Fox’s unique DVD-driven second-season launch strategy for Emmy-winning “Arrested Development” didn’t pay off out of the gate, but the network said it’s still hopeful the quirky comedy will catch on.
After “Arrested Development’s” surprise Emmy wins for best comedy writing, directing and series in September, creator Mitch Hurwitz and producers of the show asked Fox to rerun the first season through the fall as a buildup to its Nov. 7 second-season premiere. Fox declined, citing its developing strategy of releasing the first-season DVD as a prelude to the second season. In Fox’s eyes, the DVD release was not just a good revenue enhancer on a fledgling show but also a promotional tool to sell the second season.
Steve Feldstein, senior VP of marketing communications at Fox Home Entertainment, said the “Arrested Development” DVD, which hit stores on Oct. 19, has sold approximately 50 percent of its original shipment. “That’s extremely strong,” he said. “It’s doing very well.”
Fox developed the model for its thriller drama “24,” which was the first Fox show to have a DVD launch before the premiere of the second season.
“Not only was it a revenue enhancer, it was also one of the best marketing tools possible,” Mr. Feldstein said. “It heightened the awareness of it in the public eye. It gave people the opportunity who had heard about it to sample it, and ultimately the second season premiere [of `24′] was higher.”
In October 2002, “24” scored a 6.5/16 in the demo with its second season premiere, according to Nielsen Media Research, 20 percent higher than its debut the year before (5.4/13).
“It was so successful for `24,’ we continued on `24′ with additional seasons. We’ve (also) done it with `The Shield’ and now `Arrested Development.”‘
Mr. Feldstein declined to specify any upcoming first-season DVD releases that follow the same format, but said, “We’re evaluating programming all the time.”
So far, “Arrested” has not seen a DVD-driven ratings boost similar to “24’s” success. The show’s second season premiere scored a 3.2/7 in the adults 18 to 49 demographic, down 3 percent from its series premiere last year. Preston Beckman, the network’s executive VP of strategic program planning and research, said “Arrested” is a show with its own set of specific challenges, and any direct comparison to “24” doesn’t take that into account. Chief among them, viewing “Arrested” on DVD won’t necessarily have the immediate impact that viewing “24” brings, since the latter is much faster paced, while the former takes its time in introducing its comedy through the densely written scripts and characters. “Arrested’s” DVD dividends may be on something of a time delay.
“`Arrested Development’ is unique from a lot of other shows,” Mr. Beckman said. “So much of the humor comes from knowing the characters and knowing prior episodes. It’s one of the shows where sitting down and seeing big chunks of it is probably a good thing. The appreciation of the show grows episode by episode.”
For Mr. Beckman, “Arrested’s” modest sophomore opening had less to do with DVD sales, and more to do with Fox’s recovery from postseason baseball disruptions, a complicated Sunday night scheduling landscape and a football overtime that affected East Coast schedules.
“We’re at that part of the year where we’re first getting our schedule off the ground,” he said. “It still takes a few weeks for people to know we’re back. Unfortunately for us, even without a football double-header, we had a game that went long. Our entire Sunday night schedule went 40 minutes late. `Arrested’ came on about 9:10 [p.m. ET]. It not only was bridged by `Desperate Housewives,’ it had to face `Desperate Housewives.’ The drop-off from (its lead-in) `The Simpsons’ is probably more pronounced than in subsequent weeks. I think the story will be written in the weeks to come.”
In the meantime, buyers of the “Arrested” DVD are getting more familiar with the eccentric Bluth family, which Mr. Preston said is not a bad thing.
“It’s good that people will be watching it,” he said of the DVD. “I can’t believe it hurts.”