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Warner Moves To Shutter U.K. Rental Window

17 May, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

Warner Home Video has effectively cut out the traditional rental window and is introducing tiered pricing on both VHS and DVD product in the United Kingdom, according to View Magazine, the nation's video industry trade weekly.

Beginning with the July 15 release of Training Day, retailers in the U.K. will pay around £10 ($15) less for Warner cassettes than they have been and about £5 ($7) more for DVD, View reported.

The price dealers will pay for their rental VHS and DVDs will be higher than those set for consumer sellthrough and they will be labeled as “for rental only,” according to View. Warner executives have not yet said exactly how the studio will enforce the new policy.

Warner tried to launch a similar strategy on DVD releases in Australia late last year, color-coding discs for rental or sellthrough and charging video dealers a higher price for the rental discs. But the Australian Video Retailers Association fought the practice in the country's courts and won.

The lack of legal protections like America's First Sale Doctrine and a European law called the Rental Right Directive combine to let studios simultaneously charge a higher price for rental and sellthrough versions of product in the U.K.

Warner U.K. managing director Neil McEwan told View the studio is still committed to the rental business and said the pricing strategy will promote both sales and rentals for any given title. Like in America, the studio was already sending bigger titles into the market at a sellthrough price, but will now broaden the pricing to include smaller ‘B' titles, View reported.

The studio is also looking to restrict sales of previously-viewed product. According to View, studio representatives said ideally they would like to either prohibit the sale of previously-viewed videos completely, or only permit used sales after a specific time period had passed.

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