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Bundlemania: Studios Increase DVD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy Combos

31 Mar, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

When Marley and Me arrived in stores last week, consumers for the first time could buy a 20th Century Fox home video release as a standard DVD, a Blu-ray Disc and a digital copy, all in one package.

The family comedy was 20th Century Fox’s first “triple play” release, a practice studio executives say will become increasingly common as they seek to transition consumers to Blu-ray Disc and at the same time keep people from only downloading movies to their computers.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment pioneered the three-formats-in-one-package approach earlier this year with High School Musical 3, and Bolt and has one more coming out this week, Bedtime Stories April 7.

“We want to be a one-stop source for all current and future programming needs for the entire family,” said Bob Chapek, the Disney division’s president.

“We’re giving people the option to enjoy the movie in three different ways,” adds Mary Daily, 20th Century Fox’s EVP of marketing. “The digital copy can go to the kids, so they can watch it on their iPods. Then you’ve got the Blu-ray Disc, which you can watch on your big home theater, and the DVD, which you can watch in the car or the bedroom.”

The concept, Daily said, is “to make it flexible and portable and fit in with their lifestyles.”

So far, only Disney and 20th Century Fox have actually put Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and digital copies all in one package.

But most other studios are bundling up in other ways, all in an effort to boost disc sales, which for the year are tracking about 8% behind last year, according to Home Media Magazine’s market research department.

By far the most common technique is to include digital copies of movies with the special-edition DVD or the Blu-ray Disc, in the hopes of discouraging consumers from only downloading the film over the Internet.

“This approach affords consumers the ultimate choice in how they view their favorite movies, providing them with the flexibility and convenience to watch high-quality versions of titles they purchase on a variety of home and portable platforms,” said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

“Digital copies enhance the value of our packaged goods, provide a legitimate way for consumers to get a digital copy of our films, and offer an easy means for people to become more comfortable using digital media,” adds Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders.

It also lets DVD marketers beat the download business — which is rife with people swapping movies for free — at its own game. The practice began in late 2007 and accelerated last year, after studios cut deals with Apple, allowing their movies to be copied onto iPods. For technical issues, the digital copy has to come on a separate disc, so most studios limit their DVD/digital copy releases to pricier special editions.

“Single DVD releases can still get a digital copy,” said Warner’s Sanders, “but it has to be downloaded for a fee.”

Sanders said internal research suggests consumers are slowly but surely becoming accustomed to the notion of digital copies, particularly those that come with Blu-ray Discs, where the average activation rate is upwards of 20%.

Among the leaders of the digital copy movement is Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which since January 2008 has released more than 60 DVDs with digital copies.

Beginning with the October release of Hancock, Sony Pictures also began including digital copies on select Blu-ray Discs. Other recent and upcoming Sony Pictures Blu-ray releases with digital copy include Pineapple Express, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Seven Pounds.

“Our goal is to continue to build on the value proposition of Blu-ray Disc and offer Blu-ray customers the flexibility to view the titles they purchase not just on their high-def home televisions, but also on the go,” said Sony Pictures’ Lexine Wong.

A newer trend in Hollywood is to package Blu-ray Discs with a free DVD.

“It’s a fantastic value, and it makes people more comfortable,” said 20th Century Fox’s Daily.

The concept originated with Disney last fall with the release of a Sleeping Beauty combo pack. Two more Disney animated classics, both debuting on Blu-ray, are getting the same treatment: Pinocchio, which was released March 10, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, due in the fall.

The next studio to jump in: minimajor Lionsgate, which after months of including digital copies with most major DVD and Blu-ray releases will issue an unprecedented quadruple-play with the upcoming The Limited T2 Complete Collector’s Set, due May 19.

The pricey ($175) set includes Terminator 2 on Blu-ray Disc, a digital copy of the acclaimed action film, plus the previously issued “Extreme Edition” and “Ultimate Edition” DVDs — which, combined, include every “T2” special feature ever released. The whole thing is packaged with a 14-inch bust that plays sound effects from the film while its eyes light up.

But the packaging is secondary to what’s inside, said Lionsgate president Steve Beeks.

“In our mobile, transportable and tech-savvy world, consumers want to enjoy their content when, where and how they want it,” Beeks said. “By combining formats, we are satisfying their needs with a single purchase while also providing an important safeguard against piracy.”


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