When TV goes DVD

Sam Anderson in Slate on watching TV shows on DVDs.

Over the past few years, however, we have witnessed the end of simultaneity: everyone lives in different cultural time zones. Retro-watching has become big business. TV on DVD (can we agree to call it “TVD”?) has boomed into a $4 billion industry. And since 2000, when the first full season TVD came out—Season 1 of The X-Files, seven years after it originally aired—the show-to-disc lag has been steadily shrinking. HBO DVDs used to trail their shows by at least two years—now they come out before the next season airs. Falling behind isn’t a minority position anymore, it’s a legitimate first-time viewing strategy. Thanks to TVD (along with newer technologies like DVR and on-demand cable), the first broadcast of a show has lost its old magic—around 60 percent of The Sopranos’ DVD audience, for instance, doesn’t subscribe to HBO. Most of my friends are still scattered, with little sense of cultural loss, throughout Six Feet’s first four seasons.

But (to adapt Six Feet’s ad copy), everything everyone everywhere ends—at least eventually. After eight months, my Six Feet gap finally closed: Last week, the final season reached its second-wave DVD audience. I took full advantage of the medium shift, tearing through the entire season in three days—15 times faster than its original viewers.