Friday, March 27, 2009

Print-on-demand migrates from books to movies

Earlier this week, Warner Bros launched the Warner Archive, where consumers can order DVDs of movies from the Warner vaults. These will be made-to-order, in much the same way that publishers have been trying out print-on-demand options for their back catalogs of titles.

The Warner Archive DVDs will be sold directly from the Warner site, giving Warners the full retail revenue stream (cutting out both wholesalers and retailers). The $20 price-point is a bit higher than many films of similar vintage at retail; but these are films otherwise unavailable to the fans at any price. Some online discussion has even hypothesized that Warner under-priced them; but we'll need to wait until the first flush of excitement passes amongst the fans. Once they've paid their first credit-card bills with payments to Warner Archive, we'll see whether they're still clamoring for more.

Warner will not get rich from this scheme. The titles available via Archive were deemed to have too small a demand for the expense of manufacturing and shipping a significant volume to retail (where DVD shelf space is in short supply already). This is a way for Warner to accomplish 3 things: (a) keep some die-hard fans happy, (b) squeeze some money out of deep-catalog that might otherwise circulate in pirated copies, and (c) test the waters on unique direct-to-consumer product (without seriously ticking off their very valuable retail partners).