Physical media spend declines in US households

Research from IHS Screen Digest suggests that American viewing tastes are shifting away from discs and toward online video, with the information and analytics provider reporting that US households in 2011 decreased their spending on physical media purchases and rentals at a double-digit rate.

Average spending on physical video media per US video household owning either a DVD or Blu-ray Disc (BD) player slipped to $133.31 in 2011, down 11 per cent from $149.53 in 2010. In 2006, at the time the BD format was launched, per-household spending was $73.47 higher, reaching an average of $206.78. Spending levels, which have declined since 2004, are expected to retreat again this year to $123.50. Of the 2011 spending total, 61 per cent – equivalent to $81 per video home – went to buying discs; the remaining $52 was spent on the cheaper option of rentals.

The IHS Screen Digest Video Intelligence Service indictates that overall, total spending in 2011 by Americans on packaged retail video amounted to $8.8 billion, down 12 per cent from $9.9 billion in 2010. Total spending also fell on rental video, although at a smaller 7.3 per cent to $5.7 billion.

Consumer spending on packaged video will keep declining through 2016, reaching slightly more than $11.4 billion by the end of that year, a neighbourhood last seen in pre-DVD 1994, suggests the firm. Of that total, retail spending in 2016 is estimated to amount to slightly less than $5.4 billion—the level in 1997 when DVDs were first launched. Rental spending will be at a hair more than $6 billion, similar to what was reached in 1990, well before the 2001 rental peak.

IHS analysis suggests that Americans will pay to consume more movies online in 2012 than they will on physical video formats. That would mark the first year that consumption of legal, Internet-delivered movies will outstrip those of DVDs and BDs combined.

The legal, paid consumption of movies online in the United States is projected to reach 3.4 billion views in 2012, approximately 1.0 billion views higher than the 2.4 billion combined retail and rental physical video transactions. IHS points out, however, that comparing digital views to physical retail and rental transactions is like comparing apples to oranges, as purchased and rented discs are often viewed more than one time per retail or rental transaction.

“The overall view for US video spending is less bleak when other forms of transactional and on-demand subscription video are added to the mix,” said Michael Arrington, senior analyst for US video at IHS. “If revenue were to be added from other viewing options such as video-on-demand, Internet-based sales and rentals, and subscription streaming from providers like Netflix and Hulu Plus—alternatives to physical disc purchases and rentals that consumers have been steadily gravitating toward for the past several years—consumer spending across all outlets of home video would amount to nearly $17.2 billion, a much more substantial figure.”

Prospects for the physical video market could likewise improve this year compared to 2011, especially as US consumer spending at the box office in March was up more than 20 per cent from the same time last year. Given hit movies such as The Hunger Games, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and The Avengers, a real potential exists for a lift in the video market this year that could minimise the overall projected decline, suggests the firm.

Despite the success of the kiosk channel led by Coinstar’s Redbox, rentals took a nosedive last year as traditional rental stores continued to close. Moreover, Netflix caused many subscribers to shift their spending away from discs and toward streaming—first by offering streaming-only plans for $7.99 per month in late 2010; and then by separating the service completely from physical-disc rentals, on which it raised prices in mid-2011.

Those moves by Netflix resulted in customers leaving the subscription-disc rental world in droves, with subscription customers estimated to be down to 14 million by the end of 2011, compared to 18 million the same time a year ago. Some of those that left transferred to the Blockbuster Online subscription rental service, now operated by new parent Dish Network. Many more stopped renting physical disks altogether or took their business back to stores and kiosks.

Kiosks have seen their share of the rental action increase, especially as the number of traditional stores fell to less than 6,000 by the end of last year – down from slightly less than 10,000 the year before. Kiosks in 2011 accounted for roughly 34 per cent of all US consumer spending on physical rentals, up from 22 per cent the year before. This year, more than 41 per cent of rental dollars will go through kiosks, a figure which is expected to climb to nearly 52 per cent by 2015.

 

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