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THE MORNING BUZZ: Comparing Apples To Hotcakes

3 Mar, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Let's start the week with talk of a little controversy triggered by market research director Judith McCourt's article in this week's Video Store Magazine. Using VideoScan data, McCourt claims DVD sales "exploded in January, accounting for almost two-thirds of the total DVD and VHS units sold."

Nothing controversial there. The numbers don't lie, since VideoScan estimates are based on point-of-sale data from actual retailers.

What raised some eyebrows is McCourt's contention that the top-selling DVD of January, Universal's The Fast and The Furious, sold five times as many units as the top-selling VHS cassette, Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire. An angry letter-writer accused Judith of comparing apples to oranges, noting The Fast and The Furious came out at the beginning of the month and Atlantis came out at the end of the month and thus any sales comparisons are unfair.

That's not the point. Judith was comparing the top-selling DVD with the top-selling VHS. Atlantis may only have been in the sales cycle for a few days, but the fact remains that it outsold every other VHS cassette released that month, including titles that streeted much earlier-around the same time as The Fast and The Furious.

And if you take a look at January sales of videos that streeted in the fourth quarter, day-and-date on DVD and sellthrough VHS, you'll notice what to me is a most surprising trend. Invariably, the DVD outsold the videocassette.

Specifically, the DVD of Pearl Harbor in the month of January outsold the VHS version by a margin of 2.17 to 1. The DVD of Rush Hour 2 outsold the cassette by a margin of 1.95 to 1. And the DVD of Shrek outsold the VHS version by a margin of 1.16 to 1. The only film to buck this trend was The Princess Diaries, of which 1.56 cassettes were sold to every one disc.

As for total sales numbers, the ratio is as Judith stated: two-thirds of video sales in the month of January came from DVD, while just one-third came from VHS.

The fact that all DVDs are priced for sellthrough out of the gate is certainly a key factor. But it's also true that the DVD consumer has a much more voracious appetite than the VCR owner. And with all those cheap under-$200 players flooding the market during the holiday season, DVDs are selling like the proverbial hotcakes.

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