We’re All Watching Digital Video, But Most Of Us Aren’t Buying Any

Image courtesy of Ryan Finnie

When you just want to watch something, you probably look for it first on Netflix or Amazon. When you really treasure something and want to make it part of your library, you might buy the disc. But when do you buy a digital copy of a TV episode or a movie? Basically never, right? Yeah, and that’s the problem for the whole industry, because you’re not alone.

As Variety reports, if you can’t remember the last time you did a digital purchase or rental, you’re not alone. According to a new study from research firm GfK, the majority of consumers have never done either.

Overall, 46% of consumers have ever, even once, purchased or rented a digital movie or TV show, Variety reports. In comparison to the physical media era, that number is ridiculously low: 86% of consumers have rented or purchased something on a DVD or Blu-ray disk, at some point in their lives, and 78% (probably all the consumers among us who were out there buying and renting before roughly 2002) have done so with VHS.

Of that 46% who have ever once purchased or rented something digital, it seems more are willing to rent than to own. Overall, 70% of study respondents said they’ve never bought a digital video.

Even programs that let you buy one format, and get access to that content on all formats, don’t seem to be moving the needle on digital adoption. These are services like Disney’s Movies Anywhere, or Ultraviolet (a similar program that Sony and Universal participate in). When you buy a participating movie on a disc, it comes with a code that you can register online to get a free digital copy of the same content. The idea is that you can then let your kid quietly demand Beauty and the Beast for the 95th time this week on the iPad in another room, without putting the disc on the living room TV again. For example.

More than a third — 37% — of the survey respondents said they had bought something on disc in the past that came with the option to access a digital version, too. But only a third of that third ever bothered to activate those digital copies.

Basically, digital purchasing is not a habit that ever found its ground and took off — and now, it’s not likely to. Even buying digital content doesn’t mean you can keep access to it, when companies decide they’re no longer interested in letting you. So in an era with ubiquitous streaming, who wants to bother?

Because that streaming is ubiquitous: 78% of the consumers who never bought digital stuff do report they’re streaming it, instead.

More Than Two Thirds of Consumers Have Never Bought a Digital Video [Variety]