Blu-ray sales fail to lift DVD blues

19 Nov 2009

High-definition Blu-ray disc sales will not be sufficient this year to compensate for the major plummet in DVD sales, Screen Digest warns.

Screen Digest’s Video Intelligence team has just released its annual review of the global market for physical video.

The report indicates that Blu-ray Disc (BD) sales will not be sufficient this year to compensate for the widely reported downward trend in DVD sales, although Screen Digest expects global consumer spending on packaged video software to stabilise again in 2010.

Recession’s effect

“Clearly, the start of a global recession was not the ideal time to launch an upgrade to what many consumers consider to be a perfectly serviceable home-entertainment system and spending on the Blu-ray format has been slower than the industry had hoped as a result,” said Helen Davis Jayalath, head of video at Screen Digest.

“However, Screen Digest’s research shows that the hi-def BD format has the potential to return the physical video market to growth in 2010 and to ensure that packaged media can still compete in today’s increasingly competitive entertainment world.”

As the DVD market continues to mature, ever-lower prices have combined with a global slowdown in unit sales, resulting in a fall of 2.8pc in consumer spending on buying and renting physical video formats in 2008.

The global economic crisis, which slowed take-up of the hi-def format in most markets, means that 2009 is not expected to reverse this trend. However, Screen Digest expects BD to account for 8.5pc of total video spending globally this year, setting the scene for further expansion.

Overall, the company expects worldwide spending on video to show a slight dip in 2009 before stabilising in 2010.

Global rental revenues

After years of decline, worldwide rental revenues bucked the trend and increased their share of worldwide spending on video software by half a percentage point in 2008 to 32pc. This growth was driven by an upturn in rental’s share of spending in Japan and North America – and happened despite the sector’s continuing decline in Europe.

The upturn in rental activity in the US was driven by strong growth in both online subscription rentals (dominated by Netflix) and rental kiosks (eg, through Coinstar’s Redbox-branded machines), as well as by the emergence of a BD rental business.

Meanwhile, the continuing importance of rental in Japan – and the comparatively lacklustre performance of the sector elsewhere – means that the country now accounts for 26pc of worldwide rental spending, up from 18pc a decade earlier.

With consumers in the world’s two largest video markets continuing to spend on rental, Screen Digest expects the global rental sector to increase its share by another 2 percentage points in 2009, to 34pc of all video software spend. However, with rental’s star now firmly in decline in Europe, this is unlikely to herald a more widespread resurgence in the sector.

Video software unit shipments

A total of 2.7 billion video software units were shipped to the global retail and rental sectors in 2008, down 1.4pc from the previous year. Whilst BD shipments saw a three-fold increase on 2007 to 67 million units, they were unable to halt the overall decline in shipment numbers, a trend that has continued in 2009.

Last year, the DVD format represented 92pc of units shipped and the hi-def BD format just 2pc – less than the 5pc accounted by the VCD format, which is found only in certain Asian markets.

The international market continues to increase its margin on the North American market, accounting for almost 53pc of units shipped in 2008. Screen Digest expects the international business to increase its share of video shipments to 55pc in 2009.

DVD prices

The price of a DVD has been in decline since the format’s introduction more than a decade ago; BD disc prices have dropped almost 10pc since its introduction (2006 in the US and Japan; 2007 elsewhere). The Asia Pacific region boasts both the most expensive DVD and BD retail discs (in Japan at an average of $38.53 and $54.16 respectively) and the cheapest DVDs (in China, where the average legitimate DVD costs just $1.56).

The cheapest BDs – averaging just $18.16 – are found in South Korea, where the US studios have recently scaled back their home-entertainment presence in the face of rampant online piracy. Screen Digest expects the downward trend to continue, with the average worldwide price of a DVD forecast to drop 8pc to $13.42 in 2009.

Almost 499 million households worldwide were equipped with at least one standalone DVD video player or recorder by the end of 2008 – up 10pc on the previous year. Screen Digest expects the number of DVD households to increase 8.5pc to just over 540 million in 2009, exceeding 500 million for the first time.

What’s in homes

Just 5.8 million households worldwide had a standalone BD player by the same point, although a further 23 million had access to the BD format via Sony’s PlayStation 3 (PS3) games console.

Screen Digest expects the number of dedicated BD players to reach 18.4 million worldwide by the end of 2009, while more than 27 million homes will have a PS3. Well over half of these machines will be found outside North America.

“The increasing availability of cheaper, entry-level BD players and expansion in the number of homes with an HDTV set will drive growth in BD player households in 2009, which in turn will boost sales of BD software,” said David Scott, senior analyst, Asia-Pacific at Screen Digest.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years