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January Sales Show DVD Consumers Continue Collecting

20 Feb, 2003 By: Judith McCourt

DVD sales were brisk in January, thanks to post-holiday buying as DVD owners continued to add to their collections and newbies explored the depth of the DVD experience.

Despite the steep decline in cassette purchases, overall unit sales for January were up, according to Nielsen VideoScan data. Unit sales for January tracked 15 percent ahead of the comparable five-week period in 2002. The growth was fueled by the unabated consumer interest in DVDs, which posted a 38 percent increase in unit sales over January 2002 and accounted for a whopping 78 percent of the video purchases in the first month of the year.

Meanwhile, cassette sales plummeted 27 percent compared to the same period in 2002.

While VHS volume is accounting for an increasingly smaller slice of the pie, the lowly tape is the deciding factor when it comes to determining the market share winner. A strong performing January slate and long sales legs on fourth-quarter releases drawing sales from both the DVD and VHS markets helped Buena Vista Home Entertainment capture 17 percent of the overall unit volume in January and the top spot in the supplier market share sweeps. Cassette sales accounted for 26 percent of the supplier's tally. Owning the top three slots for cassette unit sales for January helped tip the scales.

Buena Vista's Signs was the top-selling video for the month, heralding a good beginning for the year. Released Jan. 7, the Mel Gibson starrer pulled 84 percent of its first-month sales from DVD. Released at sellthrough on both formats, its combined sales gave it a narrow victory over Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment's XXX, which has to rely on its total tally from DVD as it was not released at a sellthrough price on VHS.

Also performing well for Buena Vista was the direct-to-video release 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure, which placed No.2 in cassette sales for the month and No. 5 overall. The title, which pulled 54 percent of its sales from cassettes, was the only direct-to-video release to find a place among the top 10 sellers.

Warner Home Video, which includes New Line and HBO, finished the month with 15.7 percent of the unit volume sales in January. Discs accounted for 78 percent of the supplier's unit volume for the month, a perfect mirror of the overall unit sales composition for January. New Line Home Entertainment's Austin Powers in Goldmember (No. 9) was the only one of the supplier's titles to land among the top 10.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment snagged the No.3 spot for the month, with 14.1 percent of the unit sales and with DVDs accounting for 88 percent of the studio's unit volume in January. The studio nabbed the top spot for DVD sales, with XXX, released Dec. 31, taking top honors. Also performing well for the supplier were fourth-quarter releases Spider-Man and Stuart Little 2, which finished No. 12 and No. 14 in overall January sales, respectively.

With discs accounting for more than three-quarters of the unit sales in any given month, all but two of the mainstream genres pull the majority of the unit sales from DVDs.

The remaining two laggards are children's nontheatrical, with 60 percent of its sales coming from cassettes, and fitness, with 76 percent of sales volume coming from tapes. Children's nontheatrical has shown a faster progression toward DVD than the fitness genre. In January 2002, the category's cassette unit sales accounted for 87 percent of the units sold while fitness fare showed 88 percent coming from tapes. By comparison, action/adventure titles were already pulling 80 percent of the unit sales from DVD, and titles with family flavor were nearing the halfway mark (46 percent).

Six months later, July VideoScan data suggested that children's non- theatrical titles were on the move. The direct-to-video release Tarzan and Jane (released July 23, 2002) scored the No. 10 spot on the DVD seller list for the month. When the fourth quarter was in full swing, discs accounted for 32 percent of the genre's sales in November.

The migration of the fitness genre to DVD has been decidedly slower. July unit sales showed that 16 percent of the monthly tally came from DVD, and by November it had nudged up to 18 percent. January, which historically is a good month for the fitness genre as consumers pledge to shape up, pegs DVD unit sales at only 24 percent of the tally.

Action/adventure was the genre of choice, accounting for 21.9 percent of all units sold in January, with XXX leading the way. More than 90 percent of the genre's unit sales came from discs, a reflection of the younger demographic that's attracted to action flicks.

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