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June 23, 2006

Weeds successful in iTunes and DVD Sales

For those who have not already read this story on Paid Content, the latest news in examining the success of online distribution of television shows comes from Weeds, the Showtime situation comedy which features a single mother who must sell marijuana to support her family.

The show, produced by Lion's Gate, has produced an income of more than $600,000 on iTunes at this point, yet producers reveal that the show is providing high numbers (pun intended) in pre-orders for the DVD of the first season.

This success is leading to Lion's Gate further expandng their online distribution options, in addition to iTunes. So far, the company has found that these online sales are not cutting into DVD distribution, which means at this point that there is no downside to online distribution and that, with TV shows on DVD, at least, there is still a value to owning the actual official DVD set of the show.

As more companies seem to be finding this lesson to be the case, iTunes will likely continue getting a substantial influx of television programming and producers will be a little less scared of providing its content through even more media platforms.

The lesson seems suprrising yet full of common sense at the same time. After all, DVDs sets of television shows are expensive--it comes as no surprise that they are for collectors in particular. And those collectors may be well willing to pay to download episodes to see them early and still purchase the DVD set. Again, it all hinges on creating a quality product that people will want to own and/or finding a niche audience willing to pay first for convience of viewing and later for collecting purposes.

Coming from a wrestling standpoint, a similar phenomenon is when wrestling fans are willing to buy a wrestling pay-per-view program live as it happens for $40 and then buy the DVD of the same event a month later. Sure, there are plenty of fans who don't buy the DVD and wouldn't under any circumstances, and there are some that wait until the DVD comes out and who care less about the exclusivity, but the two products appeal to different types of customers--and many customers fall in both camps--and thus really do not compete with one another.

Instead, by providing its products in multiple arenas, the companies seem to be reaching more customers by providing their products in ways that are convenient for different types of consumers. Basically, a show like Weeds has a large group of potential consumers. The Showtime airing of the weekly show would not reach many of these people who do not have timeshifting capabilities and who cannot watch it when it's on or who do not pay to have Showtime. Those who do timeshift may never find the program unless they watch Showtime often enough to see promotions for the program.

By making the product available on DVD and online, the producers have been able to expand the Weeds fan base considerably, not hamper their own sales. Sure, customers are not willing to buy the same product over and over again, but a show downloaded from iTunes and a show to collect on DVD are vastly different products, even if they are two releases of the same programming.

Thanks to David Edery for passing this along as well.

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