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DVD Is Finally Conquering Fitness Market

25 Mar, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

The fitness genre has been the lone holdout in the shift to DVD, with tape sales hanging on even tighter than those for kids' product these days, suppliers in the genre say.

But last year -- especially the fourth quarter -- was a breakout in the format shift for exercise, and the shift to disc should be even more pronounced this year, according to some of the top suppliers.

The numbers bear that out. In February, all genre sales were predominantly in the DVD format, with fitness -- the last to pass the halfway mark -- pulling in 52 percent of its sales from discs, according to Video Store Magazine Market Research.

“During December 2003, the fitness industry saw its first week in history where fitness scans [sales] on DVD exceeded scans on VHS,” said Michelle Rygiel, senior brand manager for fitness and special interest for Anchor Bay Home Entertainment, which carries the “For Dummies” and “Crunch” fitness lines. “That one week wasn't a fluke. The trend has continued.

“Still, some of the key retailers have not moved to DVD as their primary format for fitness, but I think by fall 2004 the majority of retailers will primarily merchandise fitness on DVD.”

Bill Sondheim, president of GoodTimes Home Entertainment, which handles the popular “Tae Bo” videos and “Leslie Sansone” walking workouts, said DVD makes up 40 percent to 50 percent of the supplier's fitness sales, compared with last year's 25 percent.

Sondheim has found some retailers have jumped on the DVD bandwagon a bit ahead of their fitness-video shoppers.

“Some of that sales shift is being driven by retailers' resistance to carry VHS,” he said. “We have noticed that in particular the DVD buying from some major retailers continues to outpace what we're seeing on the point-of-sale end.”

It's a good thing, he added. The quality and durability of DVD and its interactivity are uniquely suited to fitness. Suppliers have been frustrated with the slower uptake on the digital front, but that's on the brink of changing.

Future GoodTimes shipments of exercise-equipment/video bundles will automatically come with DVD, with a coupon for a VHS copy should the consumer prefer it, Sondheim said, rather than the reverse, which has been the tradition for years.

Fitness suppliers have always held that DVD is the ideal format for exercise product, and now that consumers are picking up on that fact, the market is likely to see more added-value elements on DVD releases, said Lee Eiland, brand manager for Lions Gate Home Entertainment, which carries the “Denise Austin” and “Stott Pilates” video series.

Lions Gate is incorporating elements like music-only options or special photo galleries that freeze-frame specific exercise moves, which allows users to make sure they're working out safely and effectively, Eiland said.

Natural Journeys' latest, a series of Pilates titles featuring Romana Kryzanowska, the prot?g? of founder Joseph H. Pilates, actually offers some documentary elements on DVD, said Sabine Anderson, publicity manager for Natural Journeys.

There's footage of the longtime Pilates guru working in the studio with J.H. Pilates himself more than 50 years ago.

The sales split on the “Romana” series has been about 65/35 in favor of DVD, Anderson said.

Natural Journeys regularly incorporates bonus workouts, motivational tips or target heart-rate information on DVD releases to complement the format's interactivity.

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