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Should the Major Studios Just Give Up?
86 replies to this topic
Posted June 08 2006 - 11:37 PM
I have a theory about the major studios in regard to tv on dvd: they're lazy. They (naturally) only care about releasing the most popular current shows on television. It's a no-brainer that "Lost" is going to sell big. Or "Desperate Housewives." Or "My Name is Earl," or anything else that is currently popular. It's EASY to package and distribute such shows. To me, this is kind of stupid...we just SAW all those shows, first-run! To me, the fun of tv on dvd is seeing stuff you CAN'T see on tv at the moment: forgotten shows, shows that haven't seen much syndication, shows that are chopped in syndication. That's what I want on dvd, that's what I NEED on dvd, because I don't HAVE it, and I can't get it! As we're all increasingly aware, the major studios have become lax in following up season sets of their own releases. There are at the moment probably dozens of major television shows in need of a volume two. Dynasty, Night Court, Everwood, Who's the Boss and American Dreams probably get talked about the most, but there are more. How about Too Close for Comfort? Anybody missing that? Is anybody worried that we'll never see another Gimme A Break, Hart to Hart or Fantasy Island volume? I am. My feeling is that the major studios own so many titles that they don't give a damn about any of them. Why take the time and trouble to digitally remaster a 20 year old sitcom, secure and settle the music rights and do the marketing research, when you can poop out a zillion units of "Desperate Housewives" knowing it's going to be a huge hit on dvd? I understand this p.o.v., but I most certainly do not have to like it. If the major studios don't care about their older catalog of titles, then fine. They need to license the older shows to other packagers who care about the shows, and will take the time and trouble to do them right. I am told that Warners, for one, doesn't license out its own properties. Maybe they should, because from what I saw from the recent chat, they only really care about popular, current shows and animation, (which is immune to time, apparently). In that regard, I think 3's Company is the perfect example of what should be done with an older property. I haven't read a single complaint about the quality of those dvds, the price points, the pace of the releases, or the dvd extras. In other words, the fans of that show have been satisfied. And yet it came out from the relatively small Anchor Bay. My conclusion to all this seems to be that the little guys can do what the big guys can not. If the majors have no interest in their properties, then let the minors do the work. That's the only way we're ever going to see good tv dvds. The major studios can invest their time in easily producing the hottest, most popular and current tv shows out there. That's easy. Leave the harder job of producing older, in some cases forgotten shows to the little guys who care about this stuff.
Posted June 09 2006 - 12:22 AM
About 5-6 years ago, Universal was actively licensing a portion of its theatrical film library to independent DVD companies like Image Entertainment, Anchor Bay, and even the Goodtimes budget label. The titles were either lesser known or genre titles that, at the time, Universal had decided not to release on its own. As far as I know, Universal is no longer licensing and a number of the titles (but not all) that had appeared on the independent labels were eventually rereleased by Universal on their own label. So it can be done. The problem, however, is that studio executives look bad if they license a title to an independent and it sells well (why didn't we sell it ourselves?). In the meantime, lots of titles that could get a release simply sit dormant in the vaults.
Posted June 09 2006 - 12:29 AM
Just because the fun of TV on DVD for you is old stuff that hasn't run recently doens't mean it's the same for everyone else. There is an entire segment of the population that has stopped watching broadcast TV and watches stuff on DVD instead either for matters of time or aggrivation with commercials or just preference.
Posted June 09 2006 - 01:03 AM
Releasing new shows like the ones you mentioned (Lost, DH, Earl, etc.) is surely about making a profit just as much as it is about promoting the show. Quite frankly, its one of the things Paramount botched horribly with Enterprise. 24 and Enterprise debuted at the same time and Fox got 24 S1 out in time for the second season premiere. It helped catch people up and generate interest in the show. Most importantly, I don't think it's a matter of "not being interested" in the older shows. It's a matter of when one or two sets are released and no one buys them, does the studio continue to put them out at a loss or cut their losses and stop? Not everything is going to be a good seller and recoup all of its costs. Personally, I missed out on a bunch of "new" shows when they were originally being broadcast and have gotten to see them because of DVD (Sports Night, Firefly, Buffy). I much prefer to watch shows on DVD to TV, but I don't forsake Lost when it's on just to hold out for the DVD's. I feel the pain of a release that isn't followed up on (I'm starting to fear for seaQuest), but it's irrational to ask any company to release a product they know is going to lose money.
Posted June 09 2006 - 01:04 AM
I for one realize that there are many people who want dvds for shows currently broadcast, but never underestimate the market for timeless tv show favorites of yesteryear, especially those that were hugely popular when originally broadcast. Indeed, there are many, many babyboomers who will pay for decent releases to standards like "Man From UNCLE" and "The Fugitive" which are rarely, if ever shown but have lived in the minds of fans for decades. There have been a few mildly successful licensing agreements between companies (Sony/Image Entertainment) but they are unfortunately few. I don't understand why a company like Universal couldn't partner with another party like Image or Anchor Bay and retain its logo on the packaging so that as far as the consumer is concerned, it appears to be a joint venture. The current practice is as Bob and Michael Alden have stated an arrangement whereby the studio which owns the rights to a series potentially may end up with "egg on its face" if the show is licensed outright to another party and it becomes a hit with consumers. But just make it more of a combined effort, that's all.
Posted June 09 2006 - 01:16 AM
I've wondered if perhaps their reluctance to release season 2 has to do with how many people said they'd only buy season 1 on forums like this and other places. I'd buy season 2 and 3, but I'm a completist so even if I'm not overwelmingly attached to a show I usually will buy the next season. The only one I've started that I've considered not continuing was the Closer. I like cop shows, but that's ... an odd one.
Posted June 09 2006 - 01:33 AM
I don't know. You would think any smart person at Uni who was researching seaQuest in the first place would see the general consensus is that S2 was...less than stellar. Having fans say that publicly shouldn't be that much of a shock. But this is a very niche release and it's been six months since S1 came out. There hasn't even been a peep about anything further.
Posted June 09 2006 - 03:24 AM
I'm always astonished by all the marketing geniuses who post this kind of stuff. Hey, gang. The major studios are capitalists, not hobbyists.
Posted June 09 2006 - 04:57 AM
Quite true. So explain to me how having a show collecting dust in the vault with no syndication sales and no DVD release generates revenue for the company? Or do you think that when everyone who has seen a show and remembers it fondly is dead, there will be more of a market? The major film studios need to learn what the music industry has been doing for years. Licensing out their lesser known, lesser profile products to niche companies that know how to market to a particular audience. I have picked up CDs from artists who had little if any of their recordings ever actually released. But thanks to labels like Taragon, Collectables, Varese, Revola UK, RPM, Collector's Choice, Repetoire (Germany) and Sequel I've amassed a huge collection of great music from the 60s that either never sold very well at the time or has been forgotten by 99.9% of the world. I just think that people have always bought music but not TV shows and they tend to look at the two differently. I'm just glad that I got into collecting shows when I did 25 years ago as opposed to now because the vast majority of the shows in my collection I don't think will ever come out or be rebroadcast again.
Posted June 09 2006 - 05:21 AM
The music industry is hardly a functional buisness model these days.
Posted June 09 2006 - 05:49 AM
It doesn't take a marketing genius to figure out that you consistently put out a shoddy product and word of mouth gets around. Universal is a prime example. Their tv on dvd product has been less than scintillating. The DVD-18s have been nothing but problems. They don't even do the industry minimum in creating discs. Licensing titles is smart capitalism. The risks are minimal and you get a piece of the action without doing anything.
Posted June 09 2006 - 05:54 AM
I use DVD as an opportunity to "catch up" on the new shows that I missed during the season. For example, last fall I purchased "Veronica Mars" on DVD because my buddy talked on his blog about what a great show it was. I'd never really heard of the show before...and had know clue what it was about. My wife and I tore through the DVD set in about a week and watched Season 2 as it aired (missing only a few episodes). I plan to collect the entire series on DVD. Digital recorders (we have TiVo) have made it so I hardly watch TV shows "live" anymore. Unfortunately, I can't record two things at once with my current TiVo set, so I do end up missing some shows. The fact is that DVD releases of new shows have made me a fan of shows that I haven't had an opportunity to watch (or that conflicted with something else). "24" and "Veronica Mars" are two examples of shows that I didn't watch the first season, but have subsequently become a huge fan of and make a point to not miss when they air. Studios are interested in releasing new product as a way to promote the show. Some studios (like Fox) are better about getting the first season out quickly in order to promote the second season. Other studios...like Paramount...seem to wait until a couple of seasons have passed before releasing a season set on DVD. The problem with older or "catalog" titles is that unless the show has a huge following in syndication (like "Seinfeld"), it can be difficult for studios to justify the production costs associated with securing uncut shows with the original music. Sad, but true. Plus...newer shows have superior production values. Heck...watching "24" or "Veronica Mars" on DVD is like watching a really long movie.
Posted June 09 2006 - 06:07 AM
What an interesting theory. It's almost as if the studios are trying to maximize their profits or something. Maybe to make their shareholders happy. What an odd situation.
Posted June 09 2006 - 06:16 AM
well, I think it's wise to release new shows, striking while the iron is hot keeps these companies alive, but I wish they would use some of the profit that we know is being made from Lost, Housewives, OC, etc... and using those to finance lesser-known shows that won't be expected to sell nearly as well. Hell, one thing I've noticed is that since Seinfeld exploded onto DVD, that Sony has more patience going back to other shows and giving some shows a second chance on DVD (like who seriously thought season 3 of Charlie's Angels was coming? not I), and if anything, with a guarenteed blockbuster like Seinfeld making them profits who knows how many times over, they have become a much less frustrating company to deal with (that is, until every show of theirs comes to a final season, these guys always take forever with final seasons because they are afraid to close a chapter it seems). Like you said, I want more Gimme A Break on DVD, I am not holding my breath for it, but if Las Vegas turns over enough a profit that it gives Universal a "hey, let's go ahead and start on season 2" kick, then it's fine by me. I have to admit that I am happy newer shows are coming out on DVD, no "should I tape these episodes?" (yes, I still have a VCR, I don't have a DVR, so technically, it's still the choice between shiny discs or dusty videotapes) type ideas since I know I'll be able to own them in a year, and apparently, current shows are turning over a great profit. Hell, after the first episode of Supernatural premiered, I thought "this is going to kick so much butt on DVD next year", and I was right, lol. But at the same time, I do wish my older faves were given the same treatment as my current faves.
Posted June 09 2006 - 06:20 AM
that is true, I know a lot of people who skipped out on Lost and Housewives this season because of other commitments and decided "I'll just catch up on it when the DVD comes out". Hell, I know a few people who were oblivious to the DH hoopla last year and didn't get hooked until season 1 came out on DVD. Same with Lost. Hell, look at the number of Buffy/Angel fans here who never watched those shows in first-run but became converted via DVD? TV-ON-DVD is a great thing for current shows IMO. However, I do agree that I wish my older faves were given the same treatment (even though considering shows like Roseanne, Golden Girls, Seinfeld and Three's Company are among my fave older shows, those are all coming out nicely). Gimme A Break and Diff'rent Strokes (I'm an 80's kid, so shoot me) are the only TV-DVD's in my collection that I really have any doubt that we'll see more in the future (whereas I have heard on several boards that Facts Of Life has sold fairly well so I assume we'll see season 3 sometime in the next 12 months). I have 3 out of 5 Taxi seasons but even there think that we'll see season 4 eventually.
Posted June 09 2006 - 06:42 AM
I don't have a problem with the shows they release. I lobby for some but understand when a studio stops them, what I hate is shoddy releases. Buena Vista markets Home Improvement as one of the most popular DVD series yet they put so little time into the DVD's. Special Features are pathetic. They have a TV DVD reel that includes Desperate Housewives, Lost, Alias, Scrubs aswell as Home Improvement and The Golden Girls - yet crappily release the latter two. Anchor Bay are very good. I imagine AB will make same amount of money that Warner Bros. would if they had Three's Company, yet would have released it in a crappy way - I don't think its studios being greedy. Actors who prodive special features don't get paid, whats the trouble?
Posted June 09 2006 - 08:49 AM
There's an old saying: "In the absence of profit, the wise man fails to lose money." Okay, that's not really an old saying. In fact, it's not even a good saying. But the point is, many DVD releases in fact lose money. Just because the material is sitting in a vault does not mean that releasing it on DVD is free. If you can't generate revenue, cut your losses.
Posted June 09 2006 - 08:53 AM
just out of curiousity, do shows really LOSE money, or do they just not bring forth the type of profits that Seinfeld, Friends, Simpsons, Family Guy or Chappelle's Show brings (therefore they're not seen as big of priorities)? Many old shows from the 70's and 80's that are coming out without any extras shouldn't be all that expensive to put out. Look at how much faster and well the MTM sets have done since Fox eschewed the bonus features after season 2. In all honestly, I can do without bonus features as long as the episodes are intact.
Posted June 09 2006 - 09:08 AM
Yes, they loose money.
Posted June 09 2006 - 09:10 AM
I think there is a market for all kinds of dvds-not just the older shows or just the newer shows. I tend to like both. It does seem the smaller studios do a better job overall. It seems to me sometimes that the people doing the transfering don't know anything about the shows. They don't have a vested interest or care about the show. Why can't these studios just do things right the first time. And no excuses!!!! I nearly gag when I find out an older show is being put out by the major studios now. But to answer the question-yes they should give up because they don't seem to care if they do things right or not as long as they make a huge amount of money. I know that is their job but if they shouldn't put out dvds unless they do them right.