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Studios Weigh Options For Post-Strike TV DVD

28 Feb, 2008 By: John Latchem

The Writers Guild of America strike forced cutbacks in episode orders for many popular shows, which ultimately will affect the next crop of TV DVD releases. Fewer episodes mean less DVDs, slimmer boxed sets and less revenue for studios in a category that already has reached maturity.

Studios have been hesitant to announce their post-strike plans. In response to a report indicating that Universal Studios Home Entertainment was going to split its eventual fourth-season release of “Battlestar Galactica” into two batches of 10 episodes (similar to the season-two sets), a Universal spokesperson said the studio was “still evaluating all potential opportunities.”

While a split-season strategy isn't overly popular with most fans, industry watcher Gord Lacey of TVShowsOnDVD.com thinks smaller boxed sets could be a blessing for some consumers.

“I think the strike could be good for shows that premiered this past season, as the sets will hit shelves with fewer episodes and at lower prices,” Lacey said. “The buy-in could be $20 at some stores instead of $40 or $45, and then they can catch the new season next year.”

Another option could be an increase in TV shows on high-definition disc, now that the format war has been decided in favor of Blu-ray Disc. According to Jyoti Sarda, executive director of TV DVD marketing for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, high-definition sets give studios the chance to present fresh material without having to revisit a standard-DVD release.

There is also the option of releasing older seasons in special editions.

Fox's new special-edition DVD set of season one of “24” has been in the works for some time. Its release is not tied to the strike, but if successful it could set an example for other studios. Lacey is hesitant to accept such a strategy.

“I think re-releasing TV DVDs is a slippery slope,” Lacey said. “Fans are already getting pissed off because the complete-series set comes with bonus material they weren't able to get. What works with movies doesn't work with TV product. It made sense to revisit the first season of ‘24' because the quality of the original release doesn't hold up compared to other ‘24' sets. I don't mind this re-release, but I'd be pretty against the industry choosing to move down this path for other sets. The studios need to build loyalty with the consumers or they'll see lost sales, and the inability to continue to release shows on DVD.”

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