DVD Rental, the facts...

Before deciding whether or not a rental window on new DVD releases is a good idea we really need to look at the facts:

  • A rental window was first tried by UK distributor VCI around 18 months ago with the romantic comedy Martha, meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence. This trial was deemed unsuccessful and this could be attributed to a number of factors including DVD's low market share and the title used.
  • One of the biggest problems Region 2 faces is the fact that it is possible to get movies far earlier from other Regions. In some cases, these other releases are also better discs although this is no longer as big a drawback as it used to be.

  • People may be buying into DVD to own films earlier. One of the strong selling points is the simultaneous release of DVD Retail and VHS Rental versions - you can own the film on DVD long before its widely available on VHS.

  • Rental offers a cheaper alternative to buying. You can rent a movie first and then if you decide you like it you can go out and spend more money on your own copy.

  • Many people have suggested that rental DVD releases will be movie-only editions. While this may sound like a reasonable attempt at generating interest in both the rental and retail releases, there's also a risk that some distributors may decide that its not worth the extra money putting the same movie onto DVD twice just to include extra material the second time around.

  • Fox Pathe are currently following a three-release strategy - rental VHS followed by rental DVD and finally followed by retail DVD/VHS. This may be seen by some to be a cynical attempt at securing even more profits.

  • DVD rental has yet to be mentioned in any of the specialist DVD magazines on the mainstream press. Uninformed buyers may therefore see titles on VHS rental earlier than the DVD rental release and not realise that a much higher quality DVD version is on its way.

There are a few good points mentioned above, but as far as I can ascertain there are more negative aspects. Seeing as Region 1 is a far more mature market, it seems odd that we should get the rental window first - are we guinea pigs? With the Region 2 market still being relatively small the distributors supporting the rental window run a very real risk of causing irreparable damage - many buyers will just opt for the Region 1 releases instead when they may have been tempted to wait for the Region 2 release. In my view, adding further delay to retail DVD releases is a very bad idea.

Colin Polonowski

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