Tuesday, March 08, 2005

TV Shows on DVD (Part 2 -- Music Clearance Frustrations)

The producers of shows like Beverly Hills 90210, The Wonder Years, Ally McBeal, and many others find themselves in a music rights clearance nightmare when it comes to negotiating licensing fees with the owners of songs and recordings.

The show, Married With Children used Frank Sinatra's recording of "Love And Marriage" as its iconic theme song. The owners of that song and/or recording have apparently been playing hardball with the producers of the DVD. So hard, in fact, that the DVD producers chose to replace the theme song entirely on the Third Season DVD set!

DVD producers are kind of stuck in the middle here. Fans of the show will expect the music to be the same as when it aired originally (especially the theme song!!). On the other hand, the owners of the music have every right to negotiate as high a licensing fee as they are able or even deny additional uses entirely. So, you end up with either extremely high production fees which get passed down to consumers, or you get the original music cues replaced with more affordable alternative tunes (though not necessarily by REM, Green Day, or Nirvana).

The simple fact is TV on DVD is WAY bigger than TV on VHS ever dreamed of being. The music used in many older shows was cleared only for broadcast and syndication and not for home video use. Now that the explosion of popularity of the DVD format has spilled over into TV shows, the producers of those shows are going back any trying to clear the music for use on DVD and finding roadblocks along the way in the form of very high music licensing fees.

Will this affect the future of television? I believe it will. Most current TV shows are definitely taking these issues into consideration when choosing music for their shows, but then again, so are the owners of the music being used on current shows.

I don't often deal with these issues in my work (The O.C. doesn't exactly ring my phone off the hook requesting permission to use Gaither Gospel classics), but the few times I have, I see words like "perpetuity" and phrases like, "throughout the entire universe" and "for all purposes, without condition" and "all media now known or hereafter created or discovered," etc. You get the picture. These are scary words for a music licensor. In an effort to assure themselves that they aren't making a bad deal considering the scope of the rights requested, music owners are demanding higher and higher licensing fees when making these deals. This gets reflected in the cost of the production and that's part of the reason that half (if not more) of the shows in Primetime are now "reality shows."

TV Shows on DVD is big business (over $1 Billion in 2004) and there are advantages to the format, but there is (as always) a downside. Be aware of these issues whether your looking for The Brady Bunch, The Fantistic Four, The Gilmore Girls, Mork & Mindy, or Wonder Woman.

For More Information:

TVShowsOnDVD.com - various articles and issues

HERE is a recent article from Wired News about music clearance issues.

Also, there's some lively discussion of the relevant issues to music rights clearance for TV on DVD is happening HERE.

I know I said that this music rights clearance issue would be the final disadvantage discussed here, but recently another came to mind. That being, that if you
promise to watch an entire season of Knight Rider in one day, some people might take you up on it and hold you to your promise. Right, Pat? :-)

No comments: