Movie Studios: Downloads Are Up, DVD Sales Are Down

An entertainment industry group says that Americans are spending slightly less on watching moving pictures in our living rooms overall, but part of that is a change in how we buy and consume media, and not necessarily that we’re watching fewer movies and TV programs. In news that will surprise no one, spending on DVDs and DVD rentals has declined significantly, and spending on downloads, streaming service subscriptions, and digital rentals has increased.

This information comes from the Digital Entertainment Group, a consortium of content providers that started back in the ’90s as the “DVD Entertainment Group” to promote DVDs to the movie-watching public. They’ve since re-branded, and with good reason. Americans have been spending more on digital media and less on plastic movie disks over the years. The amount that we spend on DVDs and on digital content are now very close to each other.

Well, in relative terms: total digital spending and DVD spending are now within $20 million of each other. That’s objectively a lot of money, but not much compared to the totals. In the last quarter of 2014, spending on downloads, streaming services, and other digital media systems was up 16%, and reached $2.12 billion. Spending on DVD purchases was down a symmetrical 16%, falling to $2.34 billion. DVD rentals were down 8.5%, and the total was $833 million.

While it’s hard to beat the convenience of ordering a movie digitally, it does raise the issue of ownership for consumers. When you buy a DVD or Blu-Ray, you own it and can watch it as long as you own a compatible media player. You only have access to content as long as you have access to your account: in theory, when you die, your media library dies with you. It’s also possible to lose access to content that you thought you had purchased: Amazon demonstrated this back in 2013 when Disney content suddenly disappeared from customers’ accounts. Having a license to view something does not mean that you own it forever.

That may not matter for every media purchase: how many times do you really want to watch “22 Jump Street”? It is something to keep in mind as we shift our spending and our entertainment libraries into streaming media, though.

U.S. DVD Sales Continue to Slide as Digital Viewing Soars [Bloomberg]

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