| June 20
June 20 A spike in sales of "The Sopranos" DVDs,
downloads and merchandise based on the mafia series following
star James Gandolfini's death may only be short-lived and likely
won't provide much of a windfall for HBO and its parent Time
Sales of DVDs on the retail site Amazon shot up in the hours
immediately following the 51-year-old star's death in Italy on
Wednesday. "The Sopranos: The Complete Series," which sells for
$124.99 on the site, by late Thursday had jumped to second place
among best-sellers from 1,463 on that list.
The series' first season was also ranked No. 4 on Apple's
"It's a one-day wonder, and it won't last," said Alan Gould,
media analyst with Evercore Partners, who follows Time Warner.
Old episodes will likely generate a lot of streaming,
especially since kids are home from college, but it's unlikely
to last beyond four to six months, said TV consultant, Adam
Armbruster, a partner with Eckstein, Summers, Ambruster and Co.
"In the past 24 hours it's gotten more press than it has
ever gotten," said Armbruster. "The mass public will be curious
about why this man earned so much attention. It's not a
HBO streams "The Sopranos" on its HBO Go service, an online
service available at the moment to about 6.5 million of its
subscribers, who get it as part of their subscription to a cable
or satellite service.
That won't likely get them many new subscribers, said
Matthew Harrigan, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities, who
follows the company.
"It's a mild positive, in a wretched sort of way," he said.
HBO doesn't license the show to Netflix for streaming.
The premium cable channel sold old episodes to the cable
channel A&E in 2005 for an estimated $2.5 million an episode,
generating $195 million for HBO over the term of the five-year
contract, according to news reports at the time.
That deal ended, and HBO hasn't said whether it intends to
seek another TV contract.
USHERED IN NEW ERA
"It's not the kind of program you can show on broadcast TV.
There'd be too many scenes to delete," says Bill Carroll,
vice-president and director of programming for Katz Television
Group, which advises TV stations and others on buying syndicated
"The Sopranos" earned Gandolfini three Emmy Awards as best
lead actor in a drama series and was considered by many critics
the finest drama to have aired on U.S. television.
It also is credited with ushering in a new era of American
TV drama, which today is flourishing across the cable spectrum.
Today's line-up means less need to revert to showing oldies like
"Cable channels have too many original programs to take it
these days," said Carroll. "James Gandolfini will have his
moment when people will admire his artistry, but it's likely to
come at the appropriate moment at the Emmys or Oscars."
Amazon put a picture of the show's DVD box on its site to
memorialize the late actor within an hour of his passing. The
retailer quickly took it down when it generated negative
attention online. An Amazon spokeswoman had no immediate comment
on the incident.
Beyond "The Sopranos," there will still be opportunities to
see Gandolfini in front of the camera this year and next.
Fox Searchlight, a unit of News Corp, will be releasing
"Animal Rescue," a crime drama in which he had a role.
He and Julia Louis-Dreyfus also star in a comedy directed by
veteran TV director Nicole Holofcener for which Fox Searchlight
hasn't set a release date.
HBO may have to grapple with whether to allow Gandolfini's
return to the network. The actor was set to appear in "Criminal
Justice," a seven-episode drama to which HBO gave the green
light in May to begin production. Gandolfini, who plays an
ambulance-chasing lawyer, appears only in the final minute of
the show's pilot, according to the industry blog Deadline