With TV markets seemingly as off-colour as the independent film sector, producers and broadcasters are increasingly turning to the fast-rising DVD sector for new revenue and profits.
"The success story of 2002 was video, not video-on-demand," said Gilles Fontaine, head of media market researcher IDATE. "Home video in Europe last year was worth Euros 12.4bn".
At a seminar at the MIP-TV programmes market speakers queued up to describe DVD as the new TV gold mine.
Jean Paul-Commin, president of the International Video Federation and executive officer at France Television Distribution said that the "principal sector to benefit from the surge in DVD ownership has been feature film." But there are signs that other sectors are now benefiting. "2002 was the first year in which we saw real demand for [made for] DVD programming that was separate from that for TV programmes released on DVD."
The BBC's director of video, Stuart Snaith, who forecast 55% growth in the UK home entertainment market in the current year, said that the market share for film will drop from 80% in 2002 to 75% this year. Growing will be non-film items such as catalogue programmes and fitness DVDs.
Several speakers, however, said that the TV sector could not assume DVD will pull it out of a rut. "DVD is difficult to create compared with video," said Snaith, pointing to issues of chaptering, release dates that cannot so easily be co-ordinated with TV broadcast, the number of episodes to put on a disc and DVD cannibalising shelf space previously allocated to VHS.
Commin said that 80% of consumers do not watch bonus materials such as makings-of, deleted scenes and talent interviews. "The research says you should not bother," he said.
Richard Lorber, president of Koch Lorber Films, said "studios are bringing down the retail prices of DVDs, and non traditional retailers such as electronics shops are selling DVDs cheaply to drive traffic. But independents need to keep prices high to pay for the extras that people expect on DVD," - even if they are not used.
Commin said that while feature films can sell over two million units on DVD in the UK, hit films can achieve one million to 1.5 million in France, a non-film DVD would be a hit if it sold 100,000-150,000 units.
But this success for films on DVD is also giving cause for concern among specialist broadcasters. Marc-Andre Feffer, deputy chairman and general counsel at French pay-TV group Canal Plus, used the MIP-TV platform this week to call for more flexibility in European media regulation.
"The rules are obsolete or inappropriate. Markets have moved on. Authorities have tended to look at market segments separately. But today we see that DVD is eating into the pay-TV market."