'Sons of Anarchy,' DVDs and the tight release window
The other day on the podcast, special guest co-host Mo Ryan and I got to talking about the new season of "Sons of Anarchy," and about whether viewers needed to see both of the first two seasons to appreciate the third, or if they could perhaps get by with just the second. (I'm more of a completist, whereas Mo felt newbies would be okay with starting at season two to save time.) Then Mo asked a question I've heard frequently:
Why are TV-on-DVD box sets usually issued so close to premiere of that show's next season?
The "Sons" season two set, for instance, is a swell package, with all 13 episodes, deleted scenes, two featurettes (including Kurt Sutter and the cast answering viewer questions) and commentaries on some key episodes like "Balm." If you like the show - or if you're intrigued enough by all the rave reviews from people like me - it's well worth having on your shelf. But it came out only a week before season three was set to debut, not leaving much of a chance for Mo's hypothetical new viewer to catch up before the new episodes began.
I said that I thought the DVDs were viewed as a marketing tool for the show - that people would see them on the shelves at their local big box store, and either buy them or simply make a mental note to watch the new season. And while putting the release so close to the new season debut doesn't make it easy to catch up, it does keep the title fresh in people's minds.
As it turns out, I got it backwards, according to FX president John Landgraf.
"The studio wants to piggy back on the show’s marketing for the subsequent season," Landgraf explained to us after the podcast. "They need to place and sell a bunch of DVD’s quickly and that seems to work for them if they go right around premiere. We’ve tried putting out seasons earlier so that people have more time to catch up in the off season ("Damages" & "The Riches") and it didn’t seem to work for either the show or the DVD sales."
So now you know. And now I need to go listen to Sutter, Katey Sagal and company talk about "Balm."