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HIVE EXCLUSIVE RESEARCH: October DVD Sales Beat VHS for the First Time

21 Nov, 2001 By: Judith McCourt

DVD units consumers purchased in October surpassed VHS units purchased at retail for the first time since sales of both formats have been tracked, according to VideoScan data. Total unit sales were almost evenly distributed between the VHS and DVD format, but DVD eked out a narrow win with 50.7% of the pie.

The trusty VHS player was also displaced by the DVD player in units shipped, according to Consumer Electronics Association product data for October. Data on units shipped showed for the second consecutive month, DVD players outpaced VHS shipments to dealers. The penetration of DVD players that work in conjunction with the family television is estimated to stand at 20% of all U.S. households.

Throughout the year, VHS software has lost ground to the DVD format. In February, VHS sales accounted for more than two-thirds of the units purchased by consumers for the month. At the midpoint of 2001, the VHS format was still solidly ahead of the almost five-year-old DVD format and claimed 64.5% of the unit sales. Then came the third quarter. VHS' share of sales tumbled to 53.6% of the software sold between July and September.

Kids and family titles continue to take up a larger share of the DVD pie. Through the first half of 2001, family and children's nontheatrical titles combined accounted for 8.25% of DVD units sold. In October these two categories accounted for 13.2% of the DVD units sold, thanks in part to a fourth quarter slate of releases that have strong family appeal.

Warner Home Video squeaked out a win in the October sellthrough market share sweepstakes with Universal Studios Home Video in close pursuit. According to VideoScan data, Universal's The Mummy Returns buried the competition in combined VHS and DVD unit sales in October, outpacing its next closest competitor, 20th Century Fox's Star Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace, by a margin of 2.5 to 1.

Warner Home Video grabbed 18.4% of total unit sales in October to follow up on its third quarter finish as top dog. Warner releases, which include New Line, HBO and PBS titles, claimed 11 out of the top 50 seller spots for the month, with Cats & Dogs topping the list as the best seller for the studio in October. Combined DVD and VHS unit sales for the feline vs. canine flick made it the overall No. 3 seller in October. Warner also claimed top berth in VHS sales racking up 19.5% of cassette sales in October. Cats & Dogs added fuel to Warner's VHS win, finishing No.2 on the VHS sellers chart for the month. On the DVD side, Warner claimed 17.4% of unit sales in October. The bestselling DVD for Warner for the month was also Cats & Dogs, No. 6 on the DVD chart.

In a close No. 2, Universal garnered 17.6% of total DVD and VHS unit sales. The studio grabbed 19.4% of total VHS unit sales and 15.9% of DVD sales for the month. Universal's big October winner was The Mummy Returns, with combined VHS and DVD unit sales for the title tallying more than the next three best sellers combined. The title also spurred sales of the prequel, The Mummy. The Mummy Ultimate Edition DVD sold enough units to place No. 24 on the DVD top seller's list and No. 14 on the VHS top sellers list in October.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment placed third for the month with 13.3% of total VHS and DVD unit sales. The studio's share is probably understated because Buena Vista typically fares well at Wal-Mart, not included in VideoScan data. Buena Vista, which includes the Disney, Dimension, Hollywood, Miramax and Touchstone labels, laid claim to 13.5% of the VHS units sales and 13% of the DVD unit sales in October.

The bestseller for the Mouse House was the re-engineered version of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs released on DVD as part of Buena Vista's Platinum Collection. Collectors were quick to snap up the classic that skillfully exploits DVD technology. Special features include icons that enable even the preschool set to navigate the latest home family entertainment hardware. Snow White sold enough units to be the fourth top selling title in October.

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