Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

September marks a new watershed in the fight for home entertainment dollars in Oz. Nearly every Hollywood film, including new releases The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Men In Black 3 and The Five-Year Engagement, and most indie titles, will be available simultaneously on VOD and DVD. The collapsing of windows has been driven by the U.S. majors looking to boost VOD revenues to help compensate for the contracting DVD business. The strategy has been welcomed by Oz’s many VOD services who say it’s resulting in a lift in buy-rates. Brendon Moo, general manager of Foxtel On Demand and Pay Per View, says subscribers per capita buy four times as many movies as those who subscribe to Britain’s BSkyB.

The gap between DVD and VOD releases was originally 90 days. In the past few years that was shortened to 60 days and progressively to 45 and 30; now it’s zero except for independent distributors like Anchor Bay and Eagle Entertainment. The first simultaneous DVD/VOD release was The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button in 2010. Sony Pictures began releasing its films day-and-date earlier this year and Tim Harris, director digital & acquisitions, says, “We expect revenue to grow as the consumer embraces the convenience and quality of the format.” Home entertainment retailers are keen to get into the online business, but say the commercial terms are a disincentive. “The digital business is still very small in Australia and an attitudinal change needs to occur with the content providers to encourage existing industry operators to invest in this space,” says Civic Video general manager Rod Laycock.

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