December 22, 2006
Dan Rather Reports Distributed on DVD

HDNet is planning to use cross-platform distribution to help further develop its brand identity and establish itself as an entity separate from its technology, as the network announced this week that it will be releasing a line of DVDs of its news program Dan Rather Reports.

The Dan Rather Reports DVDs are only offered in standard-definition right now, while HD versions will be available next year. Each program carries a hefty $9.99 price tag, with the first five episodes currently available.

Starting next month, there are plans in place to offer the program through the Web site by paid download as well. No news has been released as to the cost of downloading each episode.

Back in July, when the network first announced that Dan Rather was joining the HDNet team with a news series, I wrote about the ways in which HDNet was trying to build beyond the gimmick of being a high-definition network into one that provides meaningful content, now that many other names were starting to flood the HD market as well.

At the time, I wrote:

The move marks a key shift in HDNet's marketing that has been taking place, to definite itself in relation to its content and not simply the HD platform, which will see its originality wearing thin in the coming years. HDNet wants to market itself as innovative, and it is continuing to do that now by pushing that cutting-edge feel into content as well. In the press release, Cuban is quoted as saying that Rather will now be "finally released from the ratings driven and limited depth confines of broadcast television." Correspondingly, Rather says of moving to the network that "hard news needs backers who won't back down."

I think my conclusion...that "the new direction of HDNet is focused on moving its cutting-edge reputation to content, and this press release demonstrates that new attitude. In all, it's a move that HDNet needs to make now before it is forced to, in order to retain that 'cutting edge' feel" reflected in this latest decision to move their programming into other media forms.

According to James Hibberd with TelevisionWeek, "An HDNet spokesperson said the DVDs are being sold in response to a high number of viewers asking for copies of the program, which represents the longtime CBS newsman's return to the anchor desk after he departed CBS News."

While critically acclaimed, the network only has 4 million subscribers and is thus not covered by Nielsen ratings. However, Hibberd quotes Cuban as claiming that he has received more than 1,000 e-mails about the show and claims that it has driven some people to subscribe to the channel, just on the strength of that one news program.

Making the programs initially available in standard-definition, though, further separates the content from the novelty of being HD and emphasizes the strength of HDNet's programming in itself.

See a similar situation that I wrote about back in October about with Universal High-Definition trying to develop a brand identity beyond being a repository for HD content from other Universal networks.