Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Submitted For Your Consideration - A DVD Proposal

A couple of days ago one of my favourite bloggers, Mark Evanier, made a comment about the way that DVD sets of TV series were being marketed. In response to the recent announcement that M*A*S*H will be released in a complete series set of I don't know how many discs - oh wait it was 11 seasons on 36 discs - Mark suggested that people not buy boxed sets of individual seasons but wait until the show is released on a complete series set, complete with any new extra materials.

There is a certain amount of circular argument in evidence here which Earl Kress points out in a post on his blog. It's this - if a series doesn't sell enough copies in season by season release there isn't going to be a complete series release package because the company is going to stop releasing new seasons. And because the people in charge of the Home Video Departments at most studios are first cousins to Evil Network Weasels, we aren't talking long term when we're discussing sales figures. They want what they want and they want it NOW! Now probably being measured in weeks or at most months, not a couple of years. So if everyone waited for the big all-in-one full series box and no one bought the season by season sets, there won't be a big set because the company will stop making the sets before there can ever be a complete season run.

When I was doing my TV Shows On DVD posts (and I want to get back to them eventually but I kept running into time problems) I tended to recommend these sort of complete series sets only if people hadn't been being buying boxed sets from the beginning. Even though the boxed sets tended to be more expensive over the run of the series, there was no guarantee when you started buying that there would be a complete series set. It's a "live for today" sort of attitude but I'm not sure that's a particularly bad attitude when dealing with Evil Network Weasels and their relatives.

There are exceptions of course. The way the series Andromeda was packaged came damned close to gouging the marketplace. They'd release four or five sets with three or four episodes from a season at a relatively high price and then once all of the sets were released - and presumably the fanboys had bought them as they came out - would release a season set with the exact same discs and special features for a fraction of the price. Consider Andromeda: Season 4. There were five 2-disc sets released between August 10, 2004 and March 8, 2005. Price per unit (from Amazon.ca) $43.99 for a total cost of $219.95. Then the Complete Season 4 set was released on July 19, 2005 - 10 discs, just like the individual releases, with the same extra material. Price: $79.99. The profit made out of impatient people buying on a per unit basis was a few cents under $140. And by this time people had to know exactly what was going to happen!

Ah, but then there's the extras. Mark's article points to a Reuters piece on TV.com about a recent spate of complete season DVD sets and the extras that they include. The Friends set has a 60 page commemorative booklet. The West Wing set has the original pilot script and an introduction from Aaron Sorkin. The M*A*S*H set has two full discs of bonus material in addition to the 11 seasons of the show. The upcoming Homicide: Life On Th Street series set includes all of the crossover episodes with Law & Order and Homicide: The Movie which brought the series to it's conclusion. This is all good stuff, and on a per disc basis you're getting a bargain. But if you diligently bought each season as it came out and don't want to buy the whole ting again just to get the extras? Well pally you're SOL and I don't mean Ship Of The Line.

So we come round to my humble little proposal, which I know works and I also know that no big DVD company will ever implement. If a customer can supply you with proof that he/she has bought every season box set and you come out with a season set with extras, you send them the extras. Simple as that. They've been good customers; they've put more money into your corporate pocket books than they guy who - like Mark Evanier now proposes to do - has waited for the complete season set. Don't they deserve a bit of corporate good will along the way to keep them as good customers? Have a coupon in one of the discs; make them send in a proof of purchase or a UPC code that they have to cut off something (the Warner Brothers "Snapper" cases, made of cardboard really, had proofs of purchase on the inside spine). And I know this works because I've seen it in action. When Fox started offering their 20th Century Fox Studio Classics series they included a coupon that would allow you to get a free copy of the silent classic Sunrise if you sent in three proofs of purchase - I have a copy of the film. There should be a way to make this right for loyal customers - and the TV shows that are most likely to get complete series sets with bonus material are most likely to be the ones that generate the most loyalty in their customers. But of course we are talking about Evil Weasels here.

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