Last March, 20th Century Fox announced plans to strip DVDs and Blu-Ray discs being sold to the rental market (Blockbuster, Netflix and the like) of all special features content, in the belief that this will drive consumers towards purchasing the more fully loaded retail editions. Now, it looks as if Disney is gearing up for a similar move with their home video product.
AfterDawn is reporting that starting with the June releases of Morning Light, Confessions Of A Shopaholic and Jonas Brothers: The Concert Experience, the Mouse House will be making barebone editions available to rental company purchasers, while retail outlets will be able to purchase discs with “value-added material.”
There are a few differences with Disney’s program versus Fox’s. Whereas both versions of a Fox title carry the same price point, Disney is making the stripped down editions of their releases cheaper than the special features packed ones. Disney is also allowing rental companies to buy the more complete version of each release if they desire. Fox is not allowing that option.
I’m not sure that this strategy will have the long term gains that Fox and Disney may be hoping for. Blockbuster and other rental outlets rely on the revenue from selling older, previously-viewed DVDs. This secondary sale is perfectly within all copyright laws, and it gives stores a way to get rid of that wall full of Mama Mia! discs long after the demand for them dwindles down to a couple of rentals a week. Many consumers wait for these “previously viewed” sales in order to pick up titles at a substantial discount from what they would pay for a new disc at a retail store.
But by supplying rental outlets barebones releases, the studios seem to be banking that consumers will want only the “fully-loaded” editions and will flock to a retailer like Kmart or Best Buy to purchase. They may be right, and their retail sales may see a bit of a boast. But if rental chains start to see a decline in their “previously-viewed” DVD sales, they may be more reticent to order them from the studio when the title is first released. The situation becomes one of robbing Peter to pay Paul, at the risk of alienating their rental unit purchasing clients.