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The Power Of the Drama

14 Oct, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf


American TV DVD buyers love drama. In the TV DVD realm, one-hour dramas take the largest portion of sales — 48% of TV DVD sales for the year so far have come from this segment, according to The NPD Group research presented by analyst Russ Crupnick.

The adult-animation segment — which includes such shows as “South Park,” “The Simpsons” and the burgeoning Adult Swim catalog — is second with 36% of TV DVD sales, he said at the recent TV DVD 4 conference in Los Angeles. Sci-fi shows make up 34% of TV DVD sales. Half-hour comedies are the least popular, making up just 7% of the market, according to NPD.

It's not surprising one-hour dramas make up the biggest percentage, Crupnick said. For these shows, such as “Lost” and “24,” there is a water cooler effect, he said, because people like to talk about and dissect episodes as they air on network broadcasts.

For HBO, the dynamic is a little different. Only about 30% of U.S. households have HBO and can tune into popular HBO dramas such as “The Sopranos,” “Rome” and “Six Feet Under” during the original run.

But some of these HBO programs, along with serial comedy “Sex and the City,” early on were TV DVD favorites and continue to be strong performers in the segment.

It varies from show to show, but typically 50% of HBO TV DVD buyers also are HBO subscribers, Sofia Chang, VP of marketing for HBO Video, said at the conference.

For “The Sopranos,” 40% of the show's TV DVD buyers also subscribe to HBO, she said; 60% of “The Sopranos” DVD buyers have likely never seen the episodes in the original airing.

But the dramas' TV DVD leadership does not necessarily mirror a show's ratings, said Jeff Brown, SVP and GM of franchises for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Smaller-rated shows with passionate core audiences, such as “Gilmore Girls” and “Smallville,” often perform better on DVD than huge-ratings hits such as crime drama “CSI,” he said.

Just look at the fall schedule for any network — it's clear there is a real growth of serialized shows with longer story arcs that evolve over the course of a season, said David Naylor, with production company The DVD Group.

“They do particularly well on DVD, and they are also dreams for added-value content,” he said.

Studios have really found the sweet spot for releasing TV dramas on DVD: full-season sets. Early in the segment's popularity, there was a lot of experimentation with single-disc samplers and such, Warner's Brown said.

“[But] it's not a sampling concept,” he said. “It's gone far past that — it's an indulgence concept.”

Studios target that indulgence reflex with extras-laden complete-series sets, Brown said.

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