20th Century Fox (and never has that name seemed more appropriate) is planning to create stripped-down rental versions of their DVDs. If you want to view the special features, deleted scenes, commentaries, and so on, you have to buy the retail version. Rental outlets will only be allowed to buy from wholesalers the versions with the movie and trailers (because they don’t want to lose the cross-promotion).
Now, this ignores that rental stores, if they want to, can source their DVDs from elsewhere, but I don’t know if they’ll want to go to the trouble or spend the extra money. And I’m not sure many renters actually care. (Watching a DVD with my parents two weeks ago, it was the first time they’d ever looked at the special features on the discs they get from Netflix, a subscription they’ve had for over a year.)
Still, it shows how backwards they’ve got things. If customers aren’t doing what you want them to, the smart thing would be to make your product more attractive. This takes the opposite approach, cutting out features that customers used to get in an attempt to force customers into behavior against the buyer’s best interests. (There are many many films maybe worth watching once, without having to own them. Especially now that standard list is $30 a movie.)
Plus, there’s the question of how this will affect the used DVD market, an outcome I take personal interest in. I have too many DVDs. I rarely have time to watch one more than once — there’s always a new one on the shelf instead — but if I can get the disc for $5-6, I still buy it, if it’s got extras. That’s cheaper than my husband and I going to the movies; I enjoy the behind-the-scenes information; and at that price, if I don’t like it, I have a reasonable chance of making a significant portion of my money back selling it.
Rental discs often feed the used market. Once a movie’s no longer hot or in demand, stores sell off the stock, and it’s a good deal for everyone. Except the studios, who think they’re owed 5 times as much as I’m willing to pay for even mediocre films.
Then there’s the problem of trying to explain all this to customers. They’re going to blame the messengers: their rental outlets, who have the problem of trying to clarify a complicated approach (the extras vary based on rental DVD, retail DVD, rental Blu-ray, or retail Blu-ray) that they don’t even agree with.
The first two titles released under this strategy will be Slumdog Millionaire and Marley and Me. Says the Video Buyers Group president,
The main thing is that studios have to add value to get customers to buy, and they aren’t buying. Numbers have been falling through the floor.
But they’re not adding value. They’re taking away value. As for declining sales, could it be the quality of the movies themselves? The rising prices? Too much material to choose from? An economy that means cutting out extras? People slowing their purchase rate as they’ve rebought everything they wanted and realizing they have plenty to watch already? No, it must be everyone renting instead of buying.
Drop the prices back down to impulse level and see what happens. Stop trying to force consumers to behave as you think they should. That sense of entitlement just leads to resentment and encourages the behavior you want to stop.