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Site News - Mill Creek VP Says: Expect Suzanne Sugarbaker, ALL of C.O.P.S., Carmen, MORE Cannell

Just some of the news gleaned from last Thursday's interview of Jeff Hayne by US Townhall...with BIG hints of BIG announcements still to come!

Posted by David Lambert
As we reported a week ago, Mill Creek Entertainment's Vice President of Product Acquisitions, Jeff Hayne, spoke this past Thursday with Scott Katz at the US Townhall website. The 2-hour interview may be heard in its entirety by visiting the US Townhall website at the above link, but we've got a number of TV-on-DVD highlights from that interview for you!

Katz spoke with Hayne at some length about the upcoming titles Mill Creek is releasing on DVD, beginning with the studio's offerings for the remainder of 2010 (almost all of which have a street date of tomorrow, October 12th). We've already reported at length on each of the TV-DVD titles in Mill Creek's remaining 2010 lineup, so we won't go over them further here. However, you can review all of them here at Amazon (even the non-TV ones). The foremost among these are Renegade - The Complete Series starring Lorenzo Lamas, and The Commish - The Complete Series starring Michael Chiklis (now seen in the new series No Ordinary Family). Katz passed on a question from his readers: some retail websites (Best Buy was mentioned) are showing a different street date, a week later, for those two titles. Hayne confirms that the street date IS tomorrow, October 12th, for both of these. For sure. If a retailer is showing a different date, it could have something to do with the wholesale distributor that the chain is using.

We passed along in July that at the previous Hayne interview at US Townhall, he revealed that Mill Creek had sub-licensed several shows from Shout! Factory to release as single-disc best-of titles. Some of the ones we previously reported are coming out tomorrow (Blossom and G.I. Joe, for example). Others, Hayne revealed in his new interview, will be coming out after the first of the year. We'll see under-$10 releases (Jeff said in the interview that customers may find them as cheap as $5 at retail) for My Two Dads in January, and in March the late-60s Bill Cosby Show as well as Marcus Welby. Later on, in May, Mill Creek will do a best-of release for California Dreams, too. All of this should be content that has previously been released on DVD, but if you don't have it already then these will be a good, inexpensive way to pick up some solid entertainment.

Even more exciting are the bigger releases Mill Creek is planning for early 2011, including "Complete Series" releases of Stephen J. Cannell shows Stingray (January), Hawkeye (March), and Street Justice (May). Hayne spoke of these as being available at retail for "around $10," but when he spoke of Stingray he mentioned that the actual list price from Mill Creek will be $14.98 SRP. So in some cases during the interview he's speaking of list pricing, at other times he speaks about the discounted retailer "street price" that a consumer will typically find the set is being sold at in stores. Remember, your mileage on that may vary, because it's entirely up to each individual retailer as to what discount to offer (or even if they will discount the title at all; some don't, especially on DVD titles which are "value-priced" to begin with).

During the interview, Hayne revealed that one of their 2011 titles, currently planned for May release, is the Designing Women spin-off starring Delta Burke as "Suzanne Sugarbaker": 1995's Women of the House (where Suzanne moves to D.C. to fill the congressional seat of her recently-deceased husband, Ray). The short-lived series co-starred Patricia Heaton (The Middle, Everybody Loves Raymond) and Teri Garr (Tootsie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Hayne expects consumers to be able to find Women of the House - The Complete Series available this coming spring for around $10 as well.

Mill Creek will also take over the job of fighting crime in a future time! DiC titles have previously been released on DVD by studios such as Shout! Factory and NCircle Entertainment. However, Mill Creek has a deal in place with Cookie Jar Entertainment, which now owns the DiC library. As licenses with other studios expire, Mill Creek is picking up these rights from Cookie Jar/DiC, and one of their plans includes finishing the animated classic series C.O.P.S. on DVD. Hayne revealed that the plan is to put out a "Volume 1" in March, with 33 episodes that customers should be able to buy for around $10. Then later on in the year (possibly as soon as May) Mill Creek plans to release "Volume 2," with the remaining 32 episodes of the show's run (including twenty-one episodes which were never released by Shout!) on DVD for the same price. So by mid-year, fans can have the complete series in-hand.

Other animated releases along this line from May onward will include Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego? - The Complete Series ($14.98 SRP), and ~$5 releases for The Best of The Littles, The Best of The Get-Along Gang and The Best of The New Archies. Hayne says that they want to provide Cookie Jar with a good home for DVD releases for a long time, and wants fans to know to expect releases from that catalog virtually every other month, for the next few years.

And Hayne says that Mill Creek's animated plans don't end there. He could not be TOO direct in what he said during the phone interview with US Townhall, because the contracts aren't signed yet and he had to assume that his competitors were all listening in. But the exact quote from Hayne during the interview is this: "If you're a fan of some of the biggest TV shows from the mid-1980s in the animated space, I would look to Mill Creek VERY soon for new announcements in that regard, whether it's Classic Media, or World Events Productions; whoever owns 2 of the largest brands of the 80s for animated series, because we already have Dungeons & Dragons that we licensed from Disney, and we've already got the Mattel version of He-Man that we licensed directly froe Mattel, but STAY TUNED (ahem) for information on 2 big, big, big animated series from the mid-80s for Mill Creek to be announcing very soon."

The other main piece of news Hayne had for Mill Creek's future DVD plans has nothing to do with specific titles, but rather with a method of delivery. Several studios have been getting into the Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) business of burning DVDs after the customer orders it, and Mill Creek is going to get into this field as well, Hayne revealed. But with a twist! When Mill Creek's proprietary MOD website goes live (hopefully, he said, in December or January), it won't be just for "season sets" or "complete series" titles that are similar to what fans can buy at traditional retail. In addition to that, Mill Creek wants to offer fans the ability to "pick and choose" the specific episodes they want, whether they are from one show or multiple shows in Mill Creek's library, and have a disc created "to order" that contains just the material the consumer wants. More on that when it's available, of course.

When Katz asked about whether Mill Creek will release the remaining individual season sets of shows that they began releasing seasons for, then switched to "complete series" releases (Hunter, Renegade, The Commish, 21 Jump Street and Greatest American Hero all come to our minds), Hayne's general reply was that it depends on the show, but that it might be better for most of these for the remaining seasons to be available through Mill Creek's upcoming MOD program. That way, if a buyer only wants Season 5 of a show, they don't have to wait for the others to be released, and they don't have to feel obligated buy any other seasons as well. On the other hand, the discussion between Katz and Hayne at one point was very correct (to us, anyway) in pointing out that in situations where the customer already owns the first season or two, and then has the opportunity to buy The Complete Series of a show and pick up all the episodes they've been missing, the cost from Mill Creek of getting the big set is so much less than with other studios, it's less like re-buying the seasons you already own, and more like getting spare copies of them for free while paying for the seasons you don't own yet. As the on-air discussion said, it's all in the way the consumer decides to think about his or her purchase.

Hayne also said that the MOD route may be better for some of the more obscure titles Mill Creek owns the rights to, such as the Cannell programs J.J. Starbuck, Sonny Spoon, Top of the Hill, and so forth. Haybe promises that Mill Creek will release more Silk Stalkings season sets at retail, however. When Katz brought up the subject of a Silk Stalkings "complete series" release, Hayne pointed out that it's difficult because it is a show that ran longer, with 176 hour-long episodes over 8 seasons, which would likely come out (as Hayne did some quick math there) to around 37 or 38 DVDs...too many for a typical Mill Creek value-priced offering. Katz and Hayne discussed the possibility of splitting the series up with the first four seasons in one set, and the last four seasons in another set; Hayne also voiced the idea of a set that only had the last 3 or so seasons of the show (the ones never previously released on DVD). It's still under discussion at the studio, though.

On the topic of other items in the Cannell library, Hayne confirmed that they do NOT have the rights to a Stephen J. Cannell-written pilot for Hawaii Five-O, so that won't see the light of day from them. They DO have the rights to spin-off features such as The Greatest American Heroine and The Return of Hunter, and are looking for the best way to make these available. When Katz asked about whether Mill Creek has the rights to production in the Hunter franchise following "Return," Hayne said they did not, and that Return of Hunter will be the last item in that franchise Mill Creek probably releases (it would take HUGE sales of the big Hunter box set to make economic sense for Mill Creek to pursue the other rights to later items, Hayne said). When Katz brought up Wiseguy, he pointed out that the main fan suggestions he was getting prior to the interview was for the 7 episodes in that show's "Dead Dog Records" storyline, in that fans wanted the ability to buy those episodes WITH all the original as-broadcast music intact (they've never been put out on DVD that way). Also mentioned was the replacement of the key song "Nights in White Satin," a Moody Blues hit, for the Wiseguy episode that ended the "Sonny Steelgrave" story arc. Katz suggested that some fans have said they would buy these episodes, with music intact, "at any price," and suggested that the MOD route might be the way to go for that. Hayne said he would look into it, but in passing along that tidbit of news we want to caution our readers that it would probably be a long process of negotiating for this, as it would be different than the current routine method of how music licenses for DVD rights are currently handled. And Hayne pointed out during the interview that the music industry has taken a "hard line" on these matters, and usually isn't willing to negotiate down prices with even one studio, because they would then have to negotiate down prices with the other studios as well, so they are pretty much standing firm.

Katz passed along a large list of shows that his listeners, along with TVShowsOnDVD readers, communicated that they would like Mill Creek to explore releasing. Batman, "the holy grail," came up of course. Hayne verifies that Mill Creek is indeed one of the (MANY!, we can confirm) third party studios trying to obtain the home video rights to that legendary show. He assures fans that if Mill Creek got that license they would "do it right," but insists that he has nothing he's able to report in the way of progress. Katz also brought up another DC Comics-based series, the live-action '80s Superboy that was more remembered during their chat for co-starring Stacy Haiduk as "Lana Lang." Warner released the first season, but discontinued releases due to lack of sales. Hayne will look into that, as well as fan suggestions for the 1976 series City of Angels (which Wayne Rogers led, following M*A*S*H and before House Calls), and Donna Pescow in Angie. Katz also brought up the idea of Mill Creek completing DVD runs for Highway to Heaven, Hill Street Blues, and The Practice, plus doing newer shows such as The War at Home, 'Til Death and Ned & Stacey. Hayne will research these, too. Suggestions for B.J. and the Bear with Greg Evigan were brought up, too. Hayne says Mill Creek had already discussed that title with NBC-Uni, but there was some issue preventing its release. Hayne (who comments that he might be speaking out-of-turn and wasn't certain he should be talking about it) thinks that the fire on the Universal lot a few years back might have possibly been the issue with that show. If it wasn't that, then it might have been music issues...he couldn't recall offhand. Katz commented that this show and the spin-off, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, were suggested by his listeners often, and if the originals aren't available, then fans might like at least the option of getting syndicated versions of the episodes, if they are available.

Fan feedback, Katz said, also brought up closed captioning and subtitles, and Mill Creek's lack of inclusion on these on their DVD releases. Hayne comments that he studio is sensitive to that, and comments how he himself is a paraplegic and gets around in a wheelchair, so he's certainly got empathy for people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf and need captioning. And while Mill Creek tries to do it whenever it makes sense, it's "more expensive than you can imagine," and when there are other huge costs for a DVD release (such as license fees and production costs), then captioning and/or subtitles simply becomes too cost-prohibitive to include..."nearly impossible" is the wording Hayne used. But they DO care about it, he insists, and they try to do it as often as possible, and hope to do more of it in the future.

On the subject of Blu-ray titles, Hayne says that Mill Creek wants to do more Blu-ray, and that it's a format that's absolutely here to stay. But they do have limitations in that regard, especially where TV is concerned, because most TV shows Mill Creek licenses are from the era when TV shows were shot on tape, and so they are not in high definition. They could up-convert them to possibly 720p, but that's not satisfactory for most consumers. Plus there are already other various additional costs of producing/encoding content onto Blu. So Mill Creek's BD content will be more with films than with TV shows, at least for the present time.

Our thanks to Scott Katz of US Townhall and Jeff Hayne of Mill Creek Entertainment for all of the news. We'll follow up, of course, when Mill Creek makes formal announcements of the upcoming programs and products. And we'll have the details, official finalized pricing, and package art for those titles, just as soon as we can. Stay tuned!

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