Home Entertainment 2024 — Transactional: PVOD, Collectors and Launch Parties

A growing number of studio executives and other industry observers say they believe transactional home entertainment — the traditional, a la carte method of bringing a movie or show into the home, either to watch or to own — may be in the early stages of a resurgence.

The realization that subscription streaming is not sustainable on its own has prompted studios to take a second look at what was once the primary “second window” for movies fresh off their theatrical runs, and the result is that more and more films are being released for digital or physical purchase or rental before they are handed off to the streaming services.

SEE ALSO: Home Entertainment 2024, Part 1 – Streaming: Bundling, Ads, Reruns and Live Sports

Through much of 2022, as the world was still grappling with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner, Disney and Paramount were still releasing the majority of their films to their streaming services on the same day as their traditional home entertainment release. Today, all three studios have brought back windows. New theatrical movies are typically available transactionally several weeks before their subscription streaming debuts.

Bob Buchi

“It’s about maximizing the content life cycle through windowing, just as it’s always been,” said Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment,

At Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, division president Michael Bonner notes that both The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Oppenheimer “yielded new benchmarks in digital and physical, demonstrating some of the highest transactional performance levels across the business that we have seen this year. The performance of The Super Mario Bros. Movie was especially standout, earning more digital revenue than any other theatrically released Universal movie ever. Results for Oppenheimer’s 4K Ultra HD release were equally notable, currently tracking in its debut window to be Universal’s biggest-selling 4K title of all time.”

David Decker, president of content sales at Warner Bros. Discovery, also said his division “had a successful 2023, driven by Barbie‘s ‘pink wave’ and the health of the WBD catalog, and punctuated by our ‘WB 100th Anniversary’ promotion. We are finishing the year with digital sales up over pre-pandemic levels.”

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Digital Deluge

Given the higher margins of digital releases — and fewer headaches because there are no manufacturing or shipping costs, not to mention returns — studios in 2023 began focusing on making films available for digital sale or rental much sooner than in the past, often at a premium price. This past year has seen a significant uptick in premium video-on-demand, or PVOD, releases, with films fresh from their theatrical runs becoming available to rent or buy at higher prices as early as 18 days after their big-screen debuts before the price is lowered to the standard transactional price of $5.99 for a rental and $19.99 for a sale. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Trolls Band Together, for example, was released Dec. 19 — just one month after its theatrical debut — at a rental price of $19.99 and a purchase price of $29.99. Six days earlier, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour was released for digital rental only at $19.89, also by UPHE, about 60 days after it opened in theaters — still much shorter than the traditional 90-day window.

Michael Bonner

Even Apple allowed its high-profile film Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese, to be released via PVOD prior to its debut on Apple TV+.

UPHE’s Bonner said 2023 “reinforced our view of the importance of the home entertainment category, led by some impressive title successes across both premium and traditional windows. When studios release titles under a compressed window framework that includes an exclusive home entertainment offering, consumer engagement for transactional formats is very strong.”

Taking Aim at Collectors

The disc business, meanwhile, continues to decline, kept alive by a growing reliance on the collector market and a hope among some for a vinyl-like resurgence.

“Initially, the disc market was driven by families with kids,” said one insider. “Now, the business is being driven by collectors, as evidenced by continued year-over-year growth in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray sales.”

Still, 2023 was a tough year for the disc business, with total consumer spending this year expected to come at less than $2 billion — less than 10% of what consumers spent on DVDs and Blu-ray Discs in the peak year of 2006.

In early September, Ingram Entertainment, once the largest distributor of physical home entertainment product, announced it is getting out of the DVD and Blu-ray Disc business. “Expenses are exceeding sales [so it’s] time to exit,” chairman and CEO David Ingram told Media Play News. Later that month, Netflix shut its legacy disc-rental business and let customers keep whatever discs they had out. And in October, the Best Buy retail chain announced it would exit the DVD and Blu-ray Disc business beginning in the first quarter of 2024.

But things may be looking up for the disc, which once was such a crucial revenue stream that DVD sales projections were factored into the movie greenlighting process.

The streaming services’ content purge may prompt more consumers to consider a la carte options, studio insiders say. And the tendency of digital purchases to sometimes disappear from consumer libraries — a hurdle in getting more people to shell out $20 for a digital movie — may also drive disc purchases.

Critics contend a primary reason disc sales are in a protracted slump is studio indifference. They say the number of theatrical catalog releases has plummeted in recent years, paving the way for pirates. And while fresh new theatrical films continue to be released on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD, special features are becoming increasingly scarce while quality issues abound.

“The studios have checked out,” said industry analyst Ralph Tribbey, who has been tracking discs sales through his DVD & Blu-ray Disc Release Report since DVD was launched in 1997.

But that’s not entirely true. Paramount continues to create collectible disc offerings for a wide array of titles in its vast and storied library, such as a deluxe anniversary package with hours of bonus content for Titanic, new additions to its acclaimed Paramount Presents line such as Terms of Endearment, and newly remastered 4K Ultra HD releases of classics from Roman Holiday to The Truman Show.

Demand for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Oppenheimer was so great that retailers were running out of copies, prompting Universal Pictures Home Entertainment to issue a statement promising to “replenish those retailers quickly so fans can watch the film at home in the best picture quality possible.” Meanwhile, retail-exclusive editions of the film commanded big prices on the secondary market, with Best Buy’s 4K Steelbook edition of the film listed on eBay at an average asking price of well over $100.

And then there’s Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, the latest name for The Walt Disney Co.’s home entertainment operation. The division made headlines in August when it announced it is exiting the disc business in Australia. But just days later, Disney announced plans to roll out several of its popular Disney+ series, including “The Mandalorian,” “WandaVision” and “Loki,” as “Collector’s Edition” 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray Discs in Steelbook packaging.

Since then, Disney has packaged 100 of its animated films into a massive Blu-ray Disc boxed set retailing for $1,500 and issued Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first of its iconic animated classics, on 4K Ultra HD.

David Decker

WBD’s David Decker says the physical business “continues to represent a meaningful portion of our transactional revenue, and WBD remains committed to the category. We will keep reaching casual consumers and avid fans where and how they want our content: from best-in-class 4K Blu-rays to remastered and re-released films on 4K UHD from our 100-year library of titles.”

Independent film distributors such as Ed Seaman, CEO of MVD Entertainment Group, also see opportunity ahead.

“In disc sales, as studios and brick-and-mortar retailers continue to bail, the opportunity grows for both independent distribution and retail/e-commerce,” Seaman said. “Savvy dealers will pick up more and more great movies and shows and feed the strong demand for the end user, who has a huge appetite for collectible content.”

Keeping the Party Going

Studios have also resumed a practice that subsided years ago when streaming became the dominant form of home entertainment consumption: gala release parties celebrating the disc debut of high-profile new theatrical films.

Disney in January 2023 threw a release party for journalists and social-media influencers to promote the Blu-ray Disc release of the thriller The Menu. The party was held at the Blockbuster pop-up on trendy Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles and included as guests stars Aimee Carrero, Arturo Castro and Mark St. Cyr. Guests enjoyed drinks that they could order by presenting bartenders with an appropriately labeled Blockbuster videocassette box and “well-made” cheeseburgers from Irv’s Burgers, the historic West Hollywood burger stand.

In September, Disney hosted a dance party at the California Science Center in Los Angeles to celebrate the digital and disc release that day of the live-action feature The Little Mermaid.

And November saw two disc release parties. To promote the DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD release of Oppenheimer, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment held a screening of a making-of documentary, introduced by director Christopher Nolan, at the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood. And over in Venice Beach, Disney held a “Haunting in Venice … Beach!” party for A Haunting in Venice, highlighted by trivia for Agatha Christie and murder mystery fans, typewriter poets who wrote on-the-spot personalized poems for partygoers, and sessions with medium Christina Engelhardt.

Lastly, Paramount Home Entertainment in December held a party at Pizzeria Mozza to celebrate the 4K and Blu-ray Disc release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Guests included filmmakers Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver and Jeff Rowe.

Distribution Issues

One big development on the disc front that occurred in 2023 is word that Walmart, the biggest physical retailer of DVD and Blu-ray Disc with a market share of 45%, is looking to consolidate distribution through Studio Distribution Services (SDS), the joint venture formed by Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. back in April 2021 to sell and distribute DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs in North America. The venture is headed by Eddie Cunningham, a former president of UPHE, a steadfast champion of physical media.

Eddie Cunningham

Cunningham is calling for the elimination of the window — typically two weeks — between a film’s digital release and its physical release, a practice instituted more than a decade ago by the studios in the hopes of jump-starting the electronic sellthrough, or EST, business.

“I do think it is time to closely align disc and EST release dates,” Cunningham said. “While it was clearly the right decision to give EST a short window in the early formative, and massive growth, stages of that developing business, both EST and disc are now mature businesses. I would now let the consumer decide how they want to view content in home entertainment. I believe many of studio our partners are looking at this issue objectively and that we will see some significant movement in that direction in 2024.”

Speaking privately, studio executives say the key obstacle to such a move is one of logistics. Since so many new films are being released through PVOD, there simply isn’t enough time to prepare a disc release on the same day. Traditionally, films come to home entertainment about three months after their theatrical bow; with PVOD, the window can be as short as 18 days.

But Cunningham maintains that at the very least the window should be eliminated between a film’s disc and standard digital release, “where materials can be prepared early enough to work through the much more complex compression and authoring, manufacturing, and distribution challenges unique to the disc business.”

Prospects for 2024

Looking ahead, studio executives are looking at the transactional business with guarded optimism for 2024, particularly on the PVOD front.

 “We expect that extended studio and retailer support of early availability, in addition to strong consumer demand for accelerated theatrical-to-home releases, will continue to fuel meaningful growth of the premium window, offsetting the decline of physical and delivering significant value to the home entertainment ecosystem,” said UPHE’s Bonner.

Adam Frank

“We are seeing strong growth in the transactional marketplace across new releases as well as the weekly and monthly catalog run rate for our own business,” said Adam Frank, EVP of global partner management, sales and distribution for Lionsgate. “The industry is moving away from release-strategy fragmentation as studios prioritize a healthy ‘free-and-clear’ transactional window post-theatrical. This trend should lead to higher engagement from our core transactional audience and an influx of new consumers.”

Paramount’s Bob Buchi agrees. “We know that fans still love to own and collect their favorite films and television shows, which is why we continue to support the physical disc business,” he said. “At the same time, we live in an increasingly digital world so we are exploring some enticing and novel ways to augment both the collectability and gift-ability of digital content. There are exciting developments on the horizon, and just as the home entertainment industry has always done, we will continue to evolve and adapt to changing technologies and consumer behavior.”

Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Decker said that in 2024, WBD is looking to build “on our 2023 momentum. We have exciting new releases coming with titles such as Dune 2, Furiosa (the “Mad Max” prequel) and Beetlejuice 2.”

Decker added that he believes windowing of new releases “is finding its footing. Barbie had one of the biggest premium windows of the year, and the release strategy also helped the film’s historic box office success. We will evolve our strategy in 2024 with more data-driven analysis, working closely with our colleagues at WB Pictures and Max on each individual title. We are relentlessly focused on getting these incredible movies in front of as many people as possible, through the best possible viewing experiences, and at price points that satisfy consumer demands. For us, Barbie said it best: ‘It is the best day ever. So was yesterday, and so is tomorrow and every day from now until forever.’”

Looking Ahead: Lessons From the Pandemic to Guide 2022 Home Entertainment Strategies

The uncertainty over the COVID-19 surge triggered by the emergence of the Omicron variant has made any and all predictions for the coming year suspect. Life could go back to normal fairly quickly or we will continue to battle surges and adjust our lives accordingly. Most observers don’t see us going back to the draconian shutdowns and lockdowns of the early days of the virus, but studio executives and exhibitors are understandably nervous about the current and any future surges since theatrical attendance could suffer — which ultimately affects everyone down the food chain.

The home entertainment business weathered the initial COVID crisis quite well, with streaming growing stronger and transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) winning a premium first-run window. That said, there are several “givens” as 2022 gets underway.

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Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and the other high-profile streamers will continue to battle for dominance, with Netflix doing everything in its power to reduce churn and not lose market share. The second tier of SVOD players, including Paramount+ and Peacock, will make as much noise as possible to win a seat at the table — as evidenced by Peacock’s recent announcement that it will be streaming the winter Olympics in their entirety.

On the transactional side, a lot depends on the fate of movie theaters as this pandemic lumbers on. The early pandemic led to an overall shortening of windows and new-release strategies that ultimately benefited both home entertainment divisions and digital retailers such as Vudu by Fandango, Redbox On Demand, Microsoft and Google Play.

Jim Wuthrich

But while TVOD, and physical media, benefit from shorter windows, it is also impacted by studios accelerating, or re-ordering, SVOD windows. A film available as part of an all-you-can-watch subscription streaming service simply isn’t going to sell or rent nearly as well as it would if there was no “free” competition. And that plays into the bigger picture that the more consumers tune in to SVOD services, the less likely they are to purchase or rent something a la carte.

Jim Wuthrich, president of content distribution for WarnerMedia, says he’s “optimistic that we’ll continue to adapt to the changing nature of COVID and learn to live with it.”

“Although there are many challenges, we’ve learned how to be productive with a distributed workforce, productions are largely back and there’s more consumer choice than ever before — both in amount of content and ways to view,” he says. “It’s a great time to be a fan of linear storytelling. We will continue to improve and expand HBO Max to more markets, while providing a la carte options for fans and collectors. SVOD services will continue to dominate viewing time, with transactional supporting a vital role in discovery, sampling and fandom. Physical media (4K/Blu-ray/DVD) continues to be a meaningful market, with approximately $2 billion in U.S. consumer sales, and largely immune to evolving distribution patterns.”

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On the WarnerMedia side, Wuthrich says, “We have a great movie slate, with four DC films coming to theaters and another installment of ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ We also have a number of series releasing, including the new ‘House of the Dragon,’ a ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel. History has shown these franchises to be powerhouses in driving catalog sales so we are looking forward to a great year.”

Michael Bonner

“Similarly to 2021, we expect a very healthy home entertainment market in 2022, with strong consumer engagement across multiple business models,” says Michael Bonner, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Release patterns will likely continue to fluctuate and vary across studios on a title-by-title basis.   

“With the theatrical marketplace continuing to strengthen, the growth of PVOD and the expansion of various SVOD services, the distribution landscape is stronger than ever. As we look ahead, studios have more options and outlets to create value and reach consumers which strengthens our ability to continue investing in great content.”

Bonner maintains that Universal, with its slate of anticipated new releases including Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Downton Abbey: A New Era, “is perfectly positioned to draw audiences back into theaters and fuel further transactional growth across the varying windows and platforms.”

Paramount Home Entertainment president Bob Buchi says that “as the global hub for transactional home entertainment across ViacomCBS, our division is exceedingly fortunate and singularly focused on delivering an extraordinary 2022 line-up of the company’s theatrical and television content, as well as third-party acquisitions through our extensive partnerships.”

Bob Buchi

“Our theatrical slate includes new entries in wildly popular franchises, including ‘Scream,’ ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ and ‘Jackass,’ which are not only highly anticipated, but also provide excellent opportunities to stoke fan interest in the earlier films and television shows available through home entertainment,” he says.

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On the catalog front, Buchi adds, the division’s most ambitious initiatives are the year-long 50th anniversary salute to The Godfather, “for which we anticipate massive consumer excitement for the film’s return to theaters, new 4K home entertainment releases, and licensed merchandise,” and the first-time-on-4K director’s edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, “with fantastic new VFX, which will be released first on Paramount+ and then on home entertainment platforms.”

Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment for Fandango, which oversees the Vudu digital retailer, also has high hopes for the new year.

“We expect the TVOD sector to deliver even more value to consumers, as fans sort through a fragmented streaming world, looking for a one-stop-shop entertainment service for movies and TV,” he says. “Because subscription services, by their nature, cater to specific audiences and content offerings, we continue to see consumers utilizing the flexibility, depth and breadth of Vudu’s new release and catalog offering of over 200,000 titles to complement their monthly entertainment needs.”

Cameron Douglas

Douglas says Vudu “is working hard to expand our catalog every day. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity, as we continue to secure new and previously unavailable titles. There’s a variety of titles where digital rights were originally unsecured, but with the demand increasing, there’s more pressure than ever to make these films available for fans to stream at home. We pride ourselves on providing the best quality of experience and we are always working to create a bigger, better home entertainment experience for our customers. We want to be that place where fans can find every beloved movie and show they desire.”

At the top of Vudu’s agenda for the coming year, Douglas says, are plans “to innovate new services for our customers and add new platforms and devices to meet the fan demand in an ever-changing marketplace. We also plan to offer deeper integration with our sister sites, Rotten Tomatoes, for entertainment discovery, recommendation and curated content, and Fandango for crossover promotional opportunities to help enhance the theatrical experience. With our entertainment lifecycle marketing strategy, we look forward to helping new and returning partners more effectively and efficiently reach high-value entertainment audiences at scale.”

The big challenge for home entertainment executives in the coming year is to apply lessons they learned during the pandemic and react quickly to market conditions.

Paramount’s Bob Buchi says that “with two years of experimentation and the expedited evolution of our business, we know we need to remain agile in our windowing and co-promotional strategies as we continue to support the return to theaters and the rapid growth of our streaming service, Paramount+.”

Adam Frank

Adam Frank, SVP of global digital sales and distribution at Lionsgate, says what happens at the box office will trickle down into all aspects of home entertainment.

“Our expectation, given the quality and quantity of the theatrical release slate, is that box office sees significant increase and momentum in 2022 vs. 2021,” Frank said. “The old adage of content is king still rings true, and with more product in the marketplace, consumers will ultimately have more choices and more opportunities in the home entertainment space.”

Jed Grossman, EVP and GM of worldwide sales and distribution at Lionsgate, adds, “We expect all business segments — transactional digital, packaged media, SVOD and AVOD/FAST — to grow year-over-year driven by five key factors:

    • A more robust theatrical release schedule, inclusive of major tentpoles and franchises like ‘Jurassic World,’ ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Black Panther’ that were delayed during the pandemic. Lionsgate has a strong slate that includes Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, starring Nicolas Cage; Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret; and White Bird, among others; 
    • A more viable theatrical marketplace, with theater-going comfort increasing as vaccine/booster shot rates increase and tentpoles drive attendance;
    • The continued unprecedented demand for new release and library product from SVOD and AVOD/FAST platforms. Lionsgate has achieved record library revenue over the past year;
    • The ability to capitalize on home entertainment consumer behavior, consumer content thirst and technology enhancements — across all offer types — as accelerated by the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and early 2021; and 
    • Continued collaboration with our theatrical exhibition partners to release films with dynamic windows to meet demand across all platforms.”
Jed Grossman

For independent film distributors, don’t expect much variance in 2022 from established policies of continuing to take aim at the collector and niche markets, particularly on the physical media side.

“For disc sales, MVD and our label partners are focusing on collectible content in deluxe packaging,” says Ed Seaman, COO of MVD Entertainment Group. “We anticipate a similar trajectory for disc sales, which have steadily grown over the last several years. The pandemic certainly gave them a boost, but the resilience and resurgence of disc sales may have more to do with the frustrating customer experience our industry has created in the OTT space. Finding what you want is now very challenging. How many streaming services do you need to subscribe to only to not find the film you want to watch, when you want to watch it? You can more easily find what you want transactionally, but it is still a search. Why not just pay a bit more and own the deluxe-edition disc?”

On the digital front, Seaman says “AVOD/FAST will continue to grow dramatically as consumers clearly embrace and enjoy that model. TVOD is tricky; considering Amazon’s tight curation of non-fiction, we expect some other platforms to step up and become more dominant in that space. There is a real opportunity for platforms focusing on non-fiction to deliver to fans what they want when they want it.”

At MVD, Seaman notes, “we’ve just added Zach Fischel to our leadership team; Zach is a veteran in the entertainment industry and is leading our label management team and marketing department. We’ve additionally moved longtime MVD staffer Chris Callahan to lead our digital sales and operations team. Chris has been with MVD since 1999 and has served in sales management, label management and international licensing. Both of these leaders are committed to improving their areas of responsibility; they have great ideas particularly in digital marketing, an area of overlapped responsibility. We are really excited about 2022!”

So is Mark Fisher, president and CEO of OTT.X, a streaming industry trade group.

“2022 will be a year that portends the future of our industries — a future that, enabled by OTT distribution, is more egalitarian, more global and more diverse,” Fisher says. “While Hollywood continues to make great movies and TV shows, smaller distributors and independent producers from all over the world are making a lot of great content, too — enabling the consumer to be less reliant and dependent on content from the big studios and on domestic-produced content. And, while the big ‘Pluses’ and ‘Maxes’ continue to grow, consumers are finding plenty of additional content on indie and niche channels, both FAST and on demand.”

Restocking the Shelves, Part Two: Home Entertainment Marketing Shifts Into High Gear

As the theatrical pipeline has dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, home entertainment divisions have turned to their marketing gurus to create excitement around the catalog releases filling the void.

Jason Spivak, EVP of U.S. distribution at Sony Pictures Television Distribution, says the studio’s home entertainment marketing team, headed by senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong, has been “getting really creative when it comes to catalog.”

Wong says Sony has been mining its vault for product appropriate for “seasonal events — finding little gems that we can elevate and create a buzz behind.”

Jason Spivak

“As Easter was the first major holiday in this new period of uncertainty, we worked quickly with our theatrical counterparts to create a Pinterest hub of Easter-themed activities to ensure that families would be able to celebrate the holiday at home with perennial favorite Peter Rabbit,” Wong says. “The activities were seeded to parenting influencer and bloggers to help foster excitement not only for the first “Peter Rabbit” film, but also for the upcoming second installment, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.”

Sony Pictures also has been closely monitoring fan conversation on social media.

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“Shortly after quarantine began, we noticed that the 1993 film Groundhog Day had entered the social media zeitgeist in a major way as people settled into the repetition of stay-at-home routines,” Wong says. “To join the conversation and invite those at home to revisit the movie, we created an official Instagram account for the film that encouraged fans to post their own Groundhog Day moments and launched a tongue-in-cheek trailer for a ‘sequel’ …oddly similar to the first film’s trailer.”

Lexine Wong

Social media watch-alongs featuring classic Sony Pictures films “also proved to be an invaluable tool in allowing movie fans to maintain the communal watching experience that they love, even during a period when we aren’t physically able to be together,” Wong adds. “We worked with editorial partners like Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, Nerdist, ComicBook.com and others in collaboration with film talent to help host live viewings of fan-favorite titles while viewers posted reactions in real-time via social media.

“While these watch-alongs initially began with new release titles like Bloodshot and Bad Boys for Life, selections have since delved into catalog favorites like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Hook, Center Stage, War Room, The Mask of Zorro and This Is the End — catering to a wide range of viewer tastes.”

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part One: Home Entertainment Divisions Mine Catalog as Theatrical Slate Stalls

Another initiative at Sony Pictures was the launch of the Sony Pictures Kids Zone YouTube Channel. “The hub was the brainchild of moms and dads on our team who found themselves in a brave new world of juggling work-from-home with parenting duties,” Wong says. “Our content team had hours’ worth of kid-friendly activities, educational content and sing/dance-alongs that had been created for past titles, so they set about curating playlists to help parents who were in a similar position of looking for ways to entertain and educate their kids. The launch saw coverage from dozens of press outlets, exhibitor partners, prominent celebrity moms and social media influencers.”

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Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, notes that “with the current resurgence in catalog interest, we have used this time to create compelling new collections and promotions at retail to keep the space fresh and updated and have sought to further heighten exposure through creative marketing.”

To that end, she says, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment generated millions of impressions by employing a Twitter catalog watch-party series, which spotlighted several library classics and anniversary releases such as Halloween, Apollo 13, Breakfast Club and Jaws. The studio was able to enlist the help of cast members, filmmakers and special celebrity guests such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Howard and Anthony Michael Hall, and partnered with notable filmmaker Kevin Smith to produce a special podcast for the 45th anniversary of Jaws.

Mike Takac

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment routinely partners with digital retailers and in June has teamed with Apple TV and iTunes to promote top catalog films with new key art that features a travel postcard line look. “It’s a fun, creative way to re-position our titles to evoke the feeling of summer travel at a time when most people are stuck at home,” EVP of sales Mike Takac says.

Looking ahead at the rest of the year, Takac says, “We know our success is going to ride largely on our ability to monetize our catalog. We’re fortunate to have some national promotions. We’re going to drive around DC Fandom, we’ll have a ‘Back to Hogwarts’ push, and of course we’re going to drive Halloween and holiday really hard, with a little more consumer marketing than we’ve done in the past.”

Takac says Warner Bros. also is working on a promotion to encourage consumers to buy and rent movies they’ve always been meaning to watch. “We’re still working on that,” he says. “But we can probably bubble them up in a more meaningful way.”

To boost interest in its DC content, Warner is planning a big promotion called DC FanDome, a company-wide initiative that will take place Aug. 22.

Jessica Schell

“It’s a free virtual fan experience celebrating all the superheroes and super villains in the DC Multiverse and will include panels featuring past, present and future talent; filmmakers and creators from DC properties; announcements on upcoming projects; exclusive content debuts; cosplay and fan art; and much more,” says Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, film, for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “It will be a 24-hour immersive global event designed to appeal to fans, families and kids, and the virtual themed worlds will be full of special presentations and localized content to appeal to a worldwide audience. This is a truly massive undertaking and all of WarnerMedia is coming together as one to produce this special event.”

Studios have also been designing special deals to entice consumers.

Warner also has been testing “pricing elasticity,” Takac says, for titles “deep in our catalog that we normally don’t promote. We’ve been working on that for many months and may be able to leverage that in the back half of the year.”

The Walt Disney Co., which owns both Disney Media Distribution and Fox Home Entertainment, also is focused on special pricing for its catalog as well as partnerships with retailers, says SVP of marketing David Kite, Disney Media Distribution.

Early on, says Kite, “we partnered closely with all divisions across the Walt Disney Co. to align our strategies and act responsively to the disruptions in the market.”

Initially, he says, “we achieved a great amount of success with the early in-home releases of Onward and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which reaffirms the value and appeal of both our content and the window.”

More recently, Kite says, “our team has created unique monthly in-home promotions in collaboration with our digital and physical retail partners, offering consumers access to the movies they love at special pricing while they’re at home with their families.”

Adam Frank, Lionsgate’s SVP of worldwide digital sales and distribution, attributes a large part of Lionsgate’s success with catalog titles to its close relationships with retailers.

“Retailers have always been the lifeblood of our home entertainment business,” Frank says. “We need them, they need us, and we pride ourselves on win-win relationships. We look for openings, mine titles from our library and identify anniversaries and seasonal opportunities. It’s similar to the strategy we’ve employed for years, but now with even more consumers entering the space for the first time, and these newer consumers building their libraries through impulse purchases.”

One recent partnership was a “Best of Lionsgate” catalog promotion with Microsoft Movies & TV, with more than 25 films, mostly action titles. “We saw a triple-digit lift, week over week, amounting to incremental revenue in the six digits” he says.

Editor’s Note: This is part two in a four-part series, “Restocking the Shelves: With No Theatrical Releases, Studio Home Entertainment Marketers are Getting Creative.” The complete story will be available in the July print and digital editions of ‘Media Play News.’

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group CES 2020 Event

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group held its annual CES party for home entertainment executives at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on Jan. 7. The event drew a wide range of guests, including home video presidents from the major studios and leading consumer electronics executives such as John Taylor of LG Electronics.