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The Boob Tube

31 Jan, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

TV DVD's growth is sparking changes from how shows are produced and how contracts are negotiated to how TV and DVD producers approach the content.

A panel of TV DVD experts discussed the growing business at the Television Critics Association's annual conference Jan. 20 in Universal City, Calif.

Gary Scott Thompson, creator and executive producer of NBC's steamy drama “Las Vegas,” said his show's adult and often sexy premise was hit hard in the aftermath of Janet Jackson and “nipplegate.”

The first season of “Las Vegas” came out from Universal Studios Home Entertainment Jan. 4 in an “Uncut & Uncensored” version. This included five or six steamier minutes, cut from the broadcast version, in eight episodes, Thompson said.

He said he films sequences he knows will not get past the network's Standards and Practices committee — saving them for the DVD.

As long as the show hits its production budget for the episode and ultimately the season, all is well, he said.

“I look at DVD as another way to promote the show,” Thomson said. “It's a great marketing tool.”

David Naylor, president of The DVD Group and DVD producer of “Alias,” “Felicity” and “The Simpsons” DVD sets, said he's already working on the extra content for this year's breakout hit “Lost” from “Alias” creator J.J. Abrams.

“We started working on the DVD pretty much at the moment the series got the green light,” Naylor said. His crew has footage of early production meetings for the highly rated drama-adventure series.

Music rights is a big issue for content providers. Costs of including original music for a series could negate any potential profit. So on many popular releases, songs are replaced with cheaper alternatives. These days TV production contracts include verbiage that allows the music use for the current video aftermarket as well as any new technologies that may come, panelists said.

A lot of research and input from retail accounts predict which shows will most likely perform well in the DVD aftermarket, said Mark Rashba, VP of catalog marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Still, one never quite knows what will hit the big numbers, he said, pointing to DVD surprises such as “The Chappelle Show” and “The Family Guy.” Shows with high ratings don't necessarily equal high DVD sales, panelists said.

While nighttime dramas historically haven't had much success in syndication, they've found a home on DVD because there are no commercials and consumers can watch more than one episode at a time, panelists said.

The unique thing about the TV DVD market is “you can be successful, you can be making money in the 15,000-20,000 units [sold] range,” Rashba said.

Shelf space continues to be an issue for the bulging market. But that may change with a next-generation format, Rashba said, noting that the Blu-ray Disc, which Sony supports, could ostensibly hold an entire TV series on one disc.

Paul Brownstein, president of Paul Brownstein Productions and creative producer of DVD releases for classic TV programming like “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I Love Lucy,” said content suppliers who want to restore vintage TV shows for DVD should start by creating a high-definition transfer and work backward for the regular DVD content. That way, the release of a high-def version is already prepped, he said.

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