Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Price of (Home) Entertainment...

Alex at Complications Ensue makes some interesting points - pro and con - about NBC's recent decision to pull their programs off Itunes and trying to sell them themselves...at a higher price.

Everything he speculates about is the future, or a version thereof, no doubt about it...but for now, most people are still stocking their TV series home collections with the purchase of season set DVD's.

So my question today is this...how much will you pay for the season set DVD's for your fav TV series? And then a followup - how much will you pay to try out a TV series you've only heard good things about?

What's the price of TV on DVD entertainment?

I ask only because I bought some series on DVD this weekend, and was truly surprised at the wide variance in cost. This was depending on the TV show of course, but still...

Friday Night Lights first season was on sale for 28.99 (Cdn.). That's 22 one hour episodes for less than thirty bucks. These days, thirty bucks only gets you a discounted new release novel, or movie and popcorn for two (you'd have to split a soda pop), or perhaps a couple of music cd's.

How could I say no? And there's a bonus. I only watched about a third of the FNL episodes last year, and while I enjoyed them it just never really caught fire with me. Now I can enjoy it in its entirety and at my convenience on my big screen telly. Cool.

But on the shelves right beside FNL were the first season discs of Heroes and Ugly Betty. Both 22 episode sets were on sale for around 50.00 (Cdn.). I thought about it, but gave them a pass. Ugly Betty isn't on my radar and I saw most all of Heroes already...and the price, while on sale, was just high enough to give me pause.

Why such a price difference? I mean, we know the studios are making money on the sale no matter which price they list at, it's just a question of how much. Because right beside the Heroes and Ugly Betty sets were the second season of Rome and third season of Deadwood, both HBO offerings. And both were priced at nearly a hundred bucks (Cdn.) each...and that's only for 10 and 12 episodes respectfully! I know it's not just about quantity (yes, quality should be a consideration), but still....holy gouging, Batman!

I know value and perceived value are flexible terms...and if that's what people will pay, then that's what it's worth --- but when is too much too much? (I still can't believe I can't find seasons 1 and 2 of Lost for anything less than 65.00 per...)

Perhaps NBC/Universal is selling FNL at a loss or break even in order to try to rope in more viewers (it was on the bubble for cancellation last season), but nevertheless...I really liked that price. Same goes for the first three seasons of The X Files and all the seasons of Buffy and Angel --- all recently marked down to around or under 25.00 (Cdn.) each. I didn't feel bad purchasing the first 2 seasons of each...you know, just to have...watch for old times sake...show the kids when they get old enough sort of thing.

And Peter makes a good comment about the extras and commentaries available on most DVD series sets.

So back to Alex's post, a season (depending on how many episodes) of a series downloaded off of Itunes could cost you between 20.00 and 40.00. NBC/Uni is looking to ask 5.00 per episode (I'm not sure if that's Cdn. or U.S. dollars)...so a season of Heroes, say, could run you upwards of a 100.00.

And if I won't even consider paying that for an HBO series, well...

UPDATE: Shawna sends me this Hollywood Reporter story hot off the presses that states NBC/Uni shows will be made available on Amazon/Unbox for...1.99 an episode.

Ah the internets...amazing things aren't they.


Good Dog said...

Sounds right about Friday Night Lights. They obviously want folk to catch up and watch the second year.

Hell, I always wait for the sales because in England... well, the HBO sets over here are damn expensive. Seasons of The Wire started around £50. They dropped them to half price in the sales.

Have to say, in one massive store blowout, I managed to pick Band of Brothers for £5. But they had limited stocks and I had to queue early in the morning.

I didn't feel bad purchasing the first 2 seasons of each...you know, just to have...show the kids when they get old enough sort of thing.

Yeah, sure. And of course you better watch them to see that the discs are okay, right? ;-)

Peter said...

I'm really bad about buying TV series on DVD. I have a pretty monstrous collection, one that I continually justify as "research."

Paying 30 for a season of television is a great deal in my opinion. Newly released films retail for as much, and with a television show you're going to get a whole lot more than you would with a two hour movie. I recently picked up FNL, Dexter, Brotherhood and the first season of The Shield for 30.

60 is starting to push it a bit. I still bought Heroes, but that had more to do with the fact both my girlfriend and roommate desperately wanted me to get it.

I have a hard time justifying spending a hundred dollars or more on a television show. That's a little much.

But while I happily buy box sets, I'd never pay 5 to download an episode. I probably wouldn't even spend the 1.99 (or .99) that iTunes charges.

With DVDs you get some pretty nice intangibles. Commentaries, deleted scenes, scripts. It's hard to quantify how much value things like that add, but as an industry neophyte I've found a lot of it quite valuable (some of Joss Whedon's commentaries on Buffy and Firefly are of particular note).

If NBC offered episodes + bonuses for download, I might consider paying a per episode charge. Otherwise give me box sets.

Unknown said...

I'm not so sure people are going to go out, in response to NBCs move, and buy series DVDs. The main issue I think is that this content is distributed free over the airwaves, but NBC up until now has been able to sell episodes ala carte for 2 dollars on iTunes.

People pay for that for convenience.

Remember, NBC claimed that this wasn't just about money (although they want to double the price of each episode) - it was also about piracy.

Can't help but think that this will encourage piracy.

Diane Kristine Wild said...

I don't really collect DVD sets, but NBC is obviously hoping to cash in on our instant gratification urge - you miss an episode of Heroes, you just have to see it now no matter the cost. So they're hoping the cost of DVDs doesn't really enter into it, since they're targeting people who won't wait that long. But I wonder about that price. Seems to me $2 is easy to throw away, but $5 would be past the threshold for a lot of people, and I bet many would turn to free downloads instead. It's easy not to feel too guilty about illegally downloading TV shows when you could have recorded it from free TV anyway. Reminds me of the issue of cigarette taxation - raising prices on cigarettes is one of the only ways to reduce teen smoking, but if prices get too high, cigarette smuggling becomes rampant. NBC's pricing might push them right out of the market. But it is their decision to make, not iTunes.

wcdixon said...

Once again, I need others to clarify what I think I'm trying to say...the dangers of the quick and dirty post.

I wasn't really suggesting that the NBC move would drive people to buying DVD's as much as it got me thinking about how we get and how much we pay for our TV 'entertainment'.

Yes I think it will probably push more toward illegal downloads. And yes it's NBC's call (they could take back their shows and offer them for 1.99 a download as well).

But let me say this: let's move past the notion that televison is 'free' (as in, why would they pay for something when they could have recorded it from free tv anyway). TV is 'not' free. I don't know anyone who isn't hooked up to cable...and the bare minimum cable bill in my neck of the woods is like 40.00 a month. But a lot of people (like myself) have digital cable and/or premiere packages that can run upwards of 60.00-90.00 a month. Again, not 'free'.

Not criticizing, but that label of free tv has bugged me for ages.

Just sayin'...

Cunningham said...

My personal habit has been to watchit for free on network television, or see it the next day via the network's website. Both have advertising attached and get my attention that way.

If it is a show I truly embrace, I wait for the dvd set and buy that. For three years in a row I watched the first episodes of 24, then waited til the dvd set came out to watch it in full. I have paid about $49.99 for a full season set.

If there's a three season package or ultimate collection I weigh the cost carefully.

Fox has gone a long way toward picking up new viewers by reducing the packaging and costs for complete tv sets of BUFFY, ANGEL and X-FILES. They are all very reasonably priced.

I don't think that people will pay $5 an episode for a television show...unless they are getting extra material that isn't in the broadcast version and will be later seen on the dvd set. Consider $5 per episode for HEROES x 22 episodes per season and you can see how that is waaaaay overpriced, and that doesn't include any extras.

I think NBC Universal is really going to have to pull a rabbit out of their ass on this one to make a $5 sale work. Why don't they just pack the thing with ads you can't skip over and make it all for free?

Shawna said...

Breaking News: NBCUni will feature episodes on Amazon Unbox. Free downloads of new pilots soon and new episodes $1.99.

I thought the $5 thing was blown way out of proportion.

wcdixon said...


Shouting In The Wind's and 'ear way closer to the ground than mine' Shawna promptly sets the record straight.


Lee said...

The pricing may have been blown out of proportion, but what NBC are saying by moving to Amazon is that they regard Apple as facilitating piracy, and all iPod users as thieves. Unbox has much more restrictive DRM than iTunes, meaning that you have far fewer options regarding how you watch paid for content. It doesn't seem to matter that barely a single file traded over P2P is an iTunes video.

Don't forget that Unbox is a Windows only service, leaving millions of scallywag Mac users out in the cold. I'm sure they'll find some other way to get NBC content onto their hard drives and iPods.

Shawna said...

NBC *is* concerned about piracy -- I don't see what's wrong with that. The people who are pirating content today, will be doing it tomorrow. This really doesn't change much, except iTunes won't be a source to pirate material.

And yes, the Mac users are scalawags. ;-)

Diane Kristine Wild said...

Hmm, it was iTunes who claimed NBC wanted to charge more ... trying to make them look like the good guys, NBC like idiots?

I take your point about "free TV" Will, but it's really just a lazy way to say something specific. I pay for cable, but I'd get local channels free if I didn't. My personal ethics of downloading TV involves rationalizations around that. I won't download Dexter or Slings and Arrows because they're on a channel I don't pay for, for example, but I will download House or The Office. I can justify that two ways: they're on local channels (eg Global), and they're on channels I pay for (Fox, NBC). On the rare occasions I've "had" to download, I feel that not only have I already paid for them, I also could have recorded them barring whatever technical or brain glitch stopped me from doing so. So when I say it's free anyway, that's what I mean - I personally won't pay $1.99 to buy something I've already "bought." Not that I can, since iTunes doesn't sell TV here.

Started watching Dexter on DVD by the way - love it.

wcdixon said...

Yay for Dexter...I'm on my second time through now on DVD and still enjoying it.