Monday, December 19, 2005

Different Approaches to "Best Of" DVDs

Most of TVShowsOnDVD's registered members vote in favor of Season Sets just about every time on our TV Show Voting. It's rare to find a show's "Best Of's" vs. "Season Sets" choices where the voting in favor of Season Sets is less than 95%. Gord and I favor season sets ourselves, and we're sure that's no surprise to anyone.

But there must be SOME people out there who like single-disc best-of TV-DVDs, right? They've gotta be out there, we figure, because retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, even Best Buy and Circuit City all stock these sort of things. The people who buy them are not the type of die-hard TV-on-DVD fan who hangs out at Internet sites like TVShowsOnDVD, or in hardcore discussion forums like the Home Theater Forum or DVDTalk. But you probably know someone like that...a sibling, a parent or grandparent, one of your in-laws, a friend, neighbor, or co-worker. They're out there.

"That's okay," say the die-hard TV-on-DVD fans. "They can have their under-$10 best-of discs as long as I also get my seasons sets." And studios have heard you all loud-and-clear, because season sets are by far the most-released type of package in the TV-DVD genre. One glance at that section in any retailer will show that this is true. But the best-of's are easy to find, too, and many of them are for shows that also have season sets: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files progressed from season sets to best-of's, Star Trek: The Next Generation and the later Trek shows are in the process of doing this, Futurama and Family Guy are dabbling in it, and The Simpsons and Spongebob Squarepants have been going both ways for quite some time. Justice League, Teen Titans and Batman Beyond are all making the switch from best-of's to season sets.

By-and-large, we're past the "dark early days" of the TV-on-DVD format when you could ONLY get single-disc releases of shows like the original Star Trek, Twilight Zone, South Park, Friends, Married...with Children and I Love Lucy. All of these have "graduated" to season sets, and most of these are done or almost done on DVD, with entire runs of these shows available for the most part (M...wC's theme song licensing issues and the related slow-downs seem to make it the most obvious hold-out).

So TVShowsOnDVD readers are confused these days when it seems we are actually advocating "best-of" releases for shows that aren't available on seasons sets, like Family Matters, Alice, Perfect Strangers, and others. Not to mention the weirdness of Night Court going from "Season 1" back to a "best-of". Our stance in the news postings and in our posts in the discussion forum chats has been, "fans better get these best-of DVDs or the studio - Warner - won't release seasons sets".

Then we threw readers for a loop today with news about The Real Ghostbusters coming to DVD from Sony in best-ofs...and we seemed to condemn this approach. You are all left wondering, "What's the difference?"

Let me give a simple explanation as to why Gord and I look at these differently. Warner is well-known for their season sets in their mainstream TV-on-DVD department, and have only recently learned that the "kiddie" titles (which incidently appeal to a large number of adults) like Superfriends, Justice League, Teen Titans, Batman Beyond should come in season sets as well. The kiddie titles are in a different department, Warner Animation (instead of Warner Home Video), and so the people there had a different learning curve about season sets. Warner Home Video has been a steadfast supporter of season sets for years...but seem to be regressing to best-of's with these "Warner TV Favorites" series. Why?

Several reasons: for whatever reason, these shows are the properties that Warner is less convinced on that they will be successful with season sets. Despite votes at TVShowsOnDVD, despite other input, Warner's just not convinced...and they have a lot more historical criteria by now to use to judge with than they did in "the dark early days". This is a studio and a department that has PROVEN their dedication to season Gord and I tend to be trusting of them when they say "we need a popularity test" with these shows. We have little doubt on our end that these will all pass the test...but you never know. I never would have thought that Night Court would sell low enough to not get a season set renewal, either (yet there's lots of evidence that it got lost in the crowd on a busy release day...but that's another blog). In the meantime, Warner fills a niche with some best-of's, because the retail stores really DO sell plenty of this type of release: cheap, and easy to stock near the check-out stand. They make the chains happy, and they get their "test".

So we trust Warner a bit in this regard. What about Real Ghostbusters...don't we trust Sony? Well...yeah, they've pretty much learned that season sets are the way to go, except that once again we are talking about their main TV-on-DVD department. The one that releases "adult" fare like Seinfeld, All In The Family, Good Times, The Nanny, etc. But Real Ghostbusters is not with those learned people, we're afraid. Sony's got this property over in the "kiddie" department...the same group of people that release DragonTales, Jay Jay the Jetplane and Maggie and the Ferocious Beast. Yeah, those are some shows that have never seen season sets, and they don't realize that Real Ghostbusters isn't like those shows. Gord talked to the folks at Sony about these best-of releases planned (and announced today) for a February 28th release...tried to talk them into doing season sets instead. Tried to impress on them how the people who will buy this show are adult collectors, the same people who buy He-Man and Transformers.

The response? "Uh, you DO realize this is an ANIMATED show, right?"

There, that just about says it all. The people at Sony in charge of this title don't know what they have. They don't realize who their true audience of consumers are for The Real Ghostbusters. They forget (or never bothered to research it and find out) that the writers of this "kiddie cartoon" include Star Trek and sci-fi book writer David Gerrold, Babylon 5 writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski, Star Trek/Babylon 5 writer and Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, and sci-fi book and sci-fi TV writer J. Michael Reaves.

So, no, we don't think that Sony truly is doing the right thing with the best-of release of The Real Ghostbusters. We don't WANT Warner to do the best-of's for the other shows, but we understand it nonetheless. As always, consumers will ultimately decide with their dollars what happens next.

Just don't expect the studios to necessarily understand what you mean with your purchase-indicated "votes". Don't want to buy a "best of" under any circumstances? Fine...but the studio is more likely to take that as a vote against the show, rather than against the best-of format.


At December 19, 2005 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear you David...and your posting makes sense, I do understand.

That said, it still is unfortunate for those of us who like shows such as the original, "Maverick" series. I bought Warner's "Television Favorites" Best of, "Maverick" because I love the series and while it wasn't what I wanted, it was still very inexpensive.

But does that truly and realistically bring me ANY closer to having a "Maverick" season set?? I really wonder.

I guess the real question is, now that we are past the early "Dark Days," what will happen when TV DVD's become more mainstream than they are now? And once the studios all go through this big wave of releases from their archives, MIGHT they go back and release things like, "Maverick" as a season set? Or will the 3 episode "Television Favorites" DVD just go out of print for sometime, only to resurface with the same 3 episodes a few years in the future?

At December 19, 2005 11:12 PM, Anonymous Boco_T said...

How much of an effect does the "TV Show voting" section of TVShowsonDVD actually have on the studios? This post makes it seem like it actually has a big effect and some of the news posts on the site (most recently the ER thing) seem to indicate that you guys actually have some pull with DVD producers. I'm interested to know how important people in the industry think is.

Matt B. (Boco_T)

At December 19, 2005 11:51 PM, Blogger Gord Lacey said...

We speak with most of the studios regularly (probably a few times a month). They check the site far more often though, and they're constantly looking at where various shows place on the site. There are independent studios that look at the rankings of shows they want to license. Sometimes studios announce things, and then change them based on feedback from users of the site. I spent a day on the phone calling various people at Disney when they announced "Desperate Housewives" in Full Frame (which was later changed to widescreen). Recently I spoke with Warner Bros and relayed information from fans of "Justice League" requesting widescreen releases of seasons 2 and up (which they will do). I bugged Broadway Video for a year and a half before they agreed to do "Kids in the Hall" and then I served as a consultant. For the past 2 years I've mentioned "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr." to Warner Bros almost every time I speak to them (the show will be released in 2006, and I email with Carlton Cuse - the creator - on a regular basis).

We rarely talk about the successes of the site - Dave and I are poor at tooting our own horns - but there are lots to list. I think we'll be posting about something else that we got changed in the next day or two... I'm just waiting for approval from the studio.

At December 20, 2005 12:07 AM, Anonymous Boco_T said...


Thanks for replying (so quickly!) and thanks for all your hard work. In the past few years I've been a TV addict and TV shows on DVD are basically the one thing I really buy a lot of, as my way of supporting my favorite shows.

I'd like to personally thank you for your work in getting The Kids in the Hall released on DVD because it is one of my favorite shows of all time. I'm glad that the site helps so much. I proudly visit the site every day and it's probably one of my favorite sites on the web just because it is a remedy to my TV addiction.

Keep up the good work on the site and I'll keep reading the site and this awesome blog. I usually hate the word "blog" but this is one of the few that I'll actually bookmark and follow.

Thanks again,

At December 20, 2005 3:32 AM, Blogger Dave Lambert said...

Gord, I'm glad to see you tooting your horn a bit there with some of your success stories. You missed one that I consider very big, though, when you convinced Disney/Buena Vista to increase the disc count of Lost from 6 to 7 to include all the extras the show's and DVD's producers wanted to. It was going to be a very poor set of supplements without that extra disc!

Guys, Gord also helped with things in small ways like helping to suggest to Rhino to appeal to the public for an uncut master for the My Favorite Martian pilot (which worked, they got one) so they could include it on the Season 1 DVD set. He also helped bug HIT! into doing season sets for Fraggle Rock. He got the ER "Ambush" episode onto the bonus disc. And there's a new thing which he (and I) just helped make come about, but we're waiting on permission from the studio in question to let us break the news about it.

There has been no doubt in my mind that the high rankings of certain shows among votes at our site has played *some* role in getting shows released. It's never the sole reason, mind you, nor should it be. But if your Paramount and you're trying to decide to release JAG or Wings on DVD, and you're listing PROs and CONs, it sure doesn't hurt your PROs column to say that these are the #2 and #6 on the TVShowsOnDVD most-wanted unreleased items list.

But that isn't *proof* that the studios use that criteria, is it? Well, this is. :)

We're just a couple of guys who do this as a labor of love. We don't look for TVShowsOnDVD to make us rich or even pay the bills, and we don't consider it our ticket to fame and fortune, either. Those things would be nice, but really we are just a couple of guys who are very passionate about our love for TV, our enjoyment of DVD, and how those two things can come together for a very entertaining experience with shows that many of us out there never thought we'd see again, or see unedited, or in a particular order, etc. We LOVE this stuff. So we just want the studios to do it "right".

Same as y'all.

At December 20, 2005 3:35 AM, Blogger Zartan said...

Maybe companies are testing the waters, but I also think we're seeing the effects of a larger trend here. Two years ago DVD was a cash cow that consumers were going bannanas over and companies could not put them out fast enough. This year DVD growth has finally (and inevitably) slowed. Add to that the fact that DVD series' tend to sell fewer copies with each new season and companies don't see the point of releasing older properties that don't feature actors who have gone on to make it big since, when season 1's sales are the best they can hope for. So instead of doing this they can just release a best of collection. If it sells well enough this will probably prompt the studio to release..... another best of collection. If these sets continue to exceed expectations THEN you will ultimately see full seasons released, but I think the days of studios green lighting any old property are over. We may have just witnessed the golden age of tvshows on dvd and may have to resign ourselves to more moderate studio releases in the future.

At December 20, 2005 3:50 AM, Blogger Dave Lambert said...

re: "I guess the real question is, now that we are past the early 'Dark Days,' what will happen..."

Anonymous, I don't know. It's hard to see where the future will go. Part of it is that there are forces outside the realm of "would it sell on DVD" (or a future media like Blu-ray, or get downloaded on a video iPod or a cellphone) to consider if you're a studio.

If Cheyenne is coming to season sets and Maverick isn't, then it's not just "will one season set sell better than the other?", but it is also "how hard will it be to remaster these?" "How hard will it be to get participation on extras, if appropriate?" "Are there any licenses involved, for the show or for music or for talent or other content?" "How much will those licenses cost?" "Is there a TV syndication deal preventing a home video release?" "How 'hard' is it overall to put THIS out on season sets instead of THAT?"

There are SO many factors that all add up to the revenue & profit that the studios need in order to make these decisions. Gord and I do get a better understanding, because we talk to these studio folk all the time. It is hard to convey to all of you what we tend to take for granted.

It's also easy for some readers to be, basically, jackasses and say that the studio is somehow bribing us to explain things in a way that makes them look better, or that we in some other way are "selling out". I can't imagine what the studios have ever given ME that convinces me otherwise. Heck, I still have to go to the store and buy these TV-DVDs for the very heavy part, only a few studios are ever nice enough to send me freebies without expecting me to spend time (that I don't have) to do a review. So it's not any kickbacks that help us to understand a studio's position, we're just good at playing devil's advocate because we have a few more facts at our disposal than most people do.

It doesn't keep us from saying what's on our mind at times, like I did the other day with Masters of Horror. Anchor Bay was only upset that I used the word "announced", when I knew was a slip o' the tongue; the announcement wasn't official and won't be for a few weeks. But were they upset that I criticized their single-disc release strategy? Nope.

At December 20, 2005 8:19 AM, Blogger Heather Long said...

When the best of season sets come out -- it does boggle my mind. I own -- none of them. I have looked at some best ofs in old cartoons I watched when I was a kid since they might be cool for my daughter.

For example, she adores Tom and Jerry and has the two big sets that have been released so far. But the flip side is, if I really like it and I can't get it in another format, then yeah, I'll pick up a best of.

Now -- if they would just get on the stick and release Josie and the Pussycats the way they released Jem.

At December 20, 2005 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make a lot of sense, but there is the problem of finance. It is very difficult for me to afford all the season sets I want, but that is all I really want.

This makes it very difficult for me to buy a "best of" as a vote for a season set. A purchase for one show's best means a lack of funds for another show's season release -- not a trade off I'm willing to make unless the best DVD is a show I really, really, really want. And then the end result is that I have to buy a second copy of everything that was on the best DVD when the seasons release.

For those of us not madof money, it is disinheartening to hear that we may be doing a form of voting against a favorite show by the simple act of opting to save our pennies for a season release. Be very nice if the studios would take that into consideration!

At December 20, 2005 12:10 PM, Blogger Pete B said...

I agree it is not the best way to determine if a show will sell by using Best of's... especially when some of the best of's are exclusive to one store (as I said in the HTF like with Kotter) but I am not against showing support this way if that is how the studios are doing it.. so let it be. Though I do believe that they should also consider other things in it as well... such as your site... online voting at their site... look at sites like HTF... Mail in post cards inside their other releases... so many things they can do.

As for Best of's themself... I like most would much rather have the season sets of my favorite shows (my MANY favorite shows)... but there is alot of shows that I thought were ok... but not worth the money to buy season sets... and SOME of these I would consider picking up a handful of episodes for $5 to $10.

At December 20, 2005 4:08 PM, Blogger peggy said...

I really appreciate both of you doing this blog thing where you can further explain the things about the tv shows on dvd that the average person isn't aware of. My question is when they do these "best of shows" how do they decide which episodes to include. I know I have seen on the site places to vote on certain series but that certainly doesn't cover all the best of sets out there.

I ask this because I have no problem buying the best of sets especially if I didn't care for the whole series (with how they change at times) but it seems like my favorite episodes are never included.


At December 20, 2005 8:21 PM, Blogger Dave Lambert said...

Peggy, good question. Sometimes the best-of list comes from polls (like did for the Collectives and SitcomsOnline and WB teamed up for on the Alice and Perfect Strangers TV Favorites). Other times the producers or the stars pick their faves.

Sometimes the list of episodes makes it clear that nobody with any taste made the choices. :)

There's no cut-and-dried way of doing it; each is different.

At January 02, 2006 6:32 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

I remember how Rhino used the Transformers VHS best-of's to gauge how successful a full series release would be. Fans everywhere, myself included, snapped these up, even though they were on VHS, to the point where if you didn't pre-order it you weren't going to be able to find it in the store. It made it a no-brainer to go ahead with full season releases.

Now some of these best-of sets haven't been successful for one reason or another. Right off the bat, I'm thinking of "The Steve Harvey Show" and "Spin City," both good shows, but the best-of sets sales didn't justify the vast effort and expense of producing a season set.

For myself, I plan to buy up several copies of "Perfect Strangers" and "Family Matters" for myself and family & friends so that my vote will be cast. And on top of that, even if there's never a season set, I'll still at least have SOME of the episodes to keep and enjoy! You can't beat that for 10 bucks.

At January 03, 2006 10:37 AM, Blogger Ken said...

The DVD best of set=up versus the full season bugs me. For example, there are some shows, like say some Power Rangers, that I would love to be able to buy in Season sets for my nephew, but Disney only releases them in 5 episode incriments. Each DVD is $10, I would spend $50 to buy the whole season where-as a full season coule probaly come on three disk and cost less then 35 dollars at Walmart or Best Buy. Granted, that is not truly a best of set like Family Matters will be. I loved Family Matters after it's 2nd or 3rd season (when I first learned of it) but is it worth me buying a best of disk for 10 shows that were an 1/2 hr long (5 hrs) for $10 - that's more then $2 an episode - no, not when I can buy 23 episodes for 30 or 40 bucks at less then $2 an episode. Granted, I may be unable to afford $40 when it comes out but I would be able to eventually but should that mean that my unwilliness to spend $2 an episode be a vote against the TV show?. I think not. Now compare that to Star Trek, where the sets cost between 80-100+ dollars (that is a show I would LOVE to have but can't afford it period, so I would buy the best of sets, but not because I support that show less then I do Family Matters, but because they outpriced themselves. I guess my point is that I would always perfer seasons sets and would not buy best of unless someone I know wants it or unless I abosolutely know that I have no other choice (aka Family Matters will never come up as a Season)

At January 21, 2006 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So - how do we contact Sony and tell those meatheads that they shouldnt screw around and give us the real mccoy?

At September 26, 2006 1:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to rant about this, here's a MySpace group for it (the first of its kind, I believe):


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