Thursday, January 05, 2012

Desperation time: Warner Bros. doubles the waiting time for DVDs

All Things Digital reports that Warner Brothers is set to double the delay between the time that DVDs and Blu-Ray discs go on sale and when they're available for rental through Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster from 28 to 56 days--almost two full months. (In a separate decision, Warner Brothers' sister division HBO has decided to stop selling DVDs to Netflix altogether, requiring the company to purchase the movies at retail price.)

Warner Brothers' plan is very likely to anger consumers but have no substantial effect on DVD sales. The reason is that consumers who are already unwilling to pay for a DVD in order to see it a month sooner aren't likely to be willing to pay for it in order to avoid a two-month delay. Under Warner Brothers' new plan, movies will hit the rental and pay-TV/video-on-demand markets at about the same time. The plan could actually backfire and lead to lower wholesale sales of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, since Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster may purchase fewer copies due to the increased competition from video-on-demand and streaming services.

Warner Brothers and other studios can't turn back the clock and can't change the economy. They might be able to make their plan work, if they make UltraViolet versions of their movies available without having to first purchase the movies on DVDs or Blu-Ray, at a reasonable price and with a much simpler process than they have today. That would make services like Warner Brothers' Flixster a real alternative to Netflix, rather than an ill-conceived tool for decreasing piracy.
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