Is the day nearing for direct-to-video TV shows?

Stephen Heath

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Jan 31, 2003
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There are more and more movies (and a lot of them seem to be by Disney) that are going right to home video. I am only assuming it is because there is a market for these videos, but that market wouldn't extend to a profitible run at movie theaters.

Right now we have actual writers, producers, etc. extremely hard up for work since the networks are all on this reality craze. We have fans who really want to see shows continue (look at Farscape, where fans are working together to try and finance more episodes). Do you think there is some kind of opportunity for direct-to-video serial TV shows? And if so, do you think it will be shows that were on broadcast TV for a while and sell their first season well on DVD putting out subsequent seasons, or is there an opportunity for these experienced creative guys to take inexperienced (read: cheap) actors and create something entirely new just for home video?

Granted, even with serial production, I doubt they would release them as "seasons", but considering how low DVD costs are these days, perhaps multiple 2 hour episodes?

Anyways, I'm mostly just curious if anyone else thinks this might happen. Personally, I love movies, but I prefer TV product because of the much longer story arcs. IMO, it would be interesting to see what someone could do with a good story arc if they weren't worried about making sure there are good pauses for commercials


Steve.
 

Dan Rudolph

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My estimates say this would onbly work with the cheapest shows. They're much better off going for cable.
 

David Rogers

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Wait, why exactly are the costs too high? Distribution on DVD is inexpensive and yields good profits. Isn't the per-unit for mass runs under US$3-5 dollars, shipped to stores and etailers? Sell fifty thousand discs at US$15 and I think there's room here for a better way to get entertainment than ad-infested television or a full on theatrical (though I also want the theatricals to keep cranking away; could care less about TV anymore).

HBO has proven consumers will buy a complete series on disc; Sopranos makes HBO a tidy sum and they haven't even tapped syndication deals yet. Key point, story quality must be high. The trick is, story quality is mostly about executives and accountants keeping their fingers out of the pie, and then merely hiring good creative people. Not superstar creative folks, just standard Creative(tm). Hire a director and a writer to give you a Period Romance, or a Post Apocalyptic War, then don't pile on the comments we know they do (in the third act, the hero must fight a giant spider; the hero must have a funny sidekick who cracks wise; the car they drive should be a hummer, because those are cool right now). Let your creative people make your creative decisions, and guide them as necessary (okay, look Director, we can't afford to construct a 2.4mile freeway set for you to shoot in; no, we can't get the rights to "Stairway to Heaven" for this scene, so use something else).

Short version: I don't see how it's hard to create entertaining content on a budget that makes it profitable for disc distribution. There's no wheel to be invented in that model, I don’t think. Just for someone to be the official first to do six or twelve hours of something and release it straight to dvd. Or to do it and get airing on a cable channel somewhere to build buzz, then the discs hit stores the next week. That model (except the "next week" part) has already been proven. SciFi has had healthy sales of their first Dune miniseries, and looks to be about to repeat that success. What they're doing with Dune is doable on direct-to-dvd. Remember, all the costs of a tv network don't exist in a direct-to-dvd model.

And for executive types looking for that pitiful warm feeling around their backside, so they can point fingers if it goes bad, simply start converting bestselling novels (any genre; military fiction, sf, romance, contemporary mystery, whatever). Less risk in adapting a novel that's topped the charts for twelve weeks, right? More consumer awareness, more brand that's already been built before this deal comes along.

Anything's better than tv, right? Who else is tired of almost half an hour of non-content per hour of "content"? Let me pay for my content and take the marketing out of the loop; that way you make your bucks and I get my content.
 

Damin J Toell

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HBO has proven consumers will buy a complete series on disc
Yes, a complete series that was already wildly popular from cable broadcasts. To make an entire series of straight-to-video episodes would involve heavy costs and a long commitment of time (principal photography would likely be much longer than a 90 min. self-contained film) with no guarantee whatsoever that there will be an interested audience (unlike your HBo and Sci-Fi Channel examples).

DJ
 

Jeff Kleist

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Wait, why exactly are the costs too high? Distribution on DVD is inexpensive and yields good profits. Isn't the per-unit for mass runs under US$3-5 dollars, shipped to stores and etailers? Sell fifty thousand discs at US$15 and I think there's room here for a better way to get entertainment than ad-infested television or a full on theatrical (though I also want the theatricals to keep cranking away; could care less about TV anymore
Production of the SHOW is expensive. Part of what makes TV on DVD affordable is because the shows have already been paid for from their TV airings. Your average season of one-hour TV costs in the neighborhood of $50 million. At roughly $2.2 million an episode you would need to sell 220,000 copies of each (at roughly a $10 profit area per disc at a $24-29.99 price point)

It ain't happening. I believe the biggest sellers of TV on DVD average around 100-150,000 copies for ESTABLISHED shows
 

David Lambert

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Let's look at this from another point of view:

IF someone created a direct-to-DVD "television series" (and there's no reason to call it a TV series, if it never airs on TV; I'm *sure* Gord won't list it at TVShowsOnDVD.com in such a case), what would it take to get you to buy it?

Would it have to be an established concept, like picking up from a successful movie? Take My Big Fat Greek Life. After Wedding, would you blindly buy a season set of a "TV Show" that, uh, "couldn't make it onto TV"?

If it was sold as individual discs, with an episode on each release, how cheap would it have to be? [rant]Every purchase would be a blind purchse![/rant] Customers who thought the episode was a stinker would have no recourse; the money would already be in the studio's hands.


I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Such a venture would be a mess on a slippery slope to a disaster. TV broadcasts are needed to "market" the shows before they come to home video, on DVD or any other format.
 

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