Fox is betting it can haul some water off the sinking ship that is home entertainment by selling different types of DVDs to consumers and retailers, as Variety and Video Business are reporting today.
Under the new program that's being launched with some titles, the rental version your local Blockbuster, or Netflix, get doesn't have all the special features. It's just the film itself and some trailers. If you buy the disc yourself, you get deleted scenes and commentaries.
Both versions of the Blu-ray are better, though there's still some differences. The rental edition has the film in hi-def along with bonus features. But only those who buy the disc get the opportunity to make a "digital copy" that they can watch on a PC and some mobile devices.
First movie to get the treatment is "Slumdog Millionnaire," with others like "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Notorious" following. The details will change on some films, for instance both versions of the standard def "Marley and Me" DVD have bonus features, but the retail Blu-ray contains both the hi-def and standard discs in one box.
Hard to say if any of this will make a difference, but it's an interesting example of a studio using technology to adjust its business model. DVDs, especially Blu-ray, can contain all sorts of different content and features. If you want more, Fox's thinking clearly goes, you should pay more. Or pay differently, at least.
Renting a standard def disc, after all, is the most casual, inexpensive way to get a film. Buying a Blu-ray disc is the most intense and expensive. It makes some sense to put gradations in between and essentially scale the content based on how much the consumer is willing to spend.
And of course if it means that some people will pay twice — say, rent the DVD, and then buy the disc to see all the features — well, getting people to pay twice for the same content is pretty much what every entertainment executive lives for. Especially now that home video revenue, once the growth engine for studios, is in decline.
It's also an interesting attempt to combat piracy. If you rent the movie and then rip it, you wont get all the content you would if you buy it. Not that that's a real impediment to anyone savvy enough to download stuff off of BitTorrent, or willing to buy bootleg discs on the street. But the studios are always happy to find anything they can do to make it a bit tougher.