Saturday, December 25, 2004

DVD TV Shows

The success of DVDs over the last five years has not only changed the way that people watch movies, but has had an important impact on their ability to watch television shows. A few years ago, retail stores would have a few television shows located in the collector sets section of their DVD isles. Now the television shows section is bigger than the collector sets section. By understanding what the consumers want in television DVDs, the networks have been able to create a new source of revenue that will change the salaries of their television stars and even impact the future success of many shows.

Initially, television shows on DVD would be collections of the best episodes. While this would be a good way to get some classic episodes, consumers who were huge fans of the shows preferred to own the shows on DVD season-by-season. They want to see every episode when they want and see how the characters change throughout a season. While the “best of” DVDs are still popular for Saturday Night Live DVDs, it was less successful for the shows in which characters change over a season. More importantly, customers would rather have the ability to choose any of their favorite episodes than to only see what someone else chose as the best episodes. The desire for season-by-season DVDs has lead for many shows like Friends, which initially were only available in “best of” DVDs, to be sold one season at a time.

As television shows have become an important part of DVD sales, people now anticipate their favorite shows coming to DVD. People will wonder when the next season of a show will come out and come to stores not just for the new movies on DVD, but the new television shows. Consumer demand has allowed companies to be able to put a variety of shows on DVD like All in the Family, Mash, and the Jeffersons, which could allow audiences of classic television shows a chance to see the episodes that they missed when they were younger.

DVD has also played an important effect on the earning potential of television stars. Dave Chappelle has recently signed a two-year deal with Comedy Central for $50 million. His earnings were not merely based on ratings, but the potential of the sales of his show on DVD. The first season of the Chappelle Show has topped the Simpsons as the highest selling television show on DVD of all time with two million units sold (http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/newsitem.cfm?NewsID=2338). Retailing at $20, this would be $40 million in revenue, probably over $30 million going directly to Comedy Central. By giving Dave Chappelle $25 per year, the DVD sales alone would be able to pay his salary. Comedy Central will make money from the commercials played during his show and the sales of each season of the show on DVD. While it is not clear how much Comedy Central makes off of the television commercials, the combination of the commercials and the DVD sales allows them to make Dave Chappelle the highest paid actor on cable television.

The most important accomplishment of the sale of television shows on DVD is the ability to save a cancelled television show called Family Guy. This show was on television from 1999-2002 and was cancelled due to low ratings. I will admit that I had never seen the show on television before it was cancelled. Many good television shows due get cancelled before audiences have heard if the shows are good or not. When the show hit DVD the sales were incredible. As a cancelled show, people began to show their copies of the DVD to friends and the show began to find its audience. DVD sales alone were not the only factor. The show has been in syndication on The Cartoon Network. But the sales of the DVD were significant because the audience was willing to pay $60 to $80 for the complete three seasons of the show and copies of the show were being sold out. After Family Guy has been cancelled, it began to find its audience. Realizing that large audience would now be willing to give Family Guy the television ratings that the show deserves, Fox has decided to bring back the show in 2005 three years after the show was cancelled. With a new audience and high potential DVD sales of the fourth season, Family Guy has been saved by the sales of the DVDs.

The use of DVD to allow audiences to own every episode of their favorite television shows has allowed television networks to increase their earning potential, given stars of shows successful on DVD better salaries, and can give cancelled shows that gained their audience through DVD sales a second chance for success.

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