Every week it seems we get a new bunch of announcements about studios licensing out their catalogue properties to Shout! Factory. I don’t mind. Shout! can’t complete every series, but because they’re TV-on-DVD specialists, they have a fairly good idea of how to market a TV season (unlike many of the larger companies, which just dump the product on a random Tuesday without much targeted promotion). So when the first season is released by Shout!, there’s at least some hope that we’ll get to season two. And today they announced three more season 1 properties as part of their deals with Sony and Fox: the UPN sitcom Malcolm and Eddie, the TV version of The Paper Chase with John Houseman, and, most surprisingly, season 1 of Rhoda, the first MTM property that Fox has licensed out to an independent.
Which titles will independents have access to, which ones they’ll be able to complete after they were abandoned by the majors, we don’t know yet; but the principle is a good one. Except for a few big blockbuster titles, the TV-on-DVD market is a specialized market that most of the major studios aren’t very good at handling. Any company that’s willing to license out their shows to specialists, just the way they license out some of their movie titles to Criterion, is doing the smart thing. (The only company left that absolutely refuses to license anything out is Warner Brothers.)
The bad news is that BCI, known for releasing many successful collections of cartoons (mostly Filmation) and game shows, is being shut down by its parent company. It will probably create other TV-on-DVD titles, but it will no longer exist as a separate label.
Update: The news about BCI is worse than I originally thought; it turns out that all their projects — cartoons, game shows, and so on — have been canceled. The only titles released by the parent company, Navarre, will be titles that were distributed but not produced by BCI; as a TV-on-DVD company, it no longer exists. A shame, because they were doing good work: their DVD of the original Password is a delight.