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Home Entertainment Basks in the Glow of Awards Season

21 Feb, 2014 By: Stephanie Prange

Last year proved to be one of the best years for film and television in recent history, critics have pointed out.

The lineup of critically acclaimed films, TV shows and top performances is very long, and the nominations and winners are poised to give an even bigger than traditional boost to the home entertainment market, which has always benefited from the hoopla surrounding awards season.

Top dates during this year’s awards season include the Golden Globe nominations (Dec. 12), Globe awards (Jan. 12) and Academy Award nominations (Jan. 16) culminating in the announcement of the Oscar winners March 2.

The awards effect has already hit the disc sales charts, with two top critically acclaimed titles taking the No. 1 disc sales spot upon their disc debut: Anchor Bay’s The Butler for the week ended Jan. 19 and Sony Pictures’ Captain Phillips for the week ended Jan. 25. The Butler was nominated for several awards from the Screen Actors Guild. And Captain Phillips has racked up numerous Golden Globe and Oscar noms.

Other titles hitting video during or right after the culmination of awards season include Sony Pictures’ Blue Jasmine (Jan. 21), Universal’s Dallas Buyers Club (Feb. 4), Warner’s Gravity and Paramount’s Nebraska (Feb. 25), Fox’s 12 Years a Slave (March 4), Fox’s The Book Thief and Sony Pictures’ Inside Llewyn Davis (March 11), Sony Pictures’ American Hustle and Disney’s Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks (March 18).

Disney Feb. 9 in Los Angeles hosted a special concert with Frozen voice and singing talent Kristen Bell and Idena Menzel, among others, to celebrate the animated film’s disc release, as well as its Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature and Original Song “Let It Go,” which Menzel performed with gusto after an initial bobble.

But Disney isn’t the only studio benefitting from awards season.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has several award-lauded titles, and that gives the home entertainment division a unique opportunity.

“Awards season offers us a tremendous opportunity to reach consumers who want to view the great movies and TV shows that have garnered critical acclaim throughout the year,” said Lexine Wong, senior EVP of worldwide marketing. “Since it's difficult for many people to view all of these movies theatrically, the home entertainment space becomes a great way to enjoy these titles and is critical in maximizing each title’s performance.”

“SPHE has an outstanding slate of films and TV shows this year, including such titles as Blue Jasmine, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Before Midnight, Inside llewyn Davis, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘House of Cards.’ Several of these films are Oscar nominated and have also been cited by The Golden Globes as winners in several categories. In short, sales at SPHE will be positively impacted by the awareness generated by the various award campaigns undertaken by our theatrical groups.”

Vincent Marcais, EVP of worldwide marketing for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, noted the multiple plaudits for 12 Years a Slave, including a Golden Globe for Best Picture, Drama, and a Best Picture Oscar nom, among its nine Academy Award nominations. He also called attention to John Williams’ 49th Oscar nomination for his original score for The Book Thief.

“There is definitely an appetite to see the films (in theaters or on home entertainment) in order to be part of the conversation around the awards,” he said. “Our retail partners do a great job of elevating these titles as part of their Awards programs, which lends to greater consumer visibility on all platforms.”

12 Years a Slave has a particular advantage with its well-timed home entertainment release this season.

“Positioning around awards season allows for a title to ride that momentum,” Marcais said. “With early Digital offerings becoming commonplace, we have a unique opportunity with 12 Years a Slave to release the film on Digital HD before the Academy Awards and on physical the immediate Tuesday following.”

Awards season also contributes to the home entertainment strategy at Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

"Many decisions go into selecting a film’s home entertainment release date — it’s about the best opportunity,” said Hilary Hoffman, EVP, Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “For Universal, selecting a release date during awards season is a strategic effort to capitalize on the building awards buzz in order to fuel incremental awareness and interest in the Blu-ray, DVD and Digital release. The most recent example to benefit from our strategy was Dallas Buyers Club, which we released on Feb. 4. One of this year’s biggest critical darlings, the title is performing solidly across all platforms and we expect that momentum to continue as the anticipation for the Academy Awards reaches its pinnacle.”

Films aren’t the only recipients of the awards season boost. Emmy and Golden Globe plaudits boost series available on disc and digital.

Downton Abbey: Season 3 was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, among plaudits for PBS, including Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl; two documentaries for the “American Experience” history series, Death and The Civil War directed by Ric Burns, and The Abolitionist; and “Masterpiece’s” Mr. Selfridge. Downton Abbey: Season 3 was also nominated for a Golden Globe for the Best Television Series, Drama, for the second consecutive year.

“For ‘Downton Abbey,’ we are fortunate to have the broadcast premiere for the new seasons begin airing in early January, which is when the Golden Globes are awarded as well,” noted Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS Distribution. “For our direct-to-consumer business (e-commerce and catalog), we send email announcements to our customers and retailer partners to identify and promote the award-nominated titles.”
BBC, too, benefits from awards season.

“This year we’ve been fortunate,” noted Soumya Sriraman, EVP of home entertainment and licensing for BBC Worldwide. BBC has benefitted from awards for several TV properties, including Top of the Lake, which earned a Golden Globe for Elisabeth Moss for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries, among other awards.

But awards for titles in a particular season are not the only opportunity to push home entertainment properties.

“With awards, people are suddenly aware and certain properties and certain actors are top of mind,” Sriraman said.

For instance, she noted, when Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, garnered critical and awards praise a year ago, BBC put out a Daniel Day-Lewis triple feature from the vaults.

Digital delivery platforms also benefit and capitalize on awards season.

Video-on-demand service In Demand has designed a marketing campaign around awards season to coincide with more than 20 Oscar-nominated titles currently on or premiering on the service in February and March, including seven of the Best Picture contenders.

“The entertainment awards season is a fun time in that it gets movie lovers focused on viewing the best films,” said Amy Jo Smith, president of industry trade group DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. “Many go to theaters to catch up on nominated films. It’s also a great opportunity for home entertainment because the additional publicity and buzz generated from the nominations and awards gives awareness to movies available on Blu-ray, DVD or Digital HD, which enjoy a bump in sales.”

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