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TV DVD: Showing Muscle In a Mature Market

8 Nov, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

The growth of TV DVD is outpacing growth in the overall DVD market threefold, according to presenters at the third annual TV DVD Conference held yesterday in Marina del Rey, Calif.

DVD unit sales show signs of slowing to single-digit growth this year, about 5.3 percent over last year. Meanwhile, TV DVD unit sales are up more than 17 percent year over year, according to figures presented by Judith McCourt of Home Media Retailing magazine, sponsor of the confab. The conference was produced in cooperation with DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and The Hollywood Reporter.

Nobody knows yet whether the exploding DVD aftermarket for TV shows will hurt the syndication market, said Lloyd Segan, executive producer of “The Dead Zone,” which is available on DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment.

“There's a big shift in how people are watching content,” said Gary Scott Thompson, creator/executive producer of NBC's “Las Vegas,” available from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Today's TV producers have an eye on the DVD – which they consider the lasting record of a show -- often as early as the script stages. For “Las Vegas,” producers film scenes they know won't get past the standards committee for network airing, but that can be integrated into the DVD release as a value-add for the consumer, Thompson said.

Music licensing remains a big issue, especially for shows like “Jackass” and “Wildboyz,” executive producer Jeff Tremaine said.

Producers have to often make hard decisions about what music to use based on how expensive the DVD rights are, he said. What he's done lately is bank a library of songs he knows he's cleared to use and draw from that when creating the episodes, Tremaine said.

Even TV stars are getting into DVD.

Donny Osmond, whose “Donny and Marie Show” will appear on DVD for the first time from R2 Entertainment next year, is looking forward to using interactivity to help consumers jump to favorite segments. Highlights of the first volume will include a “Star Wars” skit and a "Wizard of Oz" skit from the variety show, he said. Osmond saved all the audio masters for the show, and is able to remix the soundtrack into surround sound.

“I want to get really really technical with it,” he said. “And I can do that with the advent of DVD.”

Linda Gray, star of “Dallas,” said she has a reel of outtakes she'd like to see on future discs. Her first reaction to seeing the old shows on DVD: “Oh, my god, 9 million people are going to see me with that big hair and those shoulder pads!”

Christopher Knight said he got a kick out of recording commentaries for the first two seasons of “The Brady Bunch” on DVD. “It was a gas to do,” he said.

While he wasn't a part of the extras on the first release of “Leave It to Beaver,” due Nov. 22 from Universal, Jerry “The Beaver” Mathers said he'd like to be a part of the releases as he considers them important to posterity. “We're not going to be around forever,” he said. “But I believe our shows will live on.”

There's more product than ever in the TV DVD marketplace from classic shows and seasons of long-running series which have largely driven sales, said Dave Hoffman, account manager Nielsen Research. But the sales are shifting, he said, pointing to the DVD popularity of hot new TV hits such as “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”

It takes an integrated effort between the television and home entertainment divisions of a studio to really kick TV DVD off right, said Jeff Brown, SVP and GM, nontheatrical franchise for Warner Home Video,

The divisions work together on marketing plans, release schedules and developing bonus features that pique consumer interest, he said.

Consumers are snapping up TV DVD for three reasons, an emotional bond to the content, as gifts, or as an impulse buy, said Russ Crupnick, VP and senior industry analyst for The NPD Group.

The key is to look at each release individually, he said.

“You cannot categorize or generalize product that's coming out of your vaults,” he said.But it can't just be thrown on the shelf either, said Cynthia Rhea, SVP and GM for HBO Video.

“The last thing we want to become is the cereal aisle,” she said, referring to its confusing array of offerings. “It's stress-inducing. We need to understand how the consumer shops for this product.”

TV DVD is more than just an aftermarket, it's about creating and extending the brand and franchise of a show, said Jeff Yapp, EVP of programming enterprises for MTV.

“The DVD is a critical part of audience engagement,” he said. “If you can get someone to go from watching a show to actually paying for it — it's a great thing.”

The market is still wide open, Nielsen's Hoffman said.

Nearly 55 percent of DVD households have yet to purchase TV DVD, he said.

There might even be niche possibilities in the future for game shows like “Password” and “The Match Game” because they are character driven, said Sam Toles, VP of development, home entertainment, for Freemantle Media.

“It's more about the celebrities and the ever-increasing alcohol intake,” he joked.

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