Today's DVD question: Is it better to be a renter or an owner?

That's something Hollywood has struggled with since the first VHS tapes hit the market a quarter of a century ago. In those days, movies were priced sky-high because there was a small market for sales; the "sell-through" market (priced to own movies) grew ever-so-slowly until it became the norm with the rise of DVDs. But rental always was the foundation for the market: Witness the rise of Netflix.

But those days may be over.

According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, "In an effort to push consumers toward buying more movies, some major film studios are considering a new policy that would block DVDs from being offered for rental until several weeks after going on sale." Today's DVD question: Is it better to be a renter or an owner?

That's something Hollywood has struggled with since the first VHS tapes hit the market a quarter of a century ago. In those days, movies were priced sky-high because there was a small market for sales; the "sell-through" market (priced to own movies) grew ever-so-slowly until it became the norm with the rise of DVDs. But rental always was the foundation for the market: Witness the rise of Netflix.

But those days may be over.

According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, "In an effort to push consumers toward buying more movies, some major film studios are considering a new policy that would block DVDs from being offered for rental until several weeks after going on sale."

The rise of Redbox and the continued strong growth of Netflix and cable VOD has put dents into the studios bottom lines; in this economic recession, they're seen DVD sales tumble while rentals have grown at a startling pace (the studios get a lower chunk of revenue from rentals then sales). The solution, according to the Times, is a plan in which "new DVD releases would be available on a purchase-only basis for a few weeks, after which time companies such as Blockbuster Inc. and Netflix Inc. would be allowed to rent the DVDs to their customers."

The studios hope that a sales-only window will turn rental consumers into buyers. That must come as a shock to one of the studios, Paramount, which recently introduced a staggered release strategy, delaying DVD sales of such films as 'Dance Flick,' Eddie Murphy's 'Imagine That' and the upcoming 'Wrong Turn at Tahoe' for a month to boost rentals of those titles (but Paramount hedged their bets and offered day-and-date sales/rentals of Blu-ray versions of the films).

In any case, once Hollywood gets its mind set on something (like sequels) it's hard to stop the Juggernaut. And, according to the Times, "people close to the situation at several studios confirmed that such plans were under consideration and probably would take effect next year."
CATEGORIES Movies, DVDs