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Entertainment Can't Expand Beyond 24 Hours a Day

8 Dec, 2003 By: Stephanie Prange

Television broadcasters are wondering where all the young men have gone. A recent dropoff in Nielsen viewership by the 18-34 male age group has broadcasters worried. Nielsen reports men are watching DVD or video 9 percent more and playing video games 33 percent more, cutting into their TV viewing time.

While entertainment gurus often talk about the revenue pie getting bigger, there are only 24 hours in a day. I think Blockbuster and the other rental chains are coming up against a problem similar to their broadcast brethren. Consumers are buying more and more DVDs – for gifts and for themselves — and it looks as if they are renting less.

Hollywood last week warned of a slowdown in rentals for the fourth quarter, resulting in a stock fall. Blockbuster in October made a similar warning about a revenue shortfall, in part blamed on a drop in rentals.

Much is made of the fact that consumers may be buying titles instead of renting them, but I don't think that's the whole picture. There are many more viewing opportunities in the home – from DVDs consumers already own, to those they borrow from neighbors, to extras on those DVDs, to video games, which can eat of hours and hours of time, to surfing the net.

A rental isn't just competing for viewers' time with a single sellthrough title viewing, pay-per-view or video-on-demand. It competes with all the other entertainment pastimes viewers can pursue to fill up that 24-hour day, including added viewing of DVDs they or their neighbors already own. As the fourth quarter ratchets up, consumers who buy DVDs or get them as gifts will find less and less time to rent. Between holiday shopping and get togethers with friends and family, they'll likely pop in a DVD from their own shelf.

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