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Fitness Genre Lags Others in Move to DVD

28 Feb, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf

This year should be a breakout year for fitness DVD, thanks primarily to increased hardware adoption and the resulting broader demographic of DVD software buyers, suppliers say.

Along with the children's market, fitness has been slower to transition to the digital format, and the bulk of fitness sales still come from VHS. But the market is starting to evolve, and suppliers are prepped to respond with increased day-and-date offerings, workout programs that take advantage of DVD's interactive qualities, and the release of VHS catalog favorites on disc.

As of Feb. 9, DVD accounted for about 26 percent of year-to-date fitness video sales, according to VideoScan data. In the years of the format prior to 2003, DVD sales were such a small segment of the market that VideoScan didn't even track them.

The call for fitness titles on DVD has really just started to become a roar in the first few months of this year, thanks to DVD hardware sales in the 2002 holiday season, said Hosea Belcher, SVP of marketing for Artisan Home Entertainment.

The slower demand for fitness titles on DVD mirrors the demographic of hardware adoption, Belcher said.

“It's mostly the nature of the DVD market,” he said, “At first it was more male-oriented, technology-oriented and since exercise is predominantly supported by female consumers, it took a little while to translate to their market.

“We knew it was just a matter of time,” he added. “Especially for exercise, DVD is really the perfect format.”

Artisan carries the Denise Austin fitness line and in 2002 launched its trendy “Yoga Fusion” series. Artisan first began releasing product on DVD in March 2001. Now, Belcher said, the supplier often releases VHS and DVD fitness titles in separate windows for production reasons, but as of August intends to release all fitness programs day-and-date to maximize marketplace potential as expected hardware sales continue to increase.

“We're hearing more now from retailers and consumers about fitness DVD,” Belcher said. “The call has really just started to get loud after this last Christmas season, and DVD sales have only really started to pick up recently. A majority of sales are still coming from VHS, and fitness is still far behind kids' sales on DVD, but it's catching up.”

Anchor Bay Entertainment -- which produces and distributes several fitness lines, including the “For Dummies” brand of exercise videos -- was the fitness genre's market leader last year. So far this year, the company has already experienced 100 percent growth in DVD sales from the same period in 2002, with DVD generating 24 percent of the company's fitness business, said Michelle Rygiel, senior brand manager for fitness and special interest at Anchor Bay. Rygiel said Anchor Bay expects that, by next year, DVD will account for more than half the supplier's fitness business.

“One of the main reasons why fitness has lagged behind movies in the DVD transition is because most DVD households still only have one DVD player and it's in their family room or main entertainment room. But many at-home fitness consumers work out in the basement or a spare room where they probably still have an old VCR, so they continue to buy fitness on VHS even though they may buy movies on DVD,” Rygiel said.

Early on in the format, suppliers weren't releasing that much fitness product into the DVD market simply because there wasn't as much consumer demand. But now, Anchor Bay, like other suppliers, is looking not only forward to more DVD releases but back at previous VHS-only titles to put out on DVD.

“Primarily, I see companies addressing DVD going forward and making sure any current fitness releases are available in both formats. Anchor Bay has released at least a few of our popular fitness catalog titles on DVD each year and will continue to do so this year, “ Rygiel said.

“I get lots of e-mails from consumers requesting their favorite workouts on DVD. I don't think consumers are reluctant to upgrade. They seem to view DVD as a more ‘permanent' version of their favorite workouts.

“Believe it or not, they use some videos enough that they actually worry about wearing them out,” she said.

Fitness-video viewers aren't as concerned about the superior picture and sound quality available with DVD, but they are clued in to the fact that DVD offers easy ways to customize their home workouts, with soundtrack options, scene selections and other interactive or educational features, Rygiel said.

In fact, DVD's growing popularity has given rise to a new company that specializes in DVD releases only.

BodyWisdom Media offers four DVD fitness titles, each including dozens of workouts on one disc.

Still, fitness sellers like Collagevideo.com -- which offers thousands of fitness titles and operates a help-line that consumers can call to find out about the latest product or to get advice as to which programs will work best for their fitness goals -- are careful to address the fact that most buyers are VHS consumers.

Before linking to the Collagevideo.com's online DVD catalog, a pop-up box reminds viewers that DVD is an entirely different format than what they are used to -- as if the audience has not heard of the format launched in 1997.

It reads: “More and more programs come in a DVD format; they require a DVD player. If you have a DVD player, click here to see what's available.”

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