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No More Special Features on DVD Rentals?

logan j. fowler explains why Hollywood studios need to give movie renters a break …

When I buy a DVD, I obviously purchase it for the adoration of the film itself. However, the special features always make me curious, because as a movie lover, I want to know what makes the film tick. The behind the scenes looks, the commentaries, the storyboards, deleted scenes, bloopers, and the like all increase the value of the DVD.

So imagine you want to rent a film, really enjoy it, and want to see how it all came together. Well, hit the pause button. Very recently, it was announced that Hollywood studios are stripping rental DVDs of their features, as they believe it will prohibit said renter from “buying the DVD.”

Well, I call baloney. First of all, those who KNOW they are going to buy the DVD will, including the sections of top box-office grossing, financially supporting, or gift-buying variety. You know your kid loved Toy Story 3? No matter the special features, it will be purchased. Your friend loved Cyrus? Well, what a great Christmas gift! Examples aside, Hollywood places too much emphasis on restricting DVD properties from the renters, who really is their main outlet for buying MORE DVDs.

What I mean is, the people who KNOW they are going to buy the DVDs are default buyers, where as the once who are on the fence need further persuasion to buy a DVD. When they are done with the film, where is the next place to go? The special features, of course. If you do not provide this to the viewer, how can they really know if they are getting their money’s worth if they buy the DVD? Wouldn’t “trying it out” be more of a cause for them to shell out the money in the future?

Will Redbox and Netflix suffer from Hollywood's proposal of not including special features on their rentals?

Think of major “borrowing” systems we have. Gamefly.com offers a video game rental service, and you can play the WHOLE game. It’s not an extended demo. Are video game companies worried their game won’t get bought? In the economy today, forms of entertainment are expensive for some people. Being able to try it out might make them feel more comfortable, and if they really enjoy it, it will be a future purchase. Video games cost more than a DVD (it’s an increase of 30 to 40 dollars in most cases), but if there is no red light on playing a whole game for a monthly fee, there is no reason why Hollywood shouldn’t offer the same courtesy on DVD’s special features.

Another example is the library. Yes, you may ask, who reads books with paper in them anymore? With all the kindles and books on tape/CD/iPods, paperback and hardbound books may be going the way of the dinosaur. However, how can you beat borrowing a book for FREE? And reading it from cover to cover, if the frame of time allowed for borrowing allows you to finish it. Are book companies calling foul and only offering brief chapters and partial segments for the customer to read? No. You can read the whole thing. For FREE.

Netflix, the company who mails DVDs to your dwelling and allows all the online streaming you want in your plan, is facing severe customer complaint if they don’t fight this policy of no special features. The DVD is not a VHS tape; it provides more entertainment beyond the film. If Hollywood really wants their customers to buy a movie, provide the renter with the whole package. After all, the studios are the ones who are gaining money everyday based on their product. Allow the renter to know that their hard earned money is paying for 100 percent of the product, just so they can see if it’s worth more of their hard earned money to add it to their library.

DVDs are not theater experiences. The format exists to go beyond the movie and see how it was made or how the actors voiced it or whatever. In any case, Hollywood needs to lighten up and let the renting customer experience the DVD as it was meant to be viewed. No restrictions, no holding back, no red lights.

I hope that Hollywood studios come to their senses in this situation. Their restrictions of the quantity of material on the DVD may in fact turn against them.



  1. When you take a book out of the library, does that include a story about how the writer researched it and outlined it? Do you get an interview with the author, insight into his inspiration and motivation? No, you get a story…from beginning to end. You don’t even get those things if you buy a book. Similarly, when you rent a DVD you get a movie…from beginning to end. Its nothing more than good business sense to restrict extras to purchased DVDs only (nevermind the fact that they’re called EXTRAS for a reason). You’re paying a modest sum compared to those who actually saw the film in theaters and want to purchase it, or even the rare individual who purchases based on spec alone. If I pay $1 and all I get is a complete movie, thats fine with me.

    • True, but regular books never had those feature to begin with when we took them out of the library. We are in a generation where movies have extras on them.

      Consider the following: At about 25 dollars a month, I can keep two video games out for as long as I want from gamefly.com. That’s about half the price of a regular video game. I can go online to see cheat codes, added extras, other game modifications, etc. These are elements that are built into the game. All you have to do is punch in some sort of code and boom; it’s done.

      I can finish both these games at my leisure, send the discs back, and will pick up maybe one of the games for replay value, or just be glad I rented it and didn’t purchase it.

      Maybe on the book segment I was a little off (but we’ve been borrowing books for quite a while, and like I said, the research and outlines weren’t even included to begin with), but paying half the price of one whole game and getting two backs up my statement; if gamefly can allow 100% access of said game to the renter and not worry about if it sells or not, then Netflix should allow the same.

  2. it just sounds so whiny…”boo hoo, I’m paying a pittance and not getting everything”, and by everything, I do mean extraneous, non-essential to the plot items.

  3. This is why I hate the movie and record industry. They are slow to adapt to new trends and technologies. The movie companies don’t give netflix or blockbuster movies for free. They must pay them. Soon the physical DVD/ Blu Ray/ whatever comes next Here’s a novel idea though. Let Netflix offer a cheaper rate for people who don’t care about the extras(like me).

  4. I know when I first started using Netflix you could rent special editions of certain movies which included a second disc with special features. But that’s besides the point.

    I see the reasoning behind why Hollywood studios don’t want extras included. The economy is horrible so they want you to buy the movie. And if you rent a movie and love it so much that you HAVE to see the special features you’re going to buy it anyway. Also think about it, if Netflix was able to ship the 2nd disc with bonus features think of how much extra they’d have to pay to mail it out. Their profits, from what I can recall, are split 3 ways — 1/3 to the studios, 1/3 to the post office for all that free shipping and 1/3 goes to themselves. And now that most DVDs come with a 2nd disc of special features, think of how much more they’d have to spend in shipping cost.

    Yet I think not shipping extras isn’t the worst thing Hollywood is doing to renters. How about making us wait a month after a film is released on DVD before we can order it off Netflix or rent it from Redbox? They’re doing this to support places like Blockbuster — the corporation that put all our hometown video stores out of business? They’re also supporting cable TV’s OnDemand service where you have to pay 5 bucks (or more) to rent the film. Sure, I’d love to throw more money onto my over $100 cable bill. Oh and of course, making us wait will encourage us to see in the theater or buy it on DVD.

    That’s where the problem lies.

  5. But here’s the thing. While there are some people who get the DVD in the mail, watch it that night and return it the next day, there are a lot more who get the DVD, watching it a week or more later, when they feel like it, and take another week or so to return it. I can’t tell you how many DVD’s Ive had from netflix that I kept for an entire month or more. I have a lot of friends that do the same. Netflix has even come out and said this is a common practice. Essentially, people would be saving money, by simply buying the dvd. Thats right, a lot people are spending MORE on renting a dvd now than actually buying it. Plus when you order a dvd, it takes up one of your rentals. But if you want the extras dvd, that takes up yet another rental of your allotted disks. So even now people are not getting the extras for free, we are paying for them as part of our plan. As for the argument of shipping cost, if you are paying for 2 discs a month, whether you get (disc 1-Movie A, disc 2-Extras from Movie A) or (disc 1-Movie A, disc 2-Movie B) it’s still only 2 disc and so netflix does not have to pay for extra shipping, you are paying for the shipping yourself that’s included in your plan.

  6. This feels like an attempt at double-dipping. The studio creates the DVDs and sells those, then they license those DVDs to rental houses. The fact that DVD rentals are “competing” with DVD sales is ostensibly built in to the licensing fees that the rental house (i.e. Netflix) pays (if it’s not, it’s a sign that the overall pricing model is wrong, which is a problem for the studios and rental houses to work out). For the studios to then go and remove features from the rental DVDs to make them less appealing than the purchased DVDs is an attempt to continue collecting “competition-weighted” fees from rental houses while tilting the “Rent vs. Buy” market in favor of “Buy”. If they’re reducing the competitiveness of the rental DVDs, then the rental house should pay smaller licensing fees. In any case, this is not a good way to generate additional revenue: if the studios increase the number of buyers they will decrease the number of renters. If the rental market gets hurt, their rental licensing fees will take a hit. What’s the point of incurring additional overhead making “rental versions” of DVDs and hurting your business partners on top of that just to boost DVD sales in the previously unquantified market of “people who will ONLY purchase a DVD if it is the ONLY way for them to see the special features”?

  7. I know what you mean i just got Toy Story 3 on Netflix and ever since I went on the special features it said if you want to see these amazing special features go and buy are DVD now! I mean come on they don’t give us a break the Netflix i’m using isint under my account but i can quit any time but im not giving up now seya!

  8. To address this on a more visceral level (cost models aside), “take-aways” breed vast amounts of resentment. To take something away that was once part of the package causes a gut-level reaction that will probably come back to sting the studios. Bonus features are VERY important to me and often I will buy the DVD only AFTER seeing movie with bonus materials. Conversely, as an avid “rater” of movies on the Netflix system, I will automatically kick my rating down one notch for the “buy the dvd to complete your experience” screen. And I will NEVER EVER EVER buy the DVD upon such blackmail. (Are you listening FOX? Disney? Warner Bros.? et. al?)

  9. Those who don’t care whether special features (sf’s) are removed and feel it’s the ‘right’ of the studio to do so forget that the studios have to make another pressing of the DVD without these features and are spending money to keep renters from seeing special features. What are they saving by doing this? It’s the same media, it doesn’t weigh less without the material and certainly can’t cost less to manufacture. They are plainly doing this to remind us that they can do it so they will. Like disabling fast forward, rewind and functions of the player so we have to watch all their trailers and ads, they do it because they can. I will not buy a dvd from any studio which does this. We all have access to used DVD’s of these films. If I want to own the film I’ll buy it used just to deprive the studio of the revenue.

  10. I do know when I used to rent DVD’s at Hastings Entertainment, they had the special features on the disk. Netflix should not be any different. I pay for the rental, which is the same rental price that Hastings charges , so why don’t I have the right to watch special features on the DVD’s that I rent from Netflix? The whole point of renting a DVD is so I/we do not have to run out and buy it! Another thing that bothers me with Netflix is; the DVD’s are always “a very long wait”, “long wait”, or short wait” on my DVD queue list. Ocasionally, I get an email stating that the DVD in my queue list is going to be shipped from another part of the country/world. How weird. They should have more then enough DVD rentals to go around. Sometimes, I wonder if it is worth my money to rent from Netflix? It’s nice not having to go out to rent your movies, but considering that they take things like “special features” away, I mine as well pay the extra in gas, and start renting from Hastings again. I’m debating on it.

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