I’m a little late linking to this, but I only just found it: MarketWatch did a long piece a few weeks ago on the business of non-current TV shows on DVD.
TV-on-DVD is one of the few areas of DVD production that didn’t completely crater last year; DVD seasons make convenient gifts, the availability of old episodes online helps to whet people’s appetite for the season sets, and (though the article doesn’t mention this) the Blu-Ray factor doesn’t really enter into the decision to buy an old TV show on DVD. Few old TV shows really need a high-definition release, and almost none of them are ever going to get one, so companies will be releasing TV on DVD even as they shift more toward Blu-ray for their movie releases.
Being an upbeat piece, the article doesn’t go into issues like the fact that most older shows never get completed on DVD, or the bad prints and music changes that are common in the DVD format. Anyone who knows what CBS/Paramount does to some of its shows music-wise will chuckle mordantly at the Paramount executive who is quoted as saying that “our approach is to put classic TV shows on a pedestal.” (But since I’ve been talking lately about poor print quality on some DVDs, I should note that Paramount is pretty good about releasing good prints taken from film, rather than old video masters. It’s just that they then cut these prints to pieces to avoid paying for music.)
The most interesting part of the article is the part about Time-Life’s successful experiment with huge, mail-order-only complete-series sets. The company’s Get Smart box was a great product, and it was marketed with a skill that most DVD companies simply hadn’t displayed when it came to catalogue titles. Again, CBS/Paramount, despite its butchery of many of the shows it releases, seems to be an exception to this rule; they are pretty good at marketing older shows, getting stores to stock their titles (they were the first company to package old shows in small, thin plastic cases, so they’d take up less shelf space and the big retailers would take them) and aiming them at the target audience.