The value of most movie studios lie not in their yearly production slates, but rather in their film archives. This value comes from their supplying the thousands of TV channels with movies to screen, DVD/Bluray disc sales, and the emerging online market with services like Hulu. As valuable as these libraries are, not every film contained within has enough of a market to support the costs of a DVD print-run. What Studios have commenced doing, however, is opening up the archives to produce on-demand printing of their archive material.
The films may not be cleaned up and restored in the same manner as they would a DVD release, but a number of obscure, low-demand films are being made available to consumers. Warner Bros, for example, have been running their Warner Archive Collection service since mid-2009.
As a film nerd, the availability of many of these titles is exciting, but there is a similar market for forgotten TV programing that simply isn’t being tapped. Consider how many series with one-season runs have been lost to the ages. And then there are shows that have quite simply just been forgotten. While some of these shows have episodes/entire series that were thrown away by studios seeing little to no value in the product, there are a wealth of these shows taking up space in vaults. Many of them never produced enough episodes for a syndication run, so are never included in packages when sold to networks across the globe.
The purchase of a TV series takes greater commitment from the consumer than a movie does. After all, the time one must invest in a series is more demanding. As such, one wouldn’t expect a huge trade in on-demand DVD printing of these shows, but its not unfair to assume that there is not a market for such forgotten gems. One of the strengths of Hulu in the US is their mix of marquee name TV brands, along with a healthy library of otherwise forgotten TV classics. You’d be surprised at just how watchable the mid-90’s Weird Science TV series was.
One of the problems I have with current distribution platforms like Foxtel and the broadcast FTA multi-channels is that they have such a strong reliance on marquee titles. It’s increasingly rare to find hidden, older gems on their services, meaning that viewers are being served the same tired shows over and over again.
With emerging platforms and an expansion of services with only so much content to go around, it’s quite possible that web distribution may open up the barriers to seeing a release of this material previously perceived to be relatively worthless.
Making low-demand TV series (and movies) available on the web comes at a relatively low-cost. As demand for online video entertainment increases, hopefully some forgotten classics will be given the chance to breathe again.