Based on the Arguments set out in the last post, we have a 13-episode D2DVD TV series created by a famous showrunner and pre-sold to one overseas territory.
Now let’s take a look at the business argument.
The RRP of a Firefly box-set (a 13-episode series) is $50 for 13 episodes plus commentaries, extras, etc. (source).
Retail rule-of-thumb is that the bricks-and-mortar stores get half of that, the rest goes to the production company. Let’s knock off another fiver for the cost of production. This means, then, that we have $20 per box-set to put into the production pool.
We’d have to sell 975,000 box-sets to break even if we’re bearing the full cost.
Not gonna happen. So let’s see if we can take that down a bit.
Doctor Who releases the new series on DVD within two months of an episode airing on a vanilla release – just the episodes, no extras. Four disks with either three or four episodes on it.
This way you can dip into the series, without having to shell out fifty bucks. It also has a creative corollary: We need at least one “big bang” episode every three episodes.
OK, so what’s a reasonable price point?
If the RRP was 15 bucks, we could expect to see maybe $7.50. 15 bucks will likely get discounted to 10, so the actual cost in-store or via Amazon is three or four episodes for ten bucks. That’s a nice price-point, psychologically.
It’s very difficult to get hold of sales figures for DVDs, unfortunately. Assuming this comment is correct and 200,000 is a respectable sales figure for a $50 box set, then I think a good working figure for our sales would be 100,000 per disk.
Multiply that out by the vanilla releases and we’ve got a nice round $3 million.
Assume another 100,000 for the box set. We get twenty-five on this, so that’s two and a half million.
We’re going to pre-sell the series, given that we have a star showrunner, to at least one foreign network for $300,000 per episode. That gets us an extra 3.9 million.
Gives us a grand total of $10.4m
So we’re ten-and-a-half million short of break-even.
So in conclusion, I can’t see a method by which we could make broadcast-quality television and sell it direct to DVD. Unless the budget for the show could somehow be brought down to $750k/hour without any corresponding loss in quality.
Obviously all of these figures are guesstimates – if anyone has more accurate ones, I’d love to know.
Also, if the show is a success and racks up five series, it will go to syndication, which will change the outlook. But I can’t personally think of a production company that would be willing to take a $10.5m gamble like that.
I’d love for decent D2DVD episodic storytelling, but my first pass seems to indicate it ain’t gonna happen.