Pay outlets like HBO and Showtime have to approach the TV-on-DVD money tree with a little more caution than the broadcast networks do.
Discs, after all, let would-be subscribers cherry-pick programs a la carte, much like they would download an individual song instead of purchasing the entire album — and we all know how that crossing of revenue streams is working out.
But premium providers insist that DVD boxed sets can — and do — contribute to the bottom line while attracting new customers to their monthly services.
DVD versions of pay-TV shows consistently lead the home entertainment category. HBO’s “The Sopranos” helped create the original TV-on-DVD phenomenon, with its first season released on disc in 2000. The second half of its final season, due in stores Oct. 23, is already sitting comfortably on Amazon.com’s Top 25 chart of all DVD sales.
Meanwhile, Showtime boasts of how the second season of its original series “Weeds” is a hit in both DVD and iTunes video download formats.
But release windows are one way pay-TV providers keep their offers separate. Season 2 of “Weeds” saw a DVD street date of July 24, on the eve of the series’ third season premiere on Showtime Aug. 13.
Showtime CEO Matt Blank muses that some current customers, who pay around $12 a month for broadcast and on-demand access to the network’s series and specials, probably will join non-subscribers in buying DVD copies of current network hits “Californication” and “Dexter” next year. But as much as Showtime views DVD as a growing source of ancillary revenue, Blank says discs also work on a promotional level — as a sample of the network’s programming that ultimately stokes the core subscription business.
“We have 90 million television households that don’t have Showtime, which is why sampling is as important to us as generating a revenue stream from those households,” Blank observes. “We never lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of people” — current subscriptions stand at about 15 million — “paying us a nice check every month to get this service at home. We want to increase that number of subscribers, and sampling is a great way to do it.”