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Flexing Its Muscle

4 Aug, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

While overall DVD sales are sluggish, sales of fitness DVDs are booming this year as suppliers and consumers complete the transition to the disc format.

Mid-year sales of fitness DVD are up 25% from last year, according to VideoScan data, and the top suppliers are all seeing boosts to match.

“It really was over the past year, starting in January that I felt we were out of the VHS business,” said Michelle Rygiel, SVP of creative and product development for Anchor Bay, No. 2 fitness supplier (see chart).

“I mean when 98% of the weekly fitness sales are coming from DVD, I think it's safe to say we are fully transitioned,” she said.

Anchor Bay releases the “10 Minute Fitness,” “For Dummies,” “Dance Off the Inches” and “Crunch Fitness” brands, as well as new programs such as Yoga Booty Ballet, and a line of interactive “Pick Your Level”


“The fitness category is finally catching up to DVD technology,” said Annmarie Gatti, senior director of marketing for Sony BMG Music Entertainment. “And DVD technology is making the category much more interesting. It allows us to create more innovative products.”

This year, Sony BMG released One Minute Fitness, a title that customizes a workout based on the viewer's response to three questions at the beginning of the disc.

Retail support for fitness has been tremendous in 2006 suppliers said, especially from one major player.

That player is Target. The retailer's strengthened fitness presence with large cross-merchandised store fixtures this year was a big growth factor for the whole category, said Kajsa Vikman, executive director of fitness and marketing for Lionsgate, which has 8.5% of the market.

Lionsgate, which handles production and distribution for the prolific Denise Austin, has seen 32% sales growth in the DVD category over last year, Vikman said.

Brands such as “Denise Austin” remain hugely important for success in the genre, she said. Lionsgate has four new titles coming from the star in the fourth quarter.

One of the biggest brands in the business is Gaiam, which late last year purchased GoodTimes Entertainment, merging the company's traditional line of Yoga and Pilates titles with GoodTimes trademarks such as Billy Blanks' “Tae Bo,” “The Firm,” “Leslie Sansone” and the Prevention magazine line.

Gaiam/GoodTimes leads the category with a whopping 46.4% share. And Gaiam is on track to hit a record $200 million in revenue for the year, according to the company.

The supplier has lots of merchandising relationships both inside and outside mass merchants, with such retailers as Borders, Barnes & Noble and even lifestyle grocer Whole Foods.

It's important to branch out, because overall, shelf space is not growing for fitness or for DVD at large, said Sue Haney, VP of marketing Gaiam/GoodTimes.

“But we're in so many different channels that I think there's always an opportunity for growth by not necessarily getting more space in where you are, but in new places where you've never been,” she said.

Gaiam typically will get an impulse consumer to come back and buy three more products, Haney said. The supplier has videos, books, and a line of exercise supplies such as bands, balls and mats.

Still, you don't have to be a huge supplier to be basking in the glow of fitness these days.

The success of new DVDs in Koch's “Self Magazine” and “Trainer's Edge” product lines have added to 38% year-over-year growth for the supplier, said Wally Schmidt, VP of marketing and product development for Koch Vision.

“We hope to better that growth in 2007,” Schmidt said.

Goldhil Entertainment has re-vamped its commitment to the genre, toning down the number of releases from its “Natural Journeys” line and adding longtime star Kathy Smith to its stable.

“I would say that our catalog is doing very well, don't think its quite to 25%,” said spokesperson Chris Donaldson. “But we haven't had a real influx of new titles. With Kathy Smith kicking in, we expect to see an uptick.”

Razor Digital Entertainment recently announced Razor Fitness, an arm of the company devoted to the genre. Razor is a fairly new player, having only been in the category for a year and a half, but already has seen several of its titles in top 10 lists at Fitness Magazine and Health Magazine.

Razor is launching a mix of established stars with Tamilee Webb and Jennifer Kries from “The Method” alongside newer faces such as Brazilian dance guru Vanessa Isaacs and hard-core trainer Jari Love.

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