My Two Cents
Tuesday, 12 November 2013 16:50

A Message to Studios & Retailers: BD Content Exclusives Have Gotten Out of Hand

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All right, in the wake of our report from a few months ago on Paramount’s out-of-control retail exclusives on the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray release (which quickly went viral around the Net and ultimately even inspired a Forbes piece), a follow-up post on this issue here at The Bits was inevitable.  Because the truth is, most of the Hollywood studios are involved in the practice of giving retailers special “exclusive” BD content they can advertise as “only available here!”  In fact, this has been going on for years.  [Read on here...]

But in the last year or so, it just seems to have gotten way out of hand.  The practice used to be limited to one or two small featurettes given to one retailer on the occasional title.  Now it’s huge chunks of content (30 minutes, 60 minutes – in some cases even 90 minutes!) being given to multiple retailers per title on most major new release titles.

There is ONE complaint we hear more than any other from Bits readers, and we seriously hear it multiple times a day, almost every single day: Blu-ray fans are sick to death of all these retail content exclusives.

The latest culprit is Warner Home Video’s Man of Steel Blu-ray (note that our review of the Blu-ray has been updated to reflect this information).  I awoke this morning to find an e-mail inbox filled with an onslaught of messages from Bits readers angry about the release.  Here’s the problem:  Lots of people are buying the premium Blu-ray or Blu-ray 3D SKU on Amazon (or whatever their preferred retailer may be) expecting to get a premium content experience for their money.  But instead they’re discovering that if you buy the same title at Walmart, it’s got two exclusive featurettes – The Iconic Characters of Man of Steel (20 min) and The Sonic Landscape of Man of Steel (13 min).  Now... if you’re a fan of Man of Steel and you’ve just purchased the highest-priced version of the title hoping to dig into tons of great special edition material, it’s frustrating as hell to find out that – unless you buy a second copy at Walmart – you don’t even get all of the special feature content you were hoping for.  It gets worse:  Target has an exclusive Blu-ray version too that includes five more featurettes – under the heading X-Ray Vision (31 min total) – only available there. 

So now, if you want everything, you’re faced with the choice of potentially having to buy TWO versions of the same title, while possibly returning your original Amazon copy, which had none of the exclusive content.  Not only does that suck the joy out of the experience of pre-ordering, anticipating and enjoying your new special edition Blu-ray copy of Man of Steel, but more and more of our readers tell us that they’re simply choosing not to buy the Blu-ray at all.  Many of them are opting to just rent the film digitally instead, and wait for the inevitable Super Deluxe Special Edition Blu-ray they all know is coming a year or two down the line anyway, that will hopefully have all the content.

In other words, more and more often, Hollywood is giving its best, most avid and enthusiastic Blu-ray consumers good reasons NOT to buy Blu-ray product.

This is happening on almost every major title now: Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, World War Z, Pain & Gain, Monsters University and on and on.  I’d be willing to bet good money that someone at Warner tried very hard to split up the extras on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Extended Edition, but thank goodness it didn’t happen (and I’d further be willing to bet money that it was director Peter Jackson who wisely stopped it from happening).

We understand that the studios want to make their retail partners feel special.  And we understand that retailers want to offer their customers special product perks and incentives for being loyal.  And we can tell you that our readers actually don’t mind some retail exclusives.  Give them exclusive Steelbook packaging, an exclusive poster, booklet, prop replica, action figure, badge or statuette?  No problem!  That’s awesome.  But when you take actual disc-based special edition content and scatter it to the winds – and what’s more make it difficult for Blu-ray consumers to even find out about it until they walk into the store on street date – that really, really pisses them off.

Ultimately, those of you making the home video decisions at the Hollywood studios need to remember something that’s very important and seems to have been forgotten of late:  Walmart, Best Buy, Target, iTunes – they’re great retail partners but they’re not the end user or ultimate consumer of your product.  And if you keep alienating your best consumers, sooner or later it’s going to bite you in the ass.

Look... I’m sure some of these big new release BD titles sell well regardless.  But regularly pissing off your very best customers seems like a terrible way to do business.

- Bill Hunt

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