Straight-to-DVD carries a nasty stigma in the film industry, but FX hopes it may be an emerging trend in television. The network is planning to release a straight-to-DVD special of comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia later this year.
The release will have a Christmas theme and run slightly over an hour (not including bonus content), and will eventually be split into two episodes set to air on FX during a future cycle of the show. A price point for the DVD and a specific release date are still in the works.
With DVD sales for television shows slowing more precipitously with the struggling economy (See “DVD Backend Is Dwindling,” March 30), networks are getting more creative with the content and windowing of home video.
While bonus content such as commentary or deleted scenes are now old hat for DVDs, more companies are experimenting with debuting original episodes on DVD before they air on a network.
“Fox Home Entertainment approached us about possibly doing a direct-to-video of the show,” says Eric Schrier, executive VP of FX Productions and senior VP of series development. “They had a lot of success with Family Guy and some other properties doing direct to video, so we talked about it at length, about what would be the right thing for [Sunny].”
FX announced it had picked up an additional 39 episodes of Sunny at last summer's TCA press tour. The episodes the network is producing for the DVD will count toward that total.
FX is using the tactic with Sunny because while the TV-to-DVD market at large has been hurting, some shows are still breaking through there, including its comedy series.
“[Sunny] has grown in its DVD sales since we released season one and two [in 2005],” Schrier says.
Turner's Adult Swim employed a similar tactic for the season six DVD set of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, released in December. The release included four new episodes, which will also find their way onto that network at some point.
“It really gives us a way to cut through the clutter, with so many DVDs from TV coming out every single week, and a way to market it specifically that stands out from the crowd,” says VP of Cartoon Network Enterprises Christina Miller.
While networks are experimenting with the strategy, they are still being mindful of where it is used. Shows like Sunny or Aqua Teen, which already have established fan bases and DVD sales, are ripe targets for bringing in extra revenue from the at-home market.
“If it is the first season and not a lot of people have seen it, you aren't going to get the same value out of putting never before seen episodes on [DVD],” Miller says.