Extra, Extra: VOD Special Additions

10/05/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

The enormous popularity of DVDs has not gone unnoticed by Hollywood content players and cable MSOs in the VOD space.

Eager to make sure video-on-demand content is as compelling as possible, MSOs and In Demand are always on the lookout for extra VOD-type content that will cause consumers to buy VOD movies.

In June, Universal Studios worked with Comcast on an elaborate promotion for 8 Mile
that included music videos of Eminem and other music stars, along with extra content for VOD movie buyers.

'Angels' add-ons

In December, Sony Corp. will get into the act with Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. In addition to the movie, DVD-type extras will include a music video by Pink, 13 minutes of bonus footage from the "Making of …" piece that was not included on the DVD and even a full unrated version of the PG-13 movie.

That version is not considered an "R" or NC-17 version, In Demand said, but it does contain a few more adult innuendoes that were cut to make sure the film received a PG-13 rating.

Despite these two high-profile efforts, cable and studio sources said there are number of issues that require addressing before more DVD-type content shows up on cable VOD systems.

One issue is the interface and how all the DVD-type material will appear on VOD platforms.

Operators have to figure out whether each new piece of material is part of the main movie, or a standalone asset on the server. If it's a standalone asset, the content has to be synchronized with the guide to make sure consumers can find the material.

SeaChange's VODLink is designed just to handle such content. SeaChange is in tests with Insight Communications and is talking to Hollywood studios about getting content.

But operators would like to make sure navigation on VOD for DVD-type content is just as easy as what consumers are used to with DVDs, if not easier.

Rights issues

That means MSOs, guide and server vendors need to work together to create a user-friendly setup.

Time Warner Cable has a category called "Extras" where it places such content.

A second issue is clearing rights. Most producers, actresses and actors dealt with DVD rights several years ago, but VOD is a relatively recent phenomenon.

It's not that rights are hard to secure, it's a matter of making sure those clearances are included in initial production contracts, according to In Demand.

"Most studios aren't opposed to do it," said Sergei Kuharsky, senior vice president, marketing for In Demand. "But the current rights have been done with DVD in mind." Whether the rights stay with the studio, producer, actor or actress is sometimes a jumbled mess. "It runs the gamut and depends on the movie," Kuharsky said.

"We're playing catchup ball, and it's a matter of putting in rights from the beginning," the In Demand executive said. "It will take a year or two, but we will catch up."

Another issue concerns the internal debate in Hollywood over what makes DVDs sell. Hollywood has been pleasantly surprised by the sell-through DVD market, and it's now big money for the studios.

What makes those sales numbers so strong is the perceived value that consumers are getting something extra for the $17 to $20 they plunk down for a DVD. How many people truly watch some or all the extra features is another matter.

But there is a concern that Hollywood may not rush to duplicate everything that's on a DVD in the VOD window, in order to protect that revenue stream, since sales of DVD dwarf VOD/PPV revenue.

Kuharsky suggested that over time studios would place content on different platforms. For example, cable soon will be able to store HDTV content on VOD servers. "That's the ultimate high-end experience," Kuharsky said.

At the same time, operators do have server constraints. "How much of it is worth it?" Kuharsky asks rhetorically, especially as some DVD features may get little or no viewing. "How much server space do you rake up if it's not being used?"

Some movies contain tens of hours of extra content. "How do you put 20 hours of extra content within a 24-hour viewing window?" he asked.

Still, In Demand and operators are hungry for any content that can help differentiate their platform. It's not easy for DBS operators to carry extra DVD-type content.

Jamie McCabe, senior vice president, worldwide PPV and VOD at Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., said Fox will occasionally offer some extra footage that's not available on home video for use with PPV and VOD.

Some of that content works well in PPV, to help fill out, say, a 120-minute block that contains a 95-minute movie.

'X-Men 2' plus 11

The Fox release of X-Men 2
later this year will have an 11-minute extra footage piece taken from a longer DVD piece, McCabe said. "We want to get stuff that's unique," McCabe said.

Fox is careful about how much DVD-type content moves to VOD. Besides the issue of differentiation, McCabe said Fox is concerned about confusing consumers with what exactly VOD is. "We think there is tremendous amount of misunderstanding about VOD," he said.

In some cases, the number of PPV buys for a movie equals the number of VOD buys for that same movie — indicating there is much consumer education needed on VOD.

McCabe also worries that if every VOD movie carries DVD type "extras" the uniqueness of that product begins to fade, lowering the overall value proposition.

Some movies have natural tie-ins that can work on VOD as was the case with Universal's 8 Mile. Universal's 40-minute music-video showcase built around Eminem helped seal VOD purchases and also helped to sell a CD from Universal Music.

"When we started working on the VOD campaign for 8 Mile, we knew we wanted to do something special," Universal Studios senior vice president of worldwide VOD and pay-per-view Holly Leff-Pressman said.

Operators will likely continue taking all the DVD-type content they can get their hands to continue to try to drive VOD as a mainstream medium.

2003 VOD/PPV DVD Extras
Movie DVD Extras
SOURCE: In Demand
8 MileMusic videos of 50 Cent plus 8 Mile Shady Showcase (exclusive to VOD)
Red DragonBehind-the-scenes footage
Ghost ShipBonus footage not shown in theaters
Die Another Day Collector's edition DVD of all Bond Films' trailers' available to VOD/PPV buyers only
About Schmidt15-20 minutes of deleted scenes
Cradle 2 the Grave11-minute video compilation featuring DMX
Bowling for Columbine20-minute interview with Michael Moore
2 Fast 2 FuriousMusic videos with Ludacris
Down with LoveMusic video with Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellwenger
Charlie's Angels: Full ThrottlePink music video; unrated version of film, 13-minute "making of" video
28 Days LaterAlternate theatrical ending

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!