Why Are DVDs and Blu-rays Sold As Combo Packs?

by Justin Sevakis,

Danette asked:

Ever since Viz started started releasing the new Sailor Moon BD/DVD box sets I've stuck with the standard DVD editions over the BD/DVD editions because it doesn't make sense to me to get Blu-ray discs with DVD discs when it seems silly having two different copies of the same thing in two different formats when one will be watched and the others will just sit in the box. But I've seen it with other movies too in the stores with both versions together in a pack and I'm just a puzzled by those. Don't people who like Blu-ray get annoyed getting stuck with a DVD copy they will not likely use?

The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack has been around nearly since the introduction of Blu-ray, with a handful of anime companies (mostly Viz and Funimation) preferring to release their titles in combo packs, and the other publishers just dabbling in them. Sometimes they even come with codes for digital copies.

And from the very beginning, fans have complained about them. While a handful of fans used both copies, most preferred one or the other (almost everybody prefers the Blu-ray versions these days), and had the idea that they were being forced to pay a premium for an additional copy in a format they didn't want.

The truth of the matter is that, while Blu-ray is significantly more expensive to manufacture than DVD, neither one adds a huge amount to a disc's manufacturing costs. Adding an already-mastered DVD to a Blu-ray package really only adds about US$0.25 to the cost of each unit sold. (Adding an already-mastered Blu-ray to a DVD package adds US$0.40-0.75 per unit.) The vast majority of what you pay for with a disc doesn't go towards manufacturing, it pays for the content itself (and the retailer's markup). That tiny amount of extra manufacturing cost is unlikely to shift the actual retail price of the release in either direction.

Having to manufacture, stock, track inventory and report royalties for only one release instead of two, however, can save a ton of money for a disc publisher. They only need to design one set of packaging (and get it approved), print one set of inserts, and use one UPC code. They don't have to worry about printing too many of one version versus the other. They get to be far more efficient and serve everybody with a single release. The cost savings can add up to far, far more than $0.25 per unit.

I certainly don't use my DVD copies. Since I don't keep the majority of my disc cases (I just file away the inserts and recycle the plastic), I literally don't have anywhere to put them. For years I gave them away, but now most of my friends don't even want them. At this point they either have a gorgeous big TV and balk at using anything but Blu-ray, or have moved on to a disc-less existence.

Since DVDs are slowly getting phased out across the board, I expect combo packs to become less and less prominent, eventually only getting made for big, high-profile titles. But for now, I have a stack of bare discs sitting on top of my bookshelf, looking for a good home. I can't exactly donate or sell these discs without any packaging. But I'll keep them around, and sooner or later someone will want them. Probably.

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    Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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