotion ended, essentially penalizing those who didn't.
A quick Internet search revealed the episode was originally aired with the smell-o-vision promotion and the card was available in various magazines, but later reruns omitted the flashing numbers. So the episode could have been put on disc without the numbers, or maybe it was engineered with the idea of including the card in all sets, only to revert to an exclusive later.
I applaud Best Buy for pulling off such a shrewd move, but this may be crossing the line as far as exclusives go.
The most important content on any DVD is the program itself, be it a film or TV episode. Extra features are icing on the cake, although the big chains have an annoying habit of offering bonus content on an extra disc. The retailer can't be faulted for trying to get a leg up, so decisions about who gets exclusive content really come down to the studios.
My general belief is that if it's good enough to put on a disc at all, it should probably be available for everybody regardless of where they choose to shop. Maybe that means exclusives should be limited to discounts, special packaging or collectibles such as plush dolls or trading cards, all of which have nothing to do with content.
Usually I don't mind not getting an exclusive if it has nothing to do with the enjoyment of the program. But above all else, exclusives shouldn't detract from the viewing experience.