I used to love collecting TV seasons on DVD almost as much as collecting movies on DVD. But what the movie discs always added, things like commentary and behind the scenes docs, the TV discs completely lacked. After season 1, what’s left to say? We know how the show got made, why people got cast as they did, what a pain in the ass it was to get the pilot produced, the re-casting that occurred after the pilot. Extra content was hard to come by.
For crying out loud, the most recent season of Dexter’s special features included episodes of other Showtime programs. Those are ads, not bonus features.
A movie on DVD is easy. It’s a single thing, the story exists in that movie and that movie alone (usually). I don’t have to pop in the next five discs just to get to episode 22 where I find out that House is still a drug addict or that Jack is still really angry about something. In order to re-watch a TV series, especially a serialized one, I have to re-watch the entire thing. Very few shows exists that I enjoy watching single episodes of.
I recently spent the last few weeks selling all my old TV on DVD sets, even the ones I had the complete series for, simply because I wasn’t watching them. As I packaged each one and put it into the mail box, I realized how much money I spent on the set, and how useless of a purchase it really was.
What’s worse is that it’s easier to buy full DVD sets than rent them, regardless of what service you use. It’s been that way since the dawn of renting, and it sucks because you’re forced rent out the sets one DVD at a time. But if you buy it, and you dislike the show, you’re screwed. It’s a lose/lose on all fronts.
This isn’t to say that television shouldn’t be available for home consumption after shows air, but the physical DVD market is pointless.
Netflix (despite Robert Fure’s very true rant), Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, these are the places to view new-to-me televison. It’s a fraction of the cost, and viewers don’t have to buy physical discs only to question why they bothered. No special features on digital downloads, but no one cares. Anyone looking to catch up on a show is doing so for the show itself and nothing more. Commentary is fun and all, but it wouldn’t be missed if it weren’t there for every episode, and besides, we’re close to the days when things like commentary will be available on digital downloads for television as well as film. The tech is there, it just has to be implemented.
Also, let’s not forget that people don’t watch TV the way they used to. Many of them purchase things like season passes from iTunes and Amazon to download the episodes the next day. Once they do that, they don’t need the DVDs at all.
The bottom line? The price alone is worth the inevitable switch. A brand new DVD (not even Blu-ray) box set of Sons of Anarchy Season 3 costs $34. However on iTunes, for the full season, in HD, it costs $29.99. $5 less for a higher quality item.
Or how about a series like The Walking Dead? A brand new DVD (again, not Blu-ray) of Season 1 costs $14.99 on Amazon, or you can get the season, in HD, from Amazon for $13.99 digitally. Once again, less money, better quality.
Triumphantly for the new model, we can still watch those digital sources on a television. Apple Airplay, Google TV, Apple TV, Roku, internet television sets…all these things allow you to watch media on your television sets, completely maintaining the integrity of the original viewing experience.
It’s no secret that hard disk media is slowly going the way of the dodo, but there’s simply no need for it in TV anymore. Movies, maybe, but not TV. The sooner the broadcast and cable companies realize this, the better off all of us will be.
To listen to the latest episode of Merrill’s TV Podcast, The Idiot Boxers with Kevin Carr, head over to Fat Guys at the Movies.