To Be Or Not To Be? Nets Find It May Be About The DVD

The immense popularity of DVD collections of television shows--both off-net and current ones--is altering the economics of the network TV business, providing more of an economic incentive for big broadcast networks to keep even borderline shows on their schedules, and giving them more time to engage both viewers and advertisers. That's the conclusion of an economic analysis released Tuesday by Horizon Media, a media shop that handles a number of major media accounts including some big TV networks.

With the networks now owning their own shows, it seems that "on the bubble" programs like Fox's "Arrested Development," NBC's "The Office," and ABC's "Alias" are being given a new lifeline through the ancillary revenue stream provided by DVD sales. Even buzz about whether a show like UPN's "Veronica Mars" would be introduced on DVD caused a stir among fans, and prompted the network to renew it.

Historically, while networks have been patient with slow-starting shows, like "Cheers," "Hill Street Blues," and even "Seinfeld"--and need to have enough episodes "in the can" for syndication--hopes of these shows finding a new life on DVD is a new reason to keep low-rated programs alive, said Brad Adgate, Horizon SVP, Director of Research.



"These shows might have low ratings, but they have a strong and loyal audience who are likely to purchase seasons of these shows on DVD," Adgate said. "This will be a factor in the renewal of these shows moving forward."

While allowing shows with potential to show the strength of their audience, programs that are already successful are being viewed as another alternative advertising vehicle, media buyers and network officials say.

"All of our shows are on our schedule because they've performed well and we think they're the best," said Dana McClintock, a CBS spokesman. "But it's undeniable that shows that we're currently running are flying off the shelves--'C.S.I,' 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' But while it's not necessarily a part of the upfront negotiations, I'm not surprised that media buyers might be interested in advertising on these shows' DVD releases."

The success of TV shows on DVD has not been lost on media buyers across the board, noted Steve Lanzano, executive vice president and general manager at Havas' MPG.

"It shows the power of the back-market and can provide a good added value opportunity, such as sponsorships, for advertisers. And it can create new life for old shows, beyond just syndication," Lanzano said. "Even though it's still on TV in syndication, the Seinfeld DVD packages are flying out of the stores."

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