Two news items this week, neither very startling in their own right, point to the expanding power of the DVD as a distribution channel for media content.
The first story dealt with the animated series, Family Guy, which attracted critical praise and public controversy, but little ratings, when it aired on Fox a year or so back. The series, however, has caught fire on DVD with more than a million units sold of a first season set of episodes and the second season, recently released, approaching the 500,000 units mark. The series also does extremely well in reruns on The Cartoon Network. Fox recently announced plans to begin production of new episodes of the series, though it remains to be seen whether the series will go back on Fox, on Cartoon Network, or go straight to DVD. The sale of television series on DVD has been one of the major media trends this year and is shaking up assumptions across the entertainment industry. For years, people claimed the public would not pay for reruns – though direct to consumer sales were a factor in the worldwide market. The Family Guy is the first series to go back into production based on DVD sales and it might point towards another way to keep a suspended series alive.
Meanwhile, USA Today’s print edition (but not the online edition) has the news that Marvel comics is releasing 11 of it top selling titles on DVD as of today with a price tage ranging from $9.99 to $13.99, considerably cheaper than the cost of the average print edition of the same material. Crossgen, another comics publisher, had already announced similar plans. Both companies are trying to break out of the specialty shop ghetto which blocks comics from the mainstream consumer. They also believe that younger consumers may warm to digital comics, which can be played on DVD players, DVD-compatable computers, Playstation 2, or Xbox. Sad thought that kids will prefer comics, performed with music, voices, sound effects, and limited movement, to actually reading them, but it probably does make sense to find alternative ways of bringing this content to the market.
People have long imagined one black box controlling the flow of media into the home. Might the DVD player be the surprise winner of that competition?