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August 16 2009

DVD sales and the fate of Dollhouse. Agent DVD Insider offers his thoughts on what Dollhouse's DVD sales mean for season 2.

Found this the other day.

From the December 2004 issue of SFX Magazine

Here's what John Stanley (MD of Twentieth Century Fox Television) had to say about how well Buffy and Angel box sets have sold. "Buffy has sold approx 800,000 units on DVD, and has been a best-seller for Fox".

I still don't buy all this analysis. There's simply no way, given the lackluster attention and ratings Season One received, that the various FOX entities somehow were sitting around thinking that the initial DVD/BD sales were going to be blockbuster. They aren't that dim. I don't believe we know anything about the future of Dollhouse from the initial DVD sales window.

ETA: Not to mention that all these comparisons to BSG 4.5 sales are pretty nonsense. This article mentions that it had no buzz? It had four seasons worth of buzz, a long-standing audience, and tons of hype surrounding the season when it ended. The DVD itself didn't need "buzz" because everyone already knew long in advance that they'd be buying it. Of course its sales were significantly better than Dollhouse's. It's a completely irrelevant comparison.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2009-08-16 19:36 ]
Agreed, b!X. I think it's also important to consider that Firefly, Buffy, and Angel didn't have Hulu, iTunes, or even widespread DVR usage, when they were successes on DVD.

Also, this may have already been addressed in a previous thread, but are the numbers reported combining both DVD and BRD or just one or the other?
I have to go take photos of (PIE SPOILERS!!!) a pie competition soon, so I'll stop hammering this, but one other piece of my above: Because of that lackluster attention/performance of Season One, this was always going to be a season that viewers were going to sample by rental in the near term, not rush out to buy just because it turned out the series got renewed.

FOX understands all of this. I don't know why all these numbers and DVD sites don't.
Because Fox didn't spin it that well enough?
Actually, since you mention it, I think it should be noted that FOX didn't come out and spin it at all. I suspect because they don't feel the need to respond to nonsensical analysis when they already know very well what to have expected.
Well that's half the battle lost. If you have no message to put then people will come to their own conclusions. It's like that ridiculous Save Dollhouse campaign last year, it dominated the Dollhouse coverage in the media for a few weeks. Fox's PR people made very little attempt to seize back the news cycle.
I feel so bad because I love Dollhouse and I haven't bought the DVD's yet. I won't until Christmas because we're buying a house before the end of November and we saving all extra money. I still have the episodes on DVR. Not the extra's and the two new episodes but that's why I'll get the DVDs at Christmas time.
I agree completely about the irrelevant comparision with BSG. The same goes for Firefly and Buffy. The only thing that will have any impact is how well it does compared with the expectations and calculations from Fox.
I stopped reading when they trotted out the Firefly myth. If they can't be bothered to get their facts right, I'm not going to the bother of reading their hypothesis.

Anyway, even if Dollhouse doesn't make it past the currently ordered episodes, that's still a whole new 13 episodes that are like a random gift from the universe. So it's pretty much all win in my book. :-)
DVD sales have nothing to do with the fate of a show.
Because DVDs have nothing to do with advertising revenue.
Here's the thing: The Season 1 set of Dollhouse can be rated #1 in sales on Amazon and everywhere else. But if Fox doesn't get the desired viewer numbers for their advertisers, they'll snatch Dollhouse off the air during the 2nd commercial break in Season 2 Episode 5 and put an American Idol Recap Special in its place before you can blink an eye.
Ad revenue is what keeps a show alive.
Eyeballs create ad revenue. Not DVD sales.

Believe me, Procter&Gamble don't give a rat'ss how many DVDs a show sells.
Believe me, they do, when that can be statistically used to anticipate future sales and viewership. The models used for assessing performance are pretty sophisticated, and while this is not the be-all and end-all of the question, it is certainly part of it.
Say what you must. All I know is that "Dollhouse" really impressed me last year, easily the best show of the year in my book. Can't wait to see what Joss has in store for season two.
I would have agreed that advertising revenues would be the likely deciding factor, but with ~800,000 units of BTVS sold, that's a lot of revenue. This gives the notion that DVD sales can and probably will affect "renew or cancel" decisions some real substance, as good DVD sales could very well justify renewing a program with mediocre ratings.

[ edited by Peanut Noir on 2009-08-16 21:54 ]
800,000 units of BTVS sold, that's a lot of revenue

And that's a figure from 5 years ago.
It's pretty ridiculous to claim that FOX meddling in the early episodes had nothing to do with weaker DVD sales because Joss was happy with the show later on. What's he basing that on? I've given friends Firefly DVDs for their birthdays before but I'll be warier about doing that with Dollhouse mainly because of those earliest episodes. And I've heard others say the same thing
On the other hand at the moment it's somewhat speculative/anecdotal to claim they did have anything to do with it either. It's been out two weeks, that's not a lot of birthdays/Christmases.

...but with ~800,000 units of BTVS sold, that's a lot of revenue.

Yeah but that's a lot of revenue for 20th Century Fox not Fox Broadcasting (i.e. the network, who decide whether to renew or not). It's possible that 20th may have reduced the licence costs to Fox in order to encourage them to renew (and DVD sales would factor into 20th's decision to do that, along with the noted budget cuts) but at least on paper, Fox Broadcasting doesn't make anything from the DVD sales.

That said, i'm a bit sceptical that the possibility of 20th Century Fox (a company in the same group as Fox Broadcasting) making a bundle of money on DVD sales doesn't have any effect at all on renewal decisions but how much i've no idea.

All this armchair analysis is making me sleepy. Last I checked, TV By The Numbers (a referenced source) also told us Dollhouse wouldn't be renewed and if one ever gets around to reading the comments on those articles, it is becomes apparent pretty quickly that a majority of the regulars there find Dollhouse to be a bit of a punchline anyway.

I especially enjoyed the line
"Firefly" had some weeks years after its initial release when it sold as many copies as "Dollhouse" in week one.

Anyone else think that it was that kind of thinking that got Firefly canceled in the first place? If Firefly possessed the audience it had in year one that it did years later, it never would have been canceled (or maybe Fox would have just said "trim the budget"). Obviously Fox has figured this rather simple concept out our they never would have renewed Dollhouse.

That's true that Fox Broadcasting may not be getting the revenue directly, but since both companies are part of the parent company's bottom line, it's probably not entirely their decision.

My guess is, Fox already figures that as far as Fox Broadcasting is concerned, Dollhouse is already buried in a no-win time slot so if it's not bringing in major ad revenue, it isn't exactly the show's fault.

I just think it's a risk-reward gamble. Continue getting bad ad revenue but get decent DVD sales for a continuing show. Or, cancel it and loose the revenue to take a chance on a new show that might take off. Since I can't think of another show that's ever "taken off" from that timeslot, I don't think it's unreasonable to think that Reilly and his direct superiors are aware of that fact and consider the gamble unwise.

[ edited by azzers on 2009-08-16 23:03 ]
My surmise is that Fox ordered a second season since Joss said he could do it for cheap and they didn`t have anything better in the wings. DVD sales then have relatively little to do with it going forward - if the show doesn`t at least keep the low numbers it had last year, it`s gone.
Personally, I didn't buy the Season 1 dvd set because I felt more than half of the episodes were lackluster, and I know I don't really want to watch them again. However, I will be sitting on my couch on Friday September 25th, very eager for what Season 2 has in store...

And if I like Season 2 a lot more than I liked Season 1, then I'm sure I'll end up buying both.
Personally I was happy to buy the DVDs just for Epitaph One and all the other 'extras', and I've bought them for several friends who I hope will over look the early episodes and realize that the final episodes were some of the most exciting things ever on television.
The important thing I got from that article, and what FOX's line should be is the following:

Overall, "Dollhouse" still managed a top 10 showing on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales charts, and its first-week sales figures would be the envy of many a TV show.
I had to google because I couldn't figure out what an MD was in this context. Stanley was the managing director (not so much a common US title) of 20th HE in the UK.
wow! they've really spun the figures and told a very discouraging story.. as others have said above, I'd say the things to focus on in this article are that:

"Overall, "Dollhouse" still managed a top 10 showing on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales charts, and its first-week sales figures would be the envy of many a TV show."

“Firefly” had some weeks years after its initial release when it sold as many copies as “Dollhouse” in week one"


"the series has picked up a lot of momentum in the past few episodes"
I think this is comparing apples to oranges. The two don't really mix. I believe that "Dollhouse" will rock this second season. Mark my words.
Anyone got an idea what a "unit" is, when the Fox TV guy uses the word?

I've bought whole seasons, half-seasons, part-seasons ... there's that all-inclusive box set with all seven seasons in it ... does he mean 800,000 disks? 800,000 purchases of any product featuring Buffy on DVD?
Back in the day, I bought all 1/2 season Box Sets of BtVS and AtS, for 90 Australian (like 60US)dollers each, and I was a 14 year old saving money from my part time job... That comes to over 2000 dollers I HAPPILY spent on FOX dvds. I hope in some way this factors into FOX's thinking about the future of DH.
The important thing I got from that article, and what FOX's line should be is the following:

Overall, "Dollhouse" still managed a top 10 showing on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales charts, and its first-week sales figures would be the envy of many a TV show.

The worrying/interesting thing I got from the article was

In its second week, “Dollhouse” fell out of the top 50.

<brokenrecord>I doubt that would have been entirely unexpected, either.</brokenrecord>

Seriously, it's seemed pretty obvious from the way the relevant execs talked about renewal and have been talking about Season Two that they're taking a risk on playing a long game here. I see nothing in any of this that would make anyone playing a long game suddenly nervous.
Oh, are we playing this skipping track again? (Sigh)

Have faith, people.
Why are people putting such a negative spin on all this? These are good numbers.
They're apparently pretty much par for the course with TV releases in fact, not good but not bad either. But as The One True b!X points out, that's not really the point since 20th/Fox are seemingly playing a long game (obviously I doubt they'd exactly hate it if 'Dollhouse' sold 500,000 copies in its first week but they won't be counting on it either).

Joss has said in interview when asked about the renewal that he's "not a hit guy" and that 20th Century know that, know that he makes them money on DVD because of the sorts of fans he has. Clearly they're hoping it sells well over years, like 'Firefly', so only time will tell.

edited to reflect Joss not referring to himself in the third person ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2009-08-17 11:07 ]
I have bought 2 1/2 SETS of Buffy, 2 sets of Angel and Firefly, usually some of each is loaned out to friends that I want to get hooked on Joss shows. Since I did not like the first 5 eps of DH and the price for the DVD was way to high, I will wait for a used copy. I have bought Epitaph One from iTunes and love it. I am thinking that season 2 will be killer, if Fox just leaves Joss alone.
Although FOX likely see DH as a longer term investment, part (a large part, some might say) of the reason it got renewed is financial. Both in terms of cutting of production cost (one thing which I don't believe has emerged yet: new crew) and in Home Entertainment forecasting strong DVD sales.

The launch did not quite go as I'd hoped. Dollhouse may well re-emerge into the top 50 in September when the show returns to air.
The thing is, beyond the fans, I think there's a large contingent who (a) didn't see the first series, (b) still think it was cancelled, and/or (c) don't really care. I think it really needs to reappear on TV before some of these people are going to realise the series might be worth checking out.
You're absolutely correct I believe, flu. If Fox's publicity departments can convince people to check the show out (again?), and if the show is better, those people will stick around.

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