Strike-shortened seasons still selling

TV on DVD exceeding industry expectations

With the writers strike having truncated some series to nearly half their normal episode count last season, the $3 billion TV on DVD business was looking potentially lean.

But less is proving more… or at least just as much as last year.

“People were so concerned about the writers strike and the limited number of episodes affecting our business, but we’re not seeing that at all,” says Craig Kornblau, prexy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, whose “The Office: Season Four” set topped Rentrak’s DVD sales charts last week despite the fact that it contained nine fewer episodes than the show’s season-three release did.

“Day one sales were 25% bigger than the year before, and we didn’t really change the price point,” notes Kornblau, who also says that several of U’s other recent tube releases, “House, M.D.: Season Four” and “Heroes: Season Two,” are selling 25% above the studio’s original expectations. Kornblau expects “Heroes” to again eclipse the 1 million unit mark.

Based on the price and the size of the packages, consumers have no reason to expect they’re getting much less this year. Disney’s “Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season” has been a top 10 seller, despite arriving with six fewer episodes, one fewer disc and a $59.99 list price that was the same as season three.

The season-four discs for ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” number just five, vs. seven in season three, and contain a third fewer episodes (16 compared to 25 in season three) but the set is a hot seller. Outtakes, unaired scenes, docs and an on-set featurette with stars Eric Dane and Patrick Dempsey helped bulk things up.

“You have to balance the cost of the series with what you think consumers are willing to pay,” says Kornblau.

And perhaps partly because of the strike, disc buyers still seem prepared to pay a decent amount of money.

“There’s been so little scripted content on the air, I think there’s a pent-up demand,” says Kornblau.