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Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rory Townsend ponders what television series he wants to add to his growing collection of TV shows on DVD at the PowerZone at Vogelweh, Germany.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rory Townsend ponders what television series he wants to add to his growing collection of TV shows on DVD at the PowerZone at Vogelweh, Germany. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The era of “appointment TV” is being put on hold thanks to the growing popularity of television series available on DVD.

And servicemembers in Europe are taking advantage of the exploding market segment.

In the past few years, servicemembers overseas have been given the expanded ability to watch a wide variety of TV shows whenever they want — as long as they’re willing to pay for DVDs. Troops without American Forces Network, or those limited to that network, are shelling out hundreds of dollars at installation PowerZones to buy the latest TV shows on DVD.

“Across the board, TV shows on DVD are very popular, especially overseas whether it be Europe or the Pacific,” said Scott Maynard, manager of the Vogelweh installation BXtra, which houses a PowerZone.

Another reason for the popularity among the always-on-the-go military is the convenience of not having to adhere to a show’s weekly broadcast schedule to watch an entire season.

“There’s no way I could sit down at, say, 8 o’clock every Monday night and watch ‘ER,’ ” said Barry Barbe, a retired Army soldier who was preparing to buy a season of the medical drama on DVD Friday afternoon.

Since October 2003, the shelf space for television series on DVD has more than quadrupled at the Vogelweh BXtra, Maynard said. In 2004, Vogelweh BXtra customers spent more than $12.6 million on DVDs, movies, games and music.

Television shows on DVD are the quickest growing segment of the DVD sales market. In 2004, sales of TV on DVD increased 60 percent to $2.3 billion, according to Video Business, a home entertainment industry publication based in the United States.

Popular titles at Vogelweh include “Friends,” “Seinfeld” and “Sex and the City,” Maynard said.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rory Townsend said he spends about $100 a week buying TV series on DVD. He’s been in Germany for six months now without his wife and has amassed nearly 400 DVDs, with a majority being TV shows.

“I told the wife the other day how many we have, and she said, ‘Um, OK,’ ” Townsend said.

Townsend spent a portion of his lunch hour Friday perusing the aisle at the Vogelweh BXtra.

“I’m not going to pay $500 for an AFN decoder,” he said. “There’s a lot more to watch here than there is on TV anyway.”

Servicemembers such as Army Staff Sgt. George Lyles are purchasing shows they grew up watching but cannot find on TV in Europe.

“It’s nice to go back to an era when everything was a slower pace, not so high tech, not so graphic,” said Lyles, while shopping at the Vogelweh BXtra Friday afternoon.

Lyles said he owns such classics series as “Sanford and Son,” “Cheers” and “Good Times.”

“I’d probably seen half the shows on TV before I bought them,” said Lyles, 39. “Now, when I’m watching them I catch new things I can relate to that I couldn’t when I was watching them as a kid.”


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