CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- Who needs syndication anymore?
In a recent report, Daily Variety has obtained sales figures for the most popular TV-related DVD sets. The results are surprising, as at least six boxed sets have topped one million copies sold:
"The Simpsons: The Complete First Season" - 1.6 million
"Band of Brothers" - 1.4 million
"The Sopranos: The Complete First Season" - 1.3 million
"Friends: The Complete First Season" - 1.3 million
"The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season" - 1.25 million
"Sex and the City: The Complete First Season" - 1.1 million
The results are surprising considering many items on the list retail between $75-$150. That means HBO has pocketed in the neighborhood of $97-$195 for the first season of "The Sopranos" alone. (One should note that HBO itself does not receive the complete amount of the sale of the DVDs, only a percentage - albeit a signficant one.)
And the TV genre is showing no signs of letting up. The recently released first season of "The Osbournes" has sold over 500,000 copies in just one week of sales, all this despite sagging ratings for the show's second season. With sets averaging $24.99, Miramax (which paid a record $7 million for the rights to distribute the series on DVD) has already gross over $12.5 million (of which approximately 80% goes straight into the company's pocket).
The news presents a shot in the arm for distributors as the once promised land of syndication revenue continues to dry up. 20th Century Fox for example recently sold the off-network rights of the WB's "Angel" to TNT for a bargain basement $250,000 per episode. That $22 million sale for the series' four season run will likely be eclipsed by "Angel's" sales on DVD. With sets selling for $40-$50, Fox would only have to sell 500,000 or so copies combined of the show's four seasons to top that figure.
The release on DVD series on DVD however will likely never reach the revenue generated by movies on the format. The first week sales of "Ice Age" and "Spider-Man" alone generated $120 and $190 million respectively. Both of those figures are substantially ahead of the reported $100 million in profit generated by 20th Century Fox in 2002 from the releases of "24," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "The X-Files," "The Simpsons," "M*A*S*H" and "Malcolm in the Middle" combined. Nevertheless, the financial windfalls of TV on DVD releases remains a growing and powerful new revenue stream for distributors.