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Studios Plug Feature Hole With TV DVD

29 Sep, 2005 By: Judith McCourt

Studios are a lot more savvy and calculated in their release strategies than they often get credit for. Earlier this year, questions arose as to why so many TV DVD packages had been slotted for the third quarter, particularly August.

Now that the month is over and everyone's had some time to do a little Monday morning quarterbacking, the answer is clear: Studios flooded the market with TV DVD releases to compensate for the lack of strong theatricals.

And, in retrospect, this was one gambit that worked.

Home Media Research estimates that consumers spent $898.3 million on videos in August 2005, up 3.9 percent from what they spent in the comparable four-week period in 2004.

That's a remarkable feat, considering that the combined box office clout of new theatricals that came to video during the month was just $561 million, a staggering 28 percent less than the crop of August 2004 theatricals. Not a single title pulled in more than $100 million; the top-grossing theatrical to hit video was New Line Home Entertainment's Monster-in-Law ($82.3 million), and that didn't arrive until Aug. 30 — far too late to affect the sales picture for the month.

Now, conventional wisdom has always held that the home video industry is driven by new theatrical releases. Is it time to revisit that notion? According to high-ranking studio executives, new theatricals now account for just 35 percent to 40 percent of the business, an all-time low.

TV DVD, meanwhile, stands at almost 25 percent and rising — and what happened on the DVD sales front in August underscores the importance of TV DVD and other categories.

Home Media Research estimates TV DVD sales during August were up 29 percent from August 2004. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season was the month's top seller, with unit sales pegged at nearly 500,000.

Warner Home Video's The O.C.: The Complete Second Season, strategically released Aug. 23, just before the network debut of season three, was No. 2 in DVD sales. In its first month, the hefty set, with a steep list price of $69.98, moved more than 225,000 copies, pulling in retail revenue of more than $11 million.

Warner, combined with New Line and HBO Video, was tops in market share for the month, with an estimated 21 percent of total consumer spending on home video. According to Nielsen VideoScan data, Warner also was No. 1 in TV DVD sales, again with a 21 percent share of the market.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which now includes MGM, finished second with 16.4 percent of consumer video spending in August. Rounding out the top five, in market share, were Buena Vista Home Entertainment (15.4 percent), Fox (12.1 percent) and Paramount Home Entertainment (10.1 percent).

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