I Do Not Understand the DVD Business

The complete first season of CANTERBURY'S LAW, a show from last season that nobody on earth watched, is coming out on DVD this week. All six episodes. To which I say….WHY!? 

What possible reason could there be for putting this unmitigated flop out on DVD while there are so many, many shows that people did watch, that actually lasted more than a mere six episodes, that still haven't been put out on DVD? 

What is the market for this? Who do they expect to buy this thing? Are there legions of Canterberries out there, dressing up like Julianna Margulies at CanterberrieCons and clamoring for its release that I don't know about?

I do not get the TV-on-DVD business at all.

12 thoughts on “I Do Not Understand the DVD Business”

  1. One division of a company sells or leases or licenses a product to another division of the same company. This results in the original product showing income and the other showing long term investment. This isn’t unusual – if you want to see REAL creative use of profit/loss sheets, take a look into cable television MSOs.

  2. I don’t know all of what figures into the decision to put a show on DVD, but I’d guess it’s easier to acquire the rights to a short-lived series and cheaper to produce as fewer discs need to be made overall. These complete series sets appeal to completists and curious fans who very likely didn’t catch the shows in first run.
    I own the FIREFLY and DRESDEN FILES sets and I’m getting THE MIDDLEMAN. While I, too, would like to see more long-running series come to DVD, I’m glad short-lived series also get attention.

  3. I always think these otherwise unexplicables are just the studio trying to recoup some losses. Of course, they’d have to sell a copy if they want to get that ball rolling…

  4. There are probably several factors at play.
    First I would imagine that today’s TV shows are shot and mastered with an eye towards DVD. I’ve done a little work in network TV and if I recall a lot of shows are using digital beta (probably digital HD now.) It’s extremely easy and cheap to use those masters to produce crisp beautiful clean DVD images. This is opposed to shows from the past that were shot on analog tape or film and have to be remastered in a time consuming and not terribly expensive but not free either if you want it to look good process. I also imagine that the rights to music etc… in these shows are cleared for DVD as part of the initial contract, while for past shows this can be a serious issue.
    Then I’d think that there are probably contracts and/or understandings with producers of modern shows that there will be a DVD regardless of how the show does. I’d think that you only have to sell a few thousand copies to break even on the cost of producing the DVD (unless there are extensive expensive extras, which there wouldn’t be for a flop like this.) And it’s a goodwill gesture to the cast, the fans, the producers etc… Nobody who worked on the Larry Sanders Show (To name a show that I really wish the rest of would come out on DVD) gave much thought to the home video market.
    The Larry Sanders Show season 2 would probably sell more than Canterbury’s Law, but the DVD would be more expensive and a pain in the butt to produce, you’re not offending anyone by NOT making it, and so Larry Sanders languishes after season 1 didn’t set the world on fire, but Canterbury comes out. It makes sense if all you care about is cash and relationships, as opposed to releasing good television.

  5. I will explain the TV-on-DVD business to you in one word:
    Money, money, money. The studio already has the DVD’s produced – that happens with production (it costs pennies to stamp out thousands of copies) – and since the show is still so new they still have the music licensing. The only cost is the design of the package, which is almost nothing.
    So, they put it out there, and if the few hundred thousand people who watched the show, buy the DVD, then the studio has made yet another profit.
    * – In an update to your previous post about why some shows take so long to make it to DVD, I spoke to a 20th exec re: Judging Amy not being on DVD. This show had a strong 6-year run on CBS, millions of fans, yet the DVD can’t be found.
    The exec told me it is for one reason only – music rights. Though we rarely used pop music on the show, we used enough of it that 20th is still working at securing the rights before they can release the DVD boxed sets – which are already done and awaiting delivery. He guessed late 2009.

  6. I really do think the idea is to get the shows few fans to buy the series on DVD, thereby recooping some of the costs they’ve lost. If they wait, everyone will forget about it and they’ll never get that money back.
    Beside, these days we are used to everything hitting DVD.
    But don’t get me started on how they are treating fans of older shows. I am furious with how Fox is screwing us fans of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and I’m not the only one judging by the “reviews” already posted at Amazon.

  7. I’m befuddled as well. So much crap out on disc and certain shows still no where to be found. I know some have a legal issue, but you would think for the money involved they would clear it up.
    Some of the stuff that comes out makes no sense at all, maybe there is a contract stipulation to release on DVD?
    And who didn’t get enough of Leave it To Beaver in reruns growing up that they have to buy the whole series???

  8. 1. The series was almost certainly made deficit, which means the production company is still in the red on the series.
    2. They have a narrow window to release the DVD while even a few people remember the series.
    3. Mastering and manufacturing a cheapo DVD is not a big chunk of money.
    4. Parking a couple thousand copies in Amazon’s warehouse, another couple thousand in DeepDiscountDVD’s warehouse, and another couple thousand in a DVD distributor’s warehouse is cheap.
    5. This DVD will never appear in retail, which is expensive. A few retail sales will be done by special order to the distributor.
    6. Finally, the DVD rights are uncomplicated.
    Basically, DVD margins are so high that there’s little risk AND you’ve got a property owner motivated to make a little bit more money out of a property while you still can AND there are no impediments to the DVD.
    Now, the series that you and I want on DVD, well. They’ve got rights problems (e.g Batman, character, music, and Batmobile ownership; WKRP, music) or the rights have been chopped up so fine that untangling who’ll make the money takes expensive lawyers. And the properties have already made the owners enough money that there’s not a serious balance sheet need to book more revenue from the series.
    At least that’d be my guess. What do I know?

  9. Yeah, yeah, money is always the bottom line.
    Yo–I have MONEY.
    I want The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
    I want The Name of the Game.
    I want Burke’s Law–oh, wait, it’s OUT???
    Later, I’m off to make a belated order.

  10. “Music rights” – why COLD CASE, a long-running and quite popular series, hasn’t yet made it to DVD, and most likely won’t unless the fee demands drop sharply. Not an isolated case, either. It makes me yearn for the olden days, when TV series had musical scores instead of playlists.


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