Looking to the Future of DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Distribution

One of our most valuable resources when it comes to keeping an eye on the evolving world of home entertainment media is the DVD and Blu-ray sales chart found on the Home Media Magazine website. For those unfamiliar, Home Media Magazine is, perhaps, the leading publication in the country reporting specifically on home entertainment. This chart (borrowed, of course, from the HMM homepage) for the week ending 5/19 gives a snapshot view of the state of DVD and Blu-ray sales nationwide. It’s a rare week that this chart doesn’t show Blu-ray sales on the rise, DVD sales declining and the market segment overall following suit, week-over-week. It was the hope of many industry executives back when Blu-ray first entered the consumer marketplace, that the technical superiority of Blu-ray over DVD would compel consumers to do just as they had when DVD supplanted VHS — replace (and augment) their existing home video libraries with the new (higher priced) product. This hasn’t turned out to be true due to a combination of factors. The US entered a recession just as Blu-ray emerged victorious from the ‘format war’ with HD DVD. The higher price of Blu-rayhas made them less attractive to consumers. The market penetration of HD TVs, four or five years ago, was still on the upswing. The list of available titles was tiny compared to the list available on DVD. And, ultimately, DVD remained ‘good enough’ to many cost-conscious consumers. At one point in 2009, this same chart showed Blu-ray to be less than 10% of the market, yet now it is a robust and growing 24% of revenue. Back then it was news when a title sold 1 Blu-ray Disc for every 10 DVDs. Now it’s not uncommon for Blu-ray Discs to outsell DVDs for blockbuster or popular titles.(Avatar anyone?) One of the chief factors influencing disc sales now is the large-scale migration of consumers to the digital (mobile) world. While the quality of the viewer experience in this universe may be less, it’s improving fast and may soon disappear as a differential. Top digital delivery destinations such as NetFlix, Hulu, FlixFling and others are constantly working to improve their user experience, expand their movie libraries and differentiate their experiences. How the world has changed! Industry experts in 2009 thought that digital would surpass disc sales no sooner than 2015. That timetable has been advanced by several years, thanks to the burgeoning tablet market and the wide adoption of smartphones as required personal and business accessory. It’s generally accepted conventional wisdom that DVD will continue to decline but will remain a viable, if not vibrant format for a long time yet. It’s clear that sales for this still-popular format haven’t yet hit bottom. My guess is that DVD will always be a distribution method which is utilized by many content owners. If you want my guess, I think that the ratio of Blu-ray to DVD will end up being around 60/40, but the overall revenue of the market segment as a whole will end up declining over the long term 1-2% per year for the next couple decades, ending up about half of what it is today by 2030. The winner, no surprise, will be digital distribution, which will eat up whatever the disc segment gives up and then some, as more and more consumers utilize their mobile devices to watch content when and where they want. Admittedly, my perspective is heavily influenced by my position in the home entertainment industry. Others may have a different view. It’d be interesting to hear from others with different POVs about their long-term predictions. Let us know — what do you think?