Dr. Horrible Gives People A Reason To Buy The DVD

from the such-a-concept dept

One of the issues we regularly discuss around here when it comes to business models is the fact that anyone producing content needs to give consumers a real reason to actually buy something scarce. If it’s just the same thing they can get elsewhere for free, there’s not much incentive. It looks like Joss Whedon has taken at least some of that to heart. Earlier this year, Whedon got a lot of attention for the release of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, an online three-part video musical. While it seemed like some of the attention paid to it was overblown (oh my! TV people can make videos on the internet just like regular people!), that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the video, itself was really, really good.

From the beginning, the plan was always to then sell a DVD of the video, but some questioned if that would make sense, since the video was available for free online. Originally, the announced plan had been to only show the video online for free for a few short weeks, and then make people pay to see it — but it looks like Whedon changed his mind on that one, as the video has stayed available. However, as Tom writes in to point out, it looks like Whedon and the others involved in the production have realized how to give people a reason to buy the DVD: by providing a ton of useful extras that even those who watched the original obsessively will find worthwhile to pay for. It includes behind the scenes stuff, and apparently a commentary track that is as amusing as the original video itself (and, apparently, includes new musical numbers). It’s good to see folks realizing that to get people to buy stuff it helps to add value, not try to diminish it.

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Comments on “Dr. Horrible Gives People A Reason To Buy The DVD”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

but they are also priced really low at 10 USD. so it isn’t like they are charging you an arm and a leg.

btw, is anyone else hoping there is an option for bouncing ball style subtitles for the sung parts? I think it would be freakin awesome to have that. gather a group and everyone can sing along

pawn says:

Re: Re: Re:

The Anon Cow is right. Utilizing copyright to enforce scarcity is presented as a failed business model.

Instead of putting digital collectables, which are for practical purposes infinite, Whedon should sell scarce collectables. Maybe a miniature freeze ray. Maybe a few strands of that girl’s hair. Maybe a golden ticket for an hour long man-date with NPH and a cameo in the next series.

Who knows what sort of things would work? But the concept of digital bonus isn’t going to insulate Whedon against the economics of infinite supply.

ahhh says:

hey, Anon Cow… take your trolling t shirts and sell them elsewhere, and there is a difference streaming the video off the creators website, and going and illegally downloading it. Remember not everyone infringes on copyright. The original video is being viewed legally, so where would you be able to view the extra content legally?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This place says that digital content is an infinite resource and has no value

Apparently, it’s you who is new here:


We actually think content has tremendous value.

Now it says you can post a free video and still make money. Yet they are making money selling digital content that has no value

Wrong again. The DVD is a scarce good, and it provides convenience (another scarcity) over pure web content.

You can critique us if you like, but at least get your facts straight.

Jim says:

Re: Re: Re:

A professionally packaged DVD has value. Try giving a burned version of the stream ripped show as a gift. Nothing screams “I’m an awesome dude” like burned DVDs!

Sure I COULD go download all the extra content and burn copies for Yule Time, but that would take up my time and effort. I would have bought the DVD for $10 with no additional content.

Dave says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Try giving a burned version of the stream ripped show as a gift. Nothing screams “I’m an awesome dude” like burned DVDs!

Actually, my brother did exactly that for me, for my birthday a few months ago, with a nice disc label, and printouts of the online Captain Hammer comic. Oh, and a T-shirt. I, then, made copies of the DVD, to share with friends, to maximize the convenience for them (while wearing my T-shirt, of course). Now, guess how many copies of the published DVD my circle of friends will be buying.

I also pirated the soundtrack. And then promptly bought it as soon as it was available in a DRM-free format from Amazon.

What Dr. Horrible has is essentially a reverse patronage model. We buy because we want to support the creators, but more importantly, because we want them to create more.

Teilo (profile) says:

Economics of infinite supply != no sales

Really, you guys take the cake.

Care to show any evidence to support your assertions regarding the “ecenomics of infinite supply”? And that is all they are: Assertions. Piracy often increases demand for the infinite goods which are being sold. Guess what? Time and again, publishers have found that by giving content away, they end up selling, more, not less. Techdirt has published many examples of this principle at work.

Why don’t you get your facts straight.

Kind of makes me wonder if the MPAA/RIAA is playing the sock puppet game here.

pawn says:

Re: Economics of infinite supply != no sales

I’m not offering copyright as a solution. I’m simply saying that I don’t see the appeal of this incentive long term.

An object with infinite supply has value, however, due to the decreasing cost of reproduction it’s cash value (or price) is limited. This concept is lost because people so quickly equate the two.

In this case, an additional infinite product is offered as an incentive. In other words, it can be reproduced infinitely.

That leaves me with a choice: violate copyright law designed to produce artificial scarcity OR pay for an infinite good.

I think Whedon is doing great by giving some incentive. However, I’d rather see something I can’t reproduce. Sell me that with the DVD.

Also, the assertion that giving things away produces more sales is pretty interesting. Record sales may be falling. I don’t know if that’s due to the net or not (or even if sales have declined).

Are you suggesting that if the RIAA abandoned copyright and gave music away for free that record sales would magically increase?

I don’t think it would. I think that the RIAA needs to offer something concrete with CD’s to increase sales. Something scarce.

Like that girl’s hair (is it extra creepy, the second time?). Or a chance at backstage passes to a concert. Heck you can even direct them to your RIAA website to enter info to check to see if they won.

It doesn’t matter what they offer, just sweeten the deal. That’s all I’m saying. Giving stuff away cannot magically generate money. You must develop a business plan that creates value for your product.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Economics of infinite supply != no sales

Value and Price are not necessarily the same thing. Price is formed at the intersection of supply and demand. When supply is infinite, the economics push the marginal price down to zero, but there is still demand (in fact, the quantity demanded increases). Answer this: why would people want (demand) something that has no value?

While I see your point about the infinite good being bundled with another infinite good, you fail to properly evaluate the fan base for Dr. Horrible. Many of those fans are willing to pay $10 for the DVD, because they want to support it. This is, I believe, what Mike calls “True Fans.”

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a very difficult time getting around the Catch-22 associated with providing greater content on DVDs versus what is making the “torrent rounds.” You create a better, more attractive offering on a DVD, some fool thinks “what a great thing to share with the world at large”, and then placing the content creator…who has done a good thing…to go back to the drawing board and add even more content. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Small wonder why DRM first reared its ugly head, with other much more surreptitious schemes likely to follow. How sad that law abiding customers are paying the price because a few feel it is their “duty” to share the wealth…and the law be damned.

Rose M. Welch says:

I would rather have the DVD. I took my case of DVDs with me this weekend to hang with my sister at the hospital after she delivered her son. Couldn’t do that with a laptop.

That being said, I won’t pay more than seven dollars for a DVD, and I’d rather pay five. I don’t care about the case, the liner notes, or even the special features. I just want the disc. If DVDs were cheaper, I would buy more of them. Since they’re expensive, I’ll watch television online.

C. A. Bridges says:

Re: Re:

Fair enough, but this was well worth the ten bucks to me. First, that’s cheap for a DVD, especially one that essentially doubles the content of the original showing (complete writers/actors commentary PLUS a commentary composed of 42 minutes of original songs, which are hilarious) PLUS actual hidden easter eggs you have to figure out that no one seems to do anymore, plus the more sedate making-of features.
But just as important to me, the money goes to the creators. Whedon did this on his own dime and no studios are getting a cut. That pleases me immensely.

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