chapter
18 Pages

Introduction: Past the Boundaries of “New” and “Old” Media: Film and Television After DVD

WithJAMES BENNETT, TOM BROWN

At the time of writing, late 2007, members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are into the seventh week of strike action demanding a pay rise to refl ect monies earned by Hollywood studios through “residual” markets such as DVD sales. When DVDs (Digital Versatile Discs or Digital Video Discs) were launched in 1997 in the US and UK (having been available from late-1996 in Japan), the potential impact on the economies of fi lm and television production was unclear, leading the WGA to agree a deal whereby writers are paid 4 cents on each $15 DVD as a residual “sell-through” of the artist’s work. Yet by 2005, DVD players were in approximately 84 million homes in the US, making it the “fastest selling item in history of US consumer electronics market” (McDonald 2007: 135; In the UK, DVD players were only beaten to the same title by the phenomenally successful BBC-led digital terrestrial television platform, Freeview-cf. Iosifi dis 2005.) Thus in 2007, certainly for members of the WGA, it no longer felt appropriate to describe DVD sales and rentals as a “residual” market within which fi lm and television circulate. From some perspectives, “the cinema” (narrowly defi ned, that is, as the theatrical exhibition of feature fi lms) may now be characterized as a loss-leader or as an elaborate trailer for the more profi table DVD release.1 As Paul McDonald’s study of the video and DVD industries shows, by 2004 over half of all consumer expenditure on fi lmed entertainment in the US came through video retail and rental, with DVD accounting for 94 per cent of this “sell-through market” (2007: 144).