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Ironside vs. The Virginian: Classic TV Profitabilty


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#1 of 11 OFFLINE   FanCollector

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Posted August 31 2011 - 06:21 AM

I have always wondered about the different thresholds for profitability in vintage TV releases, and some recent news has given me the perfect comparison for my question. I recently wrote to Shout Factory to ask about the status of Ironside. I was informed, very openly and cordially I might add, that they were considering whether or not to license additional seasons because it was not very lucrative and the company's expenses on the title were very high because it consists of "so many hour-long shows per season." Fair enough. Shout has released, and continues to release, a lot of wonderful stuff, including four years of Ironside. No complaints about them, and of course they are in business to make money. However... Timeless Media has been releasing The Virginian on DVD. Four seasons are already available and two more are coming this fall. So here's my question: why isn't Timeless going bankrupt? The Virginian is licensed from the same studio as Ironside (Universal), is a color series from roughly the same era, has more episodes per season, runs 90 minutes per show rather than an hour, and is released with new interview material on each set. The MSRP is higher for The Virginian than Ironside, but it is obviously working for Timeless. Anyone have an idea why The Virginian can't come out fast enough, while Ironside is stuck in neutral? On paper, the series have very similar situations, with The Virginian seeming to have, if anything, more obstacles. (Incidentally, I am a big fan of The Virginian too, and am very glad for it's success on DVD. I will be preordering the two new sets as soon as possible.)

#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Dave B Ferris

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Posted August 31 2011 - 06:33 AM

Maybe because Timeless seems to place a lot of their sets in Sams' Club (at a really good price for the consumer), whereas I've never heard any reports of Shout! titles being found in the "club" stores.

#3 of 11 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted August 31 2011 - 02:06 PM

I got Shout!'s Dennis the Menace Season 1 at Sam's Club, but they didn't have Season 2, which I found at Walmart. Sam's has Shout!'s complete and season-by-season Leave It to Beaver, too. I've also seen their Mr. Ed and Patty Duke sets at Sam's.

#4 of 11 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted August 31 2011 - 02:14 PM

The Virginian likely has more fans than Ironside (Westerns are always popular) and thus can move more units.   Shows from the same era can appeal to two different constituencies.    This is not a slam of Ironside or its fans (I am one), but just an observation.


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#5 of 11 OFFLINE   FanCollector

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Posted August 31 2011 - 02:35 PM

The discount retailer thing never occurred to me. So even though the MSRP is higher, the real price may be lower than Ironside. I wonder why Shout doesn't have that outlet. Steve, that would be a major explanation. Given their syndication histories, I would have assumed Ironside had the bigger audience, but maybe you're right about the genre. Apart from Timeless western releases, do you have reason to believe that westerns sell better as a rule? I haven't noticed it, but maybe they do.

#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Bob Gu

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Posted August 31 2011 - 03:51 PM

Salesmanship. Timeless has been in business for decades and had a manufacturing music distribution business and was able to plug their VHS and DVD productions right into that. I think what comes out and when also has a lot to do with who is running a particular company. Timeless obviously loves old TV shows and westerns in particular so they put them out there, and the western fans know now that Timeless is the company to look to for those releases. Timeless also maintains their catalog keeping older releases in print. Since 2004 Timeless has released and re-released Branded and The Guns Of Will Sonnett at least three times in repackaging and they are still using those, cut prints and people are still buying them! The Virginian's popularity is hard to explain, I keep telling myself I am not that interested in it, but I have bought the first three seasons on sale and have watched all three. Ironside, a relative is buying, so I have access to it.

#7 of 11 ONLINE   Randy Korstick

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Posted September 01 2011 - 03:16 AM

It also can have to do with availability. Ironside used to be in syndication alot. I saw it as a kid in the 70's and early 80's The Virginian has rarely been shown since going off the air. I've always wanted to see it but never been able to so thats one reason for a purchase from me.
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#8 of 11 OFFLINE   ToddR2

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Posted September 01 2011 - 09:58 AM

Good points all. Ironside has never seemed to have a large fanbase in the US. I don't remember it being widely available since the very early 1980's (other than on WOR's national feed). Perhaps it is one of those shows that is more popular abroad: It always seems to be running in the UK whenever I'm there, and it has sold well enough for Madman to see it to completion.

#9 of 11 OFFLINE   WaveCrest

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Posted September 01 2011 - 10:11 AM

Was Ironside cancelled because of low ratings? It's eighth season was shorter compared to the previous seven seasons.



#10 of 11 OFFLINE   FanCollector

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Posted September 01 2011 - 11:04 AM

Yes, Richard, I think it just fell prey to low ratings. All potentially good theories. I have found, unscientifically, that the more frequently a show was syndicated in the 80s and 90s, the more successful it seems on DVD. Fortunately, The Virginian disproves that rule. The "salesmanship" theory makes a lot of sense to me. I really think there is a difference in the way companies approach this stuff and that profitability varies as a result. Paramount obviously has a way of making money off the kinds of things that other major studios find worthless, and Timeless seems to have a formula that other independents should study. Thanks for the thoughtful answers.

#11 of 11 OFFLINE   vnisanian2001

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Posted September 01 2011 - 11:09 AM

Not all shows with popular syndication histories do well on DVD.
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