Online airings begin replacing DVD mailings

For studios and networks looking to cut the high cost of DVD mailing and reduce their carbon footprints during Emmy season, going online with screeners was a no-brainer. The only question was how willing Academy voters would be to watch shows on a computer.

So far, the answer seems to be “a lot.”

Showtime exec VP of corporate communications Rich Licata says 4,500 unique visitors — more than a third of the Academy’s 13,600 members –┬ácame to the cabler’s FYC (For Your Consideration) site and streamed episodes more than 41,000 times in its first eight weeks online. With most major studios and networks following suit in some fashion, the Acad itself has announced its own site for streaming screeners.

Voting members of the Academy generally find online screeners to be convenient, though many question whether the quality is equal to watching a DVD.

“I love watching episodes (online),” “Lost” exec producer Damon Lindelof says. “It’s simple, portable — I watch on my laptop — and the quality is now practically on par with DVDs.”

However, two-time Emmy nominee James Chressanthis, d.p. on CBS’ “The Ghost Whisperer,” says some of the visuals suffer when watched on smaller screens.

“It seems like there is going to be something lost of the cinematography and production design, the visual crafts. I mean, how do you evaluate makeup?” he says. “I think we should really move toward HD screening as soon as possible.”

Quality and reliability are two reasons writer-

producer Rick Alexander says he’s sticking with DVDs, saying, “a) the stream can be interrupted at any moment due to any number of factors, and b) my computer screen is 13 inches and my TV screen is 63 inches.”

Adds “Big Love” exec producer David Knoller: “I love the idea of watching contender episodes online. However, I wish there was a way that Academy members could screen and watch them on a level playing field.”

Emmy-winning editor Jennifer Honn says she would definitely watch online screeners and that they also might reduce the hype that accompanies elaborate DVD mailings.

“We can concentrate on the actual material and not be distracted by the slick presentation,” she suggests.

Adds Robert Oswaks, exec VP of marketing for Sony Pictures TV: “At some point in the future, (online screening) is going to be your only option.”

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