Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Romulan plot? A ploy to start a war?

Hi, I'm Sue. I have a blue snuggie, and when I wear it, I like to pretend that I'm a wizard, and I am an Anomaly.

I, like many others, have been annoyed by current trend of "split seasons" for many genre shows. It seemed to start (although I could very well be wrong about this) with SciFi/Syfy with Farscape and the Stargate franchise. But wherever and whenever it started, it spread. Not only has this type of schedule become the norm of SyFy (Stargate Universe, Battlstar Galactica), it's spread to network television (Flash Forward, Glee, V).

The mid-season hiatus is annoying. I don't think anyone here would argue that point. But I never really understood where the networks were coming from with this plan. I'd think you stand more a chance to lose viewers if you make them wait four months for new content. And in general, people don't do things in the winter months. Sportsfans only have football and hockey. In the spring, people get busy again. They go out, they make plans, etc. There's basketball and baseball, both of which have a lot more games in their seasons than the winter sports. So, the general viewing public would have more conflicts with a show's airing scheduling in March and April, than they would in January and February, right? That's why I don't really get it. And I can't be the only one wondering what to do after Jeopardy ends because nothing is on TV - except Law & Order, of course.

Aside: If anyone knows what the networks' real reasoning behind this type of scheduling in, please let me know. I'll insert it here. I just can't figure it out, and I really would love to know. It could make good business sense for other reasons, I suppose.

But it is what it is, so... fine, whatever. We deal with it. We Hulu, and TiVo, and DVR, and whatever else, so that we can have lives and be geeks. I bet someone, somewhere, is still setting a timer on a VCR.

However, there's a new layer to this that really disturbs me. By new, I means that it's something that I hadn't really noticed before now. That phenomenon? Half-season DVD releases. I first saw this when I was trying to add Battlestar Galactica to my Netflix queue. I didn't really understand how the seasons were numbered and what was going on. Jen explained it to me (thank you, Jen!). I thought this would be something isolated, BSG-specific, because the seasons were so strange, and the hiatuses weren't on any regular or schedule, etc, etc.

And then, today, I was trying to figure out when we'd see new episodes of Stargate Universe this spring, and wound up on the SGU page on SyFy.com. There, I saw an ad informing me at Season 1.0 was being released to DVD next week... before the full season has even finished airing! And the MSRP? $49.98. For 10 episodes. What!? Does that mean that fans are expected to pay nearly $100 for a full season of Stargate Universe? This was only the second time I've seen DVDs released this way - maybe it's more common that I think - but it shouldn't be. Because that's insane. Insane! And it makes me feel like the trend in split-season scheduling is really just a ploy to get us to spend twice the money for the same content.

Let's be honest - in general (yes, that's always a dangerous phrase), sci-fi and fantasy fans tend to be smarter than average, and pretty well-educated. That leads to gainful employment, and disposable income. If SyFy continues to release television seasons in this manner, it seems to me that they're just taking advantage of their fan base and they money that said fans have to spend. Greedy.

I don't know why I'm so worked up about this. But, I don't think that I'm overreacting. If the plan really is to get $100 per 20 episodes, I know I'm not overreacting.

Sue
Anomaly Staff Writer
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5 comments:

Chris said...

Hi Sue. Half season have been on dvd since dvds started. It wasn't until much later that you could get full season sets. You were paying upwards of thirty dollars for 3 to 4 episodes. This was happening as far back as vhs. I think that the trend for mid season pauses became more important when folks stopped watching reruns. We have the same number of new shows each year, but less reruns and new series to view. So networks have larger line ups and a wider range of shows to play.

RussianOtaku said...

TrekBBS has a thread on mid-season hiatus topic (http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=111878) with one poster explaining that this was an antiquated tradition from the time when re-runs were a commonplace thing.
However I agree that this is an extremely annoying feature and I definetely forget about shows in the mid-season slump.

I come to DVD collecting from the anime market and it is the usual practice to release DVDs at a 6-10 episode arcs, rather than full seasons. This comes from a time before box sets (those were reserved for the Special Edition releases) and was used to fund the continued airing of the series. It is still in place today where it is used to fund the continued dubbing of the series. The price however seems excessive to me, since one arc DVDs in the anime world were always 19.95 or 24.95 depending on the distributor.

oparu said...

Making that few episodes cost so much doesn't make sense at all! If anything, content should be getting cheaper because more of us are buying it. Why buy that set of DVDs when you can get the episodes from itunes for cheaper?

*frowns at Syfy*

Sue said...

Wow, three comments while I wasn't at work. Chris - Obviously this isn't a researched piece, but an emotional reaction. I do remember the VHS releases, but in my experience, I didn't know too many people running out to buy them, because of the high price. I also remember when TNG was first released to DVD - it was a BIG DEAL. Seasons were priced over $100 each. Again, I didn't know too many people buying them. But at that time (10ish years ago, now?), DVDs were still relatively new to the general consumer. In the past 5ish years, as tv-to-dvd has become much more popular, seasons (around 20 45-minute episodes) have become much more affordable and stabilized to around $40-60 when released. So my big problem is that they're charging $50 for 10 episodes. Why pay that when you can get all 10 seasons of SG1 for $150? As RussianOtaku said, it's really the price that's excessive. If you're providing half the content, charge half the price. And, to Oparu's point, the market is much bigger than it used to be, to content should be getting less expensive, not more.

RussianOtaku said...

Sue,
You've hit upon a very interesting trend, that is happening to the media right now. With the advent of the digital markets, it appears the price of the content is going up, rather than obey standard business rules. We've all seen it happen to Hollywood with the rising production costs. Original Star Wars revolutionized the production technology and cost $11,000,000. Phantom Menace 30 years later revolutionized technology and cost $110,000,000 (http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/costs-movies.html)

The trend recently hit the e-books market, where McMillan has forced Amazon to let the publisher decide the price of the book instead of Amazon's standard $9.99.

DVD sales have been dropping steadily ever since Netflix. Instead of figuring out ways to capitalize on the developing trends, the Old Boys in the industry prefer to simply raise the prices in order to keep up with expected levels of profit.