RAI Trade, the sales arm of Italian public broadcaster RAI is to release a string of opera and ballet titles - including Franco Zeffirelli's staging of La Traviata - on DVD from November, to be distributed worldwide by TDK.
RAI has so far released six classical music titles through a distribution partnership with TDK struck last year. The company reports that DVD sales account for 35% of turnover from its music and performing arts catalgue, and plans to release 20 more classical music titles by April 2003.
The growth of DVD turnover at RAI mirrors that of many other sellers at this year's MIPCOM TV market in Cannes, especially companies with large rights catalogues, who have seen the value of many older film and television titles resurrected by the emergence of the DVD market.
"I would say it has really revolutionised our business," says Gerry Donohoe, managing director of the consumer division at the UK's Carlton International, which has a catalogue of between 500-600 films, including the Rank and Korda catalogues. "The films that were once on video at£4.99 in the corner of some obscure store now have incredible value."
As well as renewed consumer interest for Carlton titles such as David Lean's Brief Encounter and Michael Powell's The Red Shoes - both released in glossy special editions by Carlton - DVD also enables premium pricing of old product. Films that would have been released previously on VHS at around£4.99 can now retail between£9.99 and£19.99 on DVD.
The cost of digital mastering for DVD is also pushing the catalogue DVD market forward. Two years ago, the mastering for Carlton's DVD release of A Night To Remember cost around£25,000. The cost today, without intricate menus or extras, is around£1,500, according to Donohoe. Forthcoming catalogue releases for Carlton include a special edition of Anthony Asquith's The Importance Of Being Earnest and a string of the Carry On films.
"The film catalogue is responsible for a large part of our turnover," says Donohoe. "Some of our better sellers average around 30,000 [sales]."
Releasing catalogue TV programming on DVD is also showing growth, though not as strongly as film titles.
"The video market for television product was relatively down at the end of the 1990s," says Jens Richter, managing director of Germany's Beta Film. "With DVD it came up very much, especially from event programming, and that's impressive."
"It's a steady thing now - it's not huge and realistically these are small target groups, but they are steady target groups," says Richter, "so it is worth offering them the right product."
"People are realising the value of their catalogues, while they wouldn't have been saleable before," says Carlton's Donohoe.