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Suppliers: DVD Extras Are Not the Place to Cut Corners

13 Feb, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Talk to anyone at the studios and they'll tell you preparing DVDs is a careful balance of cost vs. added value. Bonus materials need to be as compelling as they are cost-effective; if getting, say, Tom Cruise to do a commentary would cost $100,000, it might make sense to let the director do the talking, gratis, and forego Tom and his wry asides completely.

But lately, there seems to be too much effort being made to drive down the cost, particularly on TV season packages. I've spoken to several stars of classic 1960s sitcoms recently who are wildly excited about their shows appearing on DVD, and yet none of them were even asked to participate in the DVD production.

Contrast this to Image Entertainment's excellent “Dick Van Dyke Show” complete-season packages, which include commentaries from both Van Dyke and series creator Carl Reiner, and gobs of other extras, including period CBS promo spots producer Paul Brownstein tells me he bought on eBay for $20 apiece.

TV DVD is red-hot right now, and it's likely to get hotter still, as studios continue to mine the three most lucrative areas: the big contemporary hits, like “Friends” and “West Wing”; cult shows like “Alias” and “24,” where the DVD packages actually help build viewership, and vice versa; and classic television, in which beloved shows from the era when the entire family watched TV together are cleaned up and stylishly packaged for DVD consumption.

But while the shows themselves are the star attraction, please, please don't forget that DVD has put consumers in the habit of expecting extras — and good extras. Too often, I think, suppliers, fretful of the higher costs inherent to multidisc collections, are looking to cut corners in the bonus materials department to keep the retail price as low as they possibly can.

To me, that's an unwise strategy. Fans of, say, “My Mother The Car” would gladly pay an extra $10 or even $20 for a cool package that includes Jerry Van Dyke's running commentary and a documentary on the actual car, among other extras. In fact, they'd be more apt to shell out $40 for such a package than $30 or even $20 for a bare-bones set consisting of only the episodes.

And while I'm on this rant, please take the time and effort to search out the original episodes, and not the shorter edited versions that ran later in syndication. If you're selling nostalgia, you might as well go for the real deal.

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