updated 05:45 pm EST, Mon December 28, 2009
Showtime, Sony leading experiment
A symbolic change in the video industry is beginning as studios begin shipping videos ahead of their Blu-ray and DVD releases. Lionsgate-owned TV network Showtime has begun selling previously aired episodes of its show Weeds (iTunes) before their release on packaged DVDs, breaking with a tradition of often holding back on Internet releases of whole seasons or movies before physical copies appear. Many TV networks release new episodes through online services the day after airing but seldom release complete packages ahead of time.
The gesture comes several weeks after Sony began offering a movie on networked TVs about a month ahead of the retail release, though this in turn was a repeat of a smaller-scale Sony experiment a year earlier.
These and similar but lower key efforts are believed a concession to a sudden shift away from DVD, which has been a staple of the video industry for roughly a decade. During late November's Black Friday, normally a high point for movie sales, DVD sales slipped about 8 percent where Blu-ray, and now downloads, are estimated to have picked up some of the slack.
Analysts believe their alternate focuses on image quality and convenience have become greater factors in video purchasing habits, particularly for the latter. As more movies come online and Internet connections become fast enough to download full-length titles, customers are expected to avoid physical copies when possible. The sudden rush of Internet-connected Blu-ray players, TVs and networked media devices like the Apple TV, LG BD390 and Xbox 360 have also meant that significantly more would-be buyers already have a source for Internet video at their TV than even a year ago. [via Wall Street Journal, subscription required]