Despite the fact that the show "Law & Order; SVU" is in its 6th season, we are just now getting season 3 on DVD (its even worse for the original series, Law & Order, which is currently entering its 17th season, but we've only seen seasons 1-4 on DVD).
Of the three spin-offs of Law & Order, (Criminal Intent, Special Victims Unit, and Trial by Jury), I believe I enjoy SVU as much as the original and season 3 is full of numerous outstanding episodes, including the ones mentioned by previous reviewers. A must have for L&O fans!
I've questioned a couple of individuals that are involved with NBC and are familar with the production crews on the various versions of the L&O series francises and it has been explained to me why they are so slow at releasing season DVD sets. It has to do with the value of selling episodes from past seasons of the francises and the ability to keep their price up to the independent distributors for those individual episodes.
Once a season DVD set has been released to the public, the value of selling the re-runs to the independent stations is greatly devalued. This includes a possible reduction of "$" to the individual actors involved as well (depending on their contracts). If the popularity of the DVD sets is good, chances are there's more money to made there, its all a gamble, but I would think that with the popularity of all versions of L&O, sales of the DVD sets has to be very high.
I've been told that the popularity of the DVD sets has been high enough to justify releasing them faster, but at the moment they will be releasing eposides from a specific season (reruns for distribution to the independent stations) of L&O progressively over a period of 8 to 10 months before they release that season's DVD set. You'll notice that episodes of SVU's 3rd season have been running quite heavily on the independent cable networks, as reruns, over that last few months and now we have the 3rd season's DVD set being released. Currently it seems that most of SVU reruns are from the 4th and 5th season (the 5th season on DVD was released last year), so I would suspect we'll see season 4, on DVD, sometime late next year.
Its all a matter of how popular the show is, rather it can be justified at releasing the seasons quickly or slowly rather they will make money (more) from the re-run distribution or from the DVD sets.
Its interesting that some shows have used the release of a season's DVD set as a way to increase a shows popularity, sort of a advertising method that you make money from, rather than pay for.
Excellent examples of this are CSI:Las Vegas, CSI:Miami, CSI:New York, and LOST, which in all cases they released a season's DVD set almost immediately after the season has finished. Saw an interview with one of the directors, or maybe it was a producer, of the show LOST, and he explained how the show popularity is so determined by the viewer having a full understanding of each character from previous episodes, it demanded they release each season almost immediately. This was because someone coming to the show after the 1st or 2nd season had already been broadcast, would most likely have little understanding of what was going on and would probably tune away, but with the previous seasons available for purchase, someone could buy the 1st and 2nd season and be up to speed in a short time and because of the addictive nature of LOST, selling the DVD sets gains just that many more viewers. Interesting theory?
I suppose this won't work with L&O though, because after 16 seasons on TV, it doesn't need any explaining and by now they have their fan base pretty well established I would think, but I would still like them to release the seasons faster, as releasing them (a season) every 12 to 14 months is driving me crazy.