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TV's One in a Million

7 Jul, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

The millionaire club for TV DVD is an exclusive one — far more exclusive than theatrical DVD releases, which hit the market at lower prices.

Just 49 TV DVD titles have crossed the million-unit sales threshold since suppliers first started pumping out expensive complete-season sets in 2000, according to Home Media Research.

And those pricey multidisc sets dominate the millionaire club, especially releases from three popular comedies.

Complete-season sets of “Friends” (Warner Home Video), “The Simpsons” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and “Sex and the City” (HBO Video) account for 23 of the millionaire club membership list.

Every single “Sex and the City” set has sold more than 1 million units. All but one of the 11 “Friends” DVD releases, including the individually packaged series finale, have surpassed the million-unit mark. (Season nine has not yet hit that mark). And only one “Simpsons” set — season seven — has yet to surpass 1 million units sold. The title came out in December of last year. Season eight is due Aug. 15.

Shows like these enjoy very loyal and very wide fan bases, said Gord Lacey, editor of the TVShowsOnDVD.com Web site.

“‘The Simpsons' is ‘The Simpsons,' and ‘Friends' is ‘Friends,’ he said. “There are certain things that just blow everything else out of the water when it comes to that genre.”

“It's no surprise to us,” said Marc Rashba, VP of catalog and TV marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “TV Guide named [‘Seinfeld'] the best television show ever.”

Lacey said he wasn't surprised to see how popular “Family Guy” was when Fox put it out in a set of seasons one and two.

That release has sold nearly 4 million units. Family Guy Vol. 2: Season 3 has sold nearly 3 million units. The popularity of the DVD gave creator Seth McFarlane the chance to not only revisit the show for network broadcast, but also to create another irreverent animated primetime program: “American Dad.”

“I knew how much fans of ‘Family Guy' loved it, even though the ratings were never that high.” Lacey said. “I knew those fans were the exact type that would go out and buy the DVD.”

But no one knew “Chappelle's Show” would blow up the way it did, he said.

It was a mixture of star Dave Chappelle's in-your-face comedy antics, the urban audience and the low price that helped sell more than 4 million units of Chappelle's Show: Season One, Lacey said.

Typically, the TV DVD consumer is less price-sensitive than the average buyer, according to Alison Casey, director of media research company Understanding & Solutions.

But price is an issue, Lacey said.

“There's this $60 SRP for 22 episodes mentality,” he said. “You have to wonder, if the studios reduced that, could they sell more units to make up for it?”

The granddaddy on the list is HBO's Band of Brothers. The 10-part World War II miniseries aired in 2001 on the cable channel, hit DVD in November 2002, and has been a perennial bestseller ever since.

It has not only sold 2.5 million units in that time, but it's also the top revenue-generator for the genre, according to Home Media Research. Band of Brothers was released at $99.99 originally and now goes for $79.99.

It's one of those titles that's a must-have for DVD collectors, said Henry McGee, president of HBO Video.

“The award-winning miniseries is one of HBO's signature productions and tells an incredible story that resonates with consumers of all ages and backgrounds,” he said.New DVD-buyers find Band of Brothers every year, McGee said.

Meanwhile, a couple of newbies have made a million-unit splash on TV DVD.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment's single-disc High School Musical has sold 1.8 million units in less than two months, outstripping the supplier's hot drama Lost: The Complete First Season, which has sold 1.6 million units.

Surprisingly, the series that is credited with kicking off TV DVD complete-season sets — “The X-Files” (Fox released the first complete season in 2000) — is absent from TV DVD's millionaire club.

The only sci-fi/fantasy show on the list is Fox's Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One, with just over 1 million units sold.

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