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The TV Channel Is Tuning In to DVD

23 Oct, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

It's not often that TV draws a standing-room-only crowd, but that's what happened at the first TV DVD Conference.

“We were positively stunned by the response. We saw a healthy turnout not just from the studios that are releasing TV product, but from the television industry,” said event organizer Thomas K. Arnold. “People came with a lot of questions, and they left with a lot of answers and, hopefully, a lot of new rewarding relationships.”

With TV series on DVD projected to rake in $1.5 billion by the end of the year — two-thirds more than last year, according to Video Store Magazine market research — attendees were anxious to exchange ideas about how to create products that will please the fan base and give TV shows a second life.

TV DVDs are a solid and profitable niche that makes its nut on providing loyal fans with bonus features, executives agreed in the opening panel discussion.

“Fans are looking for something compelling that isn't available anywhere else, behind-the-scenes stuff they just can't get anywhere else,” said Jeff Baker, VP of franchise marketing for Warner Home Video.

Fans chat online about what they want on their favorite shows, but that can be a double-edged sword, said Gordon Ho, VP of brand marketing at Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Fan sites are a resource for suggestions, but fans can also cancel a show on DVD early in the product cycle if bonus features are a disappointment.

“No longer can we pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer, with the Web,” Ho said.

“What you're seeing with DVD products is, you're not just able to replicate the TV experience,” said Peter Staddon, VP of marketing at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “It's the diehard fans that are buying the stuff. You have to give them something that rewards the purchase.”

Boxed sets create the perfect opportunity to do that, and DVD makes season sets compact enough to get them into mass merchants, the key sales vehicles.

“With VHS, there was no way for a mass merchant to take it on. The footprint was just too large,” said Henry McGee, president of HBO Home Video, which views series boxed sets as a way to meet internal goals.

“At HBO, we live by the three ‘E's,” McGee said. “Exploit the asset, extend the brand and expand subscribers.”

“The unique thing about this business is that, unlike theatrical where they try to shorten the window to take advantage of the [marketing] spend, with TV DVD the marketing is ongoing,” Baker said.

DVD can be a springboard for TV creators whose shows have been cancelled or long off the air.

Seth McFarlane, creator of “The Family Guy,” got more offers once the show appeared on DVD — a year after it went off the air. The first-season boxed set is a top TV seller for Fox.

“It was revealing for us, at least, how many people were watching the show. Once we announced ‘The Family Guy' was coming out on DVD, we really didn't have to do much to promote it. The core base was there,” he said. “It's pretty amazing that these releases have the power to make the studios go back and rethink their decisions.”

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