An Object Lesson for Movie and Television Producers

On the advice of a couple people, I recently rented the Battlestar Galactica mini-series. This is a remake of the 1978 exploit-the-Star-Wars-phenomenon series that only lasted one season, and a precursor to the new series that launched in January, 2005. I found the mini-series to be very watchable, with great special effects and at least average dialogue and performances. Not 2001, certainly, but pretty good television.

Lacking a Tivo-type device, I’ve recently taken to buying DVDs of shows that I like. Watching Buffy or The West Wing on my own time, without commercials, is a radical improvement on regular television. I missed the entire first season of Battlestar Galactica, so I figured I’d just buy it on DVD.

No dice.

The last episode the first season aired on April 1, 2005–two and a half months ago. Is there even a whisper of a release date for the season 1 DVD? I couldn’t find anything on the series site, on Amazon or in Google. I’m a converted lead, ready to part with $75 for 10 hours of television on DVD. Do you think I can?

What recourse do I have? Wait for reruns to show me all 13 episodes? I think not. Wait for the DVD? I don’t like those odds. The final episode of season 5 of The West Wing aired in May, 2005, but can I buy the DVD yet? Instead, I visited the bit torrent site du jour, and am currently downloading 5.1 GB of season one. I’d prefer not to watch the series on my PC, with all the substandard audio and video that implies, but the industry has given me no other option.

It’s the same old lesson for the content distributors. Let me, a willing consumer, give you money. Exploit the buzz around new offerings and let consumers buy the DVD as soon as the content has aired.

10 comments

  1. I’ve been waiting for Season One to hit dvd, too – I missed the start of the series and now I regret it. I’m hoping that it’ll make it to dvd soon!

  2. Well there’s the UK release. I seem to recall that there’s a date set for the N. American release, but I don’t remember where I saw it. Possibly just before Season 2 kicks off (which is in August, I believe).

  3. Filmgoerguan: Thanks for the detective work, but it shouldn’t be detective work, should it? I can only assume that hundreds of people visit the BG site every day with the same question: when can I buy the first series on DVD? You’d think they’d have a big flashing box on the front page.

  4. /signed.

    I just had to include my agreement with your entire article, even though I have very little interest in Battlestar Galactica.

  5. in terms of suggesting a better business plan to the people in charge of the dvd, i agree with your basic strike-while-the-iron-is-hot point.

    at the same time, i imagine that a lot of good marketing has to do with building excitement, which means making people wait–the let-the-iron-heat-up-more theory.

    i think the saddest part is that marketing has to now take into account the ease with which people can just steal products anyway.

  6. It could be that the reason why DVDs take a long time to come out *right now* is syndication. Me thinks reruns on TV would make more money (ads) than the straight-to-DVD route.
    There will probably will some form of ads on DVDs in the future–but already those coming attraction ads on the DVDs are annoying.

  7. I was looking for Roswell season 3 (2002-03) on DVD recently. As it turns out, it’s been released in Europe (and probably elsewhere) but not in North America (official release is scheduled for August).

    I’m not sure what the logic there was, but it’s not maximizing the revenue they get from me, that’s for sure.

  8. The first episode is officially available for free download from the SciFi channel. Check out the official website, they’ve actually put up what most people would consider DVD extras online already – trailers, making of documentaries, and per-episode commentaries (taking podcasts to a new level).

    http://www.scifi.com/battlestar/

  9. Series 1 is available on DVD from amazon.co.uk.

    Do you guys get multi-region dvd players or is that a European thing?

    I think it is has been fairly common for years that Sci-Fi shows are available on VHS and now DVD in Europe but not in the USA. A good example of this was Babylon 5 which, I believe, was out on VHS in Europe for years before it was released in the US. As far as I remember in B5s case the European release was a market test and the sales were not high enough so Warner Home Video kept delaying the US release. Syndication is another cause of delays, for example wasnt Stargate shown first on some channel like Showtime and then the following year released to syndication (leading to two different types of opening credits). That would probably delay the USA DVD release, for revenue reasons. Europe doesnt really do that syndication stuff so they just go ahead and release the DVD shortly after the series ends its first run on tv.

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