Studios may finally be ready to pay some extra attention to sprucing up DVD collections of TV shows.
DVD releases of just about every major feature release — even the bombs — get loaded up with a slew of bonus features.
But pick up a typical full-season collection of discs for a major TV series, and there’s a good chance you’ll find next to nothing in the extras department. Recent releases of shows such as “Soap,” “Saved by the Bell,” “Smallville,” “Will & Grace” and “Felicity,” for example, offered up little in the way of added value.
Execs cite costs as one key reason for the general lack of extras. Unlike a two-hour movie, which fits neatly on a single disc, a full-season collection of a TV show can eat up anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, meaning four to six discs. Adding yet another disc worth of bonus material can spike manufacturing costs enough take away from an already slim margin.
“We start with the look and sound of a disc, and then figure out what else we can add on with the budget,” says Lions Gate Entertainment home entertainment prexy Peter Block. “If someone’s going to shell out a lot of money for a whole season, it better look good.”
And while studios begin planning extras for a feature while the pic is still filming, many TV on DVD releases are for shows that halted production years ago. That makes it tougher to assemble past producers and cast members for commentaries .
Even with skeins still on the air, it wasn’t until a year or two ago that most producers began to realize the bonus possibilities for DVD releases. Case in point: When Fox Home Entertainment put out the first season of “24” on DVD, the release was put together so quickly, there were virtually no extras.
Later, “the season two collection was really packed with extras,” says Peter Staddon, Fox’s senior VP of marketing. “The cast and crew were involved from the moment they started breaking out plotlines. Elements they thought might not make it onto the show they knew they could put on the DVD.”
“The creative community in TV has really embraced DVD, not just as an archival record, but also as a way to give context and expand beyond the confines of a 22- or 44-minute show, Staddon adds.”
Leading the way has been the creative team behind Fox’s “The Simpsons,” which has insisted on recording commentaries for every episode and packing each disc with tons of features. More producers are following that example, particularly with shows that have huge cult followings.
Lions Gate Home Entertainment, for example, went all out for the DVD release of sci-fi skein “The Dead Zone,” and plans a similar effort with the upcoming release of E!’s “Anna Nicole Show.”
HBO’s recent third-season release of “Mr. Show” featured commentary on every episode, and the cabler also plans plenty of bonuses on the January DVD bow of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — including an exclusive interview with creator Larry David conducted by Bob Costas.
In the end, studio execs believe bonus features will expand as the novelty of TV on DVD wears off — and consumers start demanding more for their coin. “We’ve got to give the viewer more of an experience than what they’ve already seen on television,” Staddon says.