At the beginning of 2010, Warner began imposing a DVD rental delay, in which they wouldn’t provide discs to outlets like Netflix and Redbox until 28 days after they went on sale. Now, Warner is planning to double the wait time to 56 days (almost two months).
It’s unclear to me whether they want to extend the delay because 1) it’s working, in terms of increasing DVD sales, so they’re being greedy and wanting to boost sales even further, or 2) it’s not working, and they think a longer delay will make it work. I would guess the latter, just because I haven’t seen anyone agree with the studios that the delay matters to them or has changed their behavior. The linked article calls DVD sales “disappointing”, but I don’t know if that really means disappointing, or if it just means that the studios had expectations that were too high. (The problem in most media these days is that the producers value their content much more than the consumers do.) This analysis of the news suggests that Redbox and Blockbuster don’t intend to wait and will instead buy discs elsewhere, perhaps paying more but giving customers a better experience than the one Warner wants to impose.
Personally, I buy DVDs in two ways. If it’s something I really want to see, with good extras, I’ll buy on release day, when the best deals are in effect. (These days, I won’t even consider it without at least a 40% discount off list price.) More likely, though, I just make a note and then pick the disc up used when I can get it for $5 (DVD) or $10 (Blu-ray) or less. (Or during big sales periods, such as taking advantage of some of Amazon’s deals just before Christmas.) That’s how much I’m willing to pay, not $30-$50, and by waiting, I’ll get what I want at the price I think is fair, and it costs me less to see the movie at home than it would for two tickets at the theater.
Plus now, I’ve got so many stocked up that I don’t even rent any more. To see a movie I don’t want to own, I just wait for a free premium channel weekend and load up the TiVo. I’m sure all this makes me a bad customer, but I was already in that category by refusing to be manipulated by the studios’ attempts to play with release dates.
In related news, movie ticket sales are down, so ticket prices are going up. That doesn’t make sense to anyone but the companies who feel they deserve a certain level of profit. They’ll do whatever they can to get it, even if it means driving away customers and putting the business into an ever-declining death spiral. Meanwhile, normal people know that if customers aren’t buying, you either make better products or drop prices or both.
I haven’t gone out to a movie since November. I’d like to, but the film I most want to see right now isn’t playing in my city, and those that are playing don’t seem like I would enjoy them enough to justify taking an evening away from everything else I want to do. (Especially during the past month, when I spent time with friends and family instead.)