DVD User Sites Play New Role as Platform Matures

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Stephen Orr, Jul 3, 2002.

  1. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

    Mar 14, 1999
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    Just got this in my email. Interesting read.
    DVD User Sites Play New Role as Platform Matures
    In the beginning, Web sites devoted to DVD served as guides to the studios, which looked to them to learn what early adopters wanted to see in their discs. These days, sites such as DVDFile, The Digital Bits and Home Theater Forum serve as guideposts to consumers’ buying habits and provide news about the format and nearly instant feedback about the quality of studio output.
    That, at least, appears to be the consensus among site owners and operators as well as studio executives, who say the influence of the sites has changed as the format has moved from the early adopter phase to mass-consumer acceptance.
    The sites’ readership seems to be expanding to the mass consumer as more of them buy DVD hardware and software, some operators say.
    “I think the influence now is greater than ever,” said Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits (digitalbits.com).
    When these sites point out technical glitches or other problems with a given release, the studios quickly fix them, he said. Studios, directors and DVD producers regularly supply these sites with important information about upcoming releases, content and the like, and newcomers to the format frequently turn to them for in-depth information.
    “We try to take those newcomers and bring them up to a more sophisticated level in DVD,” he said.
    Paul Pflug, EVP of publicity for Artisan Entertainment, said the sites’ reach appears to be expanding.
    “They may have gotten a widerinfluence or viewership based on the proliferation of the DVD format itself,” he said.
    Peter Bracke, editor of DVDFile (dvdfile.com), noted that his base is indeed growing, encompassing both the DVD-phile and the general consumer. The site, which Bracke launched in March 1998 and which was acquired by Interactual Technologies Inc. in Feb. 2001, gets some 500,000 unique visits per month, compared with 250,000 hits in the first six months of operation combined.
    Readers now include parents asking for more reviews of kids’ titles and kids wanting to read up on the latest video games.
    Site operators say that all the big, controversial issues are a thing of the past. Studios now routinely offer anamorphic widescreen transfers, DTS sound and lots of interesting content -- the things the early adopters fought long and hard for in the beginning. They see themselves primarily as news sites that provide running news and reviews about their beloved format.
    “Now it’s a much more traditional news source,” Bracke said regarding DVDFile. “At the same time, I like to think we have the same influence.”
    Both studio executives and site operators say the sites retain their relevance, though they have different ideas as to how it has changed -- or whether their influence is waning.
    “In general, we believe they provide a valuable service to DVD fans and the studios alike,” said Jim Wuthrich, VP of Internet marketing for Warner Home Video. “It’s a great way for us to get feedback from them, and for us to get a message out to [consumers]. It’s a feedback loop.”
    Still Important, Just Different
    In the early days, these sites and the trade publications were the only ones covering the business, Wuthrich said. These days “mass channels” also carry information about the format. But the DVD sites cover the format in greater depth and provide a crucial link to consumers that Wuthrich said he can’t find elsewhere.
    “That’s why I can’t say it’s less important than in the early days,” he said. “It’s just a little different.”
    And they do continue to have an influence on Warner. For instance, the cries of outrage from the Web community over Warner’s decision to release the special edition of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in a full-frame version only prompted the studio to issue a second widescreen edition, he said.
    Peter Staddon, SVP of marketing at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, said some sites’ authority is waning.
    “They don’t touch as much of the audience as they used to,” Staddon said. “When it was an early adopter market, their reach was much greater.”
    Their major weakness, he said, is that they’re “a little bit inclined to be fanatical and intolerant about anything that isn’t a perfect solution to their requirements.” Still, they continue to keep the DVD developers “honest,” he said. And they help studios keep tabs on consumers’ DVD buying habits and desires.
    “It’s up to the studios how much attention they pay to the feedback,” Staddon said. “It may be becoming smaller, but they’re still the heaviest consumers of our product. They buy more DVD and entertainment software than any other group out there.”
    Another studio executive said it’s difficult to track how readership translates into sales. And the very proliferation of such sites makes it difficult to determine which has the most influence and may dilute the best ones’ authority as well, the executive noted.
    “The proliferation of sites there are devalues the credibility of the sites that do stand out,” the executive said.
    Crucial Role in DVD’s Development
    Ron Epstein, co-founder and co-owner of the popular Home Theater Forum (hometheatreforum.com), acknowledged his site’s influence has changed since DVD’s early days.
    Studios such as Fox and Paramount continue to look to these sites to see which catalog titles are most in demand and, once the titles are out, they monitor them for feedback about their quality.
    Studio executives say these sites play a crucial role in the continuing development of the format.
    “I think they’re very useful,” said Michael Mulvihill, VP of content development for New Line Home Entertainment. “What they do is help build a community and give people in my position an opportunity to get an up-to-the-moment sense of what the community is excited about.”
  2. Sarah S

    Sarah S Second Unit

    Feb 6, 2001
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    Interesting article, and a good overview of what relationship these sites have with the studios now (IMHO); however I will note that th author was incorrect in stating that large controversial issues are all past. We are just gearing up for the OAR fight after al. [​IMG]
  3. MikeF

    MikeF Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 17, 2000
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  4. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

    Aug 3, 2001
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  5. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

    Dec 4, 1999
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    No, we aren't fanatical are we? Eccentric! [​IMG]

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