HBO makes vid bid for DVD domination

Cabler holiday ad campaign's set

Even with six of the 15 top-selling TV series on DVD this year, HBO Video is aggressively stepping up efforts to increase its homevid domination.

This week sees the launch of the company’s first major holiday ad campaign for “Oz.” The first season of “Carnivale” will be released on DVD Dec. 7, just a month ahead of the Jan. 9 debut of the second season. The final eight episodes of “Sex and the City,” including alternate endings, outtakes and two featurettes, will be released as a three-disc set on Dec. 28.

The first season of “Deadwood” will be released on DVD Feb. 8, just before the second season premieres in early March.

The third and fourth season sets of “Six Feet Under” are being prepared for DVD release next year as the fifth season of that series debuts. And the fifth season of “The Sopranos” will be released in the fourth quarter of 2005, shortly before that series returns for a sixth season in early 2006.

Although the previous strategy was to allow the network to have exclusive runs, reruns and more reruns of each series for at least two years, HBO Video senior VP of marketing Cynthia Rhea says that window is closing.

HBO has begun to work lines from series into holiday ad copy. For “The Sopranos”: “Bada Bing. Bada Boom. Your Shopping’s Done.” “Oz” is promoted this way: “Just like life on the inside, it’s always better to give than receive.”

In one spot for the third season of “The Sopranos,” a man walking his dog down a dark street is approached by an ominous-looking car. As the music rises, a passenger in the car throws something at the man, which lands at his feet. It turns out to be the DVD. A similar spot shows a man being jolted out of bed when something is thrown through his window, breaking the glass. It’s a brick with the DVD taped to it.

Print ads in the holiday campaign include one for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” featuring stockings filled with coal and the tagline “Just the gift to give everyone you’ve alienated this year.” The snow-covered gingerbread house is an ad for the DVD of “The Wire” with the tagline “The ideal gift for mom and dad considering the amount of surveillance they’ve conducted on you.”

HBO Video wound up also employing this strategy on its release of the theatrical “My Big Fat Wedding.” The cast was hired to re-create their characters shopping — and arguing — in a videostore.

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