Much as I detest the BBC these days, one area where their standards haven’t slipped and they can still claim realistically to be the best in the world is in wildlife documentaries. I’ve got the box sets of The Life of Mammals and Volume 1 of The David Attenborough Collection, and they’re just utterly brilliant. But they’re far from cheap. And that’s what got me thinking about the price.
When I buy a DVD of, say, Season 3 of CSI (arrived last week yay!), I’m paying the producers not only to manufacture the DVD but also to produce the TV program in the first place. Obviously. But this is not so if the producers are the BBC.
The production of BBC TV programs is paid for by funds raised through the license, as we all know. So I and millions of others had already paid for The Life of Mammals to be produced. To release the series on DVD, the BBC needed to burn the DVDs (dirt cheap), manufacture packaging (dirt cheap), distribute them to shops (not so cheap, but still pretty damn cheap), and, er, that’s it.
So I have two questions. Firstly, why are BBC DVDs priced similarly to DVDs produced by private TV companies? All I should be paying for when I buy a BBC DVD is the manufacturing and the distribution not the production (the expensive bit), which I had already paid for through taxation. It can’t be that the BBC are trying to make a profit, because they’re above that sort of thing, and it can’t be that they’re pricing according to market demand, as the very purpose of their existence, as they keep telling us, is to ignore market forces.
Secondly (and, I think, even more puzzlingly), why does the price of BBC DVDs vary so much? Example: on Amazon, the complete Black Adder costs £35.97 while just Black Adder II is £15.98. The complete set should cost a bit more, for the extra discs and a bit of extra cardboard packaging, but these are very small costs not twenty quid’s worth. What usually makes twelve hours of DVD significantly more expensive than three hours is the production cost of the original material, which, in this case, was paid in full long before the DVD was invented.
So what is their pricing model? Hmm.