Top 10 Retailers 2016: Leaders for an Evolving Home Entertainment Market28 Mar, 2016
Analysis By: Stephanie Prange
When this magazine launched more than three decades ago, a home entertainment retailer was a physical store — often a video rental store — in which cassettes (Betamax or VHS) were sold or rented in physical form.
Accordingly, our annual “Top 100” ranking of the home entertainment industry’s top retailers was dominated by rental dealers, at first large regional chains such as West Coast and Erol’s and then national players such as Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery.
After 20-some years of dominance, the videocassette gave way to the DVD, and the business shifted from rental to sellthrough. We stopped publishing our annual Top 100, but kept a sharp eye on the retailers who were delivering physical product — DVD and then Blu-ray Disc — to consumers. Formats, and the nature of transactions, had changed, but physical media still ruled.
What a difference a few decades has made.
The Top 10 Retailers of 2016, as identified by Home Media Magazine market research, span physical and digital stores, and the content and “players” are both physical and digital as well.
“I think the top 10 list shows two important things: first, how far we’ve come as an industry to have such a diverse, strong set of retailers who succeed with very different business models,” said Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution. “Second, the list of our key partners in this industry is really a who’s who for the global business world. It’s a long way from where we started in mom-and-pop video stores and underscores the size and scope of our industry.”
“Looking at this formidable list of the top retailers in home entertainment, I am struck by the profound transformation our industry has undergone in recent years,” added Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “This is not only a testament to the success of these savvy retailers, who straddle both digital and physical, but also to the creativity and imagination of the home entertainment industry, which continues to rethink and reinvent itself as the new entertainment landscape evolves.”
Indeed, consumers can consume content in more ways than ever.
“Today’s global home entertainment industry is particularly multi-dimensional, representing the broadest spectrum of technology, platforms and products ever available to consumers,” said Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “We consider each of our physical and digital retailers our trusted partners, uniquely essential in helping to expertly innovate and stimulate our category. We appreciate their commitment to its vitality and longevity and look forward to advancing our business as we work together to ensure that we deliver the greatest access, value and experience possible to our consumers.”
“The list of top 10 retailers clearly reflects the diversity of the home entertainment marketplace,” added Bob Buchi, president of Worldwide Home Media Distribution for Paramount Pictures. “From brick-and-mortar and online storefronts to cable delivery and subscription VOD, the consumer has never had more options. We are fortunate to work with all of these exceptional companies to deliver our content to audiences however they want to enjoy it.”
“Today’s retailers shape and reflect the unique and dynamic ways in which consumers are seeking, engaging and embracing our movies and TV shows," said Keith Feldman, president of global distribution for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “Our retail partners have always played a critical role in connecting consumers to what’s next in high-quality entertainment, and as the media landscape continues to evolve, their partnership is invaluable in our collective ambition to deliver consumers the options they want."
The studios’ partners in delivering content may use subscription streaming models, such as Netflix and Hulu; sell or rent physical discs, such as Target and Redbox; offer transactional VOD, such as Comcast or Apple iTunes; cater to all things digital delivery, such as AT&T DirecTV; or offer a smorgasbord, such as Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon, which offer both physical and digital content options.
“Home Media’s Top 10 Retailers demonstrates the diversity of choices the consumer has today in home entertainment,” said Mark Fisher, president of the Entertainment Merchants Association. “Whether the desire is to purchase or to rent, physical disc or digital delivery, subscription or a la carte, there is an outstanding retailer there to serve the need. The industry benefits from having so many strong retailers, and the competition among them for consumers helps maintain a healthy market for home entertainment.”
And it isn’t only the majors that are engaging with the top 10. Independent suppliers are partners with these top retailers in offering unique content from the independent market.
“As one of the biggest independent distributors of home entertainment product, we are very proud to be doing business with such partners as Amazon, Best Buy, Redbox, Target and Walmart,” said Bill Clark, president of Anchor Bay Entertainment. “These retailers are the biggest and best in our industry, and together we have created unique offerings that continue to engage consumers in new and exciting ways.”
So here’s to the Top 10, listed here in alphabetical order. They are key partners in delivery of home entertainment.
2016 Top 10 Retailers (Presented in Alphabetical Order):
Amazon keeps its DVD/Blu-ray Disc and its Prime Video subscription streaming service intertwined in an effort to keep an evolving consumer within its ecosystem. The company’s fourth-quarter media sales, which include packaged media and digital, increased 11% to $3.93 billion.
“Amazon — through Prime Video — has found the digital equivalent of putting DVDs at checkout in traditional supermarkets,” said Dan Cryan, research director of digital media for IHS.
In addition to street-date access of new-release movies, Prime Video, like competitors Hulu Plus and Netflix, is ratcheting up spending on original content — a reported $2.6 billion this year. That’s about half of Netflix’s budget.
Armed with e-commerce data on home entertainment and viewing preferences, Amazon is targeting original content production toward specific audiences, according to Roy Price, president of Amazon Studios.
“We're doing Woody Allen's first TV series [which stars Allen, Elaine May and Miley Cyrus!]. Obviously, we know a lot of people that are huge fans of Allen,” Price told Bloomberg.
Amazon acquired all North American rights to Allen’s latest untitled movie. The romantic comedy set in the 1930s stars Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Parker Posey and Kristen Stewart.
Following last year’s debut of Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is Amazon’s second original movie, the wry comedy Paterson from director Jim Jarmusch and starring Adam Driver. The film debuts in theaters later this year, followed by digital and SVOD.
Amazon also signed a multiyear, multimillion dollar production deal with American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel, to produce four live-action specials and options to produce multiple seasons of episodic content. The first special is scheduled to premiere on Prime Video in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Austria later this year.
In addition, Amazon ordered production of four, 13-episode seasons of new original kids series “Thunderbirds Are Go.” The series is a reboot of the 50-year-old British sci-fi classic “Thunderbirds.” It is scheduled to debut on Prime Video later this year and will subsequently air on Prime Video in the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria, following a deal with ITV Studios Global Entertainment.
More recently, Amazon signed a deal with BBC to make Prime Video the exclusive North American streaming home for all “Doctor Who” episodes since the venerable British sci-fi show was revived in 2005.
Apple iTunes Store
As a pioneer in the digital sellthrough market, Apple’s iTunes Store remains among the leading go-to destinations to buy or rent new-release movies and TV shows. The service offers more than 85,000 movies, including bonus features, in addition to more than 300,000 TV shows.
Movie and TV show episode purchases are automatically stored on iCloud for iOS users and the iTunes library for PC users. Season passes and family plans enable sharing (separate downloads) with up to six people.
The iTunes Store follows Amazon Video and Redbox in transactional VOD rental use — ahead of Google Play, YouTube Movies, Walmart’s Vudu, Best Buy’s CinemaNow and Flixster.com, according to a Digitalsmiths.
iTunes sales and rentals of books, music, movies and TV shows generated $4.7 billion in first-quarter (ended Dec. 26) revenue. Industrywide sales of digital movies increased 18% in 2015 to $1.89 billion, from $1.6 billion in 2014, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
Apple services’ Q1 revenue, which includes iTunes and the App Store, was $5.5 billion — an all-time record and up 15% over the previous year, according to CFO Luca Maestri.
“Among our customers who purchased apps and content from our iTunes stores, the average amount spent per customer reached an all-time high in the December quarter,” Maestri said.
At a time when consumers are increasingly distracted by subscription streaming options (50% of U.S. homes subscribe to at least one OTT video service, according to Nielsen), iTunes movie sales have slowed — due in part to increasing transactional VOD competition, including from pay-TV operators (notably Comcast) selling and renting movies.
Just three years ago, iTunes commanded 67% of the TV download market and 65% of the movie market. The service was seen as nearly immune to third-party competition, according to The NPD Group.
"While worthy competitors have come along, no other retailer has so thoroughly dominated its core entertainment product categories for so long,” former NPD analyst Russ Crupnick said at the time.
Fast-forward to last April when Apple disclosed that iTunes content sales had declined 4% for the third consecutive quarter, and 5% in the first six months of fiscal-year 2015.
The next month, 20th Century Fox Digital Entertainment launched an app on iTunes offering special 24-hour pricing on new and catalog digital-release movies. Dubbed “Movie of the Day!,” the app is good for any title. All transaction prices are valid for 24 hours, done through iTunes and saved in the cloud.
Regulatory approval of AT&T’s $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV officially combined the nation’s largest wireless carrier with the largest satellite-TV operator. The two companies boast a pay-TV subscriber base of 26 million — surpassing No. 1 Comcast.
AT&T and DirecTV have targeted home entertainment consumers for some time offering transactional video-on-demand movie rentals, as well as electronic sellthrough. Five years ago DirecTV spearheaded an effort to bring premium VOD into homes. The strategy never materialized largely due to pushback from theater operators.
Now, AT&T wants to revisit going direct-to-consumers through streaming. AT&T delivers more than 60 million streams and downloads to its pay-TV subscribers each month. Streaming video represents more than 60% of AT&T’s network traffic.
The telecom recently announced plans to offer DirecTV over the Internet via a smartphone, tablet, smart TV, streaming media player or computer. It will offer three streaming options through apps, including “DirecTV Now,” featuring on-demand and live programming from numerous networks, plus premium add-on options such as HBO and Showtime OTT.
“DirecTV Mobile” targets consumers wanting to watch premium video and made-for-digital content directly on a smartphone, regardless of the wireless provider. Ad-supported “DirecTV Preview” features DirecTV programming, in addition to millennial-focused video from Otter Media, a joint venture of AT&T and The Chernin Group.
The services would be similar to Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Charter Communication’s Spectrum TV Plus. Launched last year, these services became the first Web-based platforms offering pay-TV channels such as ESPN, CNN, HBO, AMC Networks, TNT, Showtime and TBS without a traditional pay-TV subscription.
"These new video subscription models reflect the flexible content choices, viewing options and simple, transparent pricing that consumers want," said John Stankey, CEO of AT&T entertainment group. "These offers will provide a broad range of customers with greater freedom and choice to watch, binge and even buy premium content, regardless of how and where they enjoy their entertainment."
Targeting video consumers directly comes as AT&T’s U-verse pay-TV service lost 240,000 subscribers in Q4. DirecTV added 214,000 video subs to end the period with 19.7 million.
Stankey said the merger gives AT&T leverage negotiating licensing deals with content holders, including studios. He said combining the companies’ video sub bases with mobile users creates a new market to distribute content.
“I think it's nice to be able to play in a league that's closer to what a vertically-integrated Comcast can play in,” Stankey told USA Today.
Comcast owns NBC Universal, which includes Universal Pictures and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Best Buy remains a top home entertainment retailer, despite senior management’s changing mindset. The chain’s fourth-quarter (ended Jan. 30) same-store entertainment sales increased 0.1%, compared with a decline of 1.8% during the previous-year period.
Entertainment, which includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies and TV shows, music CDs, video games and its digital retail platform, CinemaNow, saw segment revenue remain flat at 11% ($1.37 billion) of total ($12.5 billion) domestic revenue.
The results are significant considering CEO Hubert Joly — facing double-digit fiscal losses and increased online competition — announced three years ago that Best Buy stores will downsize shelf space dedicated to packaged media.
“We will reduce space allocated to the negative growth and low-margin CD and DVD categories and replace it with higher-gross categories like mobile, appliances and accessories and to support these expanded categories,” Joly said on the March 1, 2013, fiscal call.
Instead, Joly said resources will be directed at CinemaNow to spur digital sales and rentals.
Indeed, CinemaNow that year helped spearhead a new industry strategy bowing movies early digitally, ahead of packaged media. Best Buy took that decision a step further, offering select footage of Oscar-winner Django Unchained three weeks ahead of the digital release to consumers who preordered the film’s Blu-ray combo pack in stores or online.
Meanwhile, entertainment retail sales improved, generating 7% of store revenue in 2014. But the category remains challenged due to secular changes, including the evolution of subscription streaming. CinemaNow, which includes UltraViolet functionality, accounted for just 1.4% of transactional VOD usage in the fourth quarter, according to a North America survey of 3,100 respondents by Digitalsmiths. That was up 0.03% since Q1.
Earlier this year, Best Buy became the first retailer to offer 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray Disc releases, in addition to Samsung’s new 4K Blu-ray player. Samsung, along with Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and Apple have launched dedicated boutique space in select Best Buy stores.
To make room for the high-profile brands, retail space previously devoted to packaged media has been slowly transformed.
“I love entertainment categories … but that was 10 years ago,” Joly told analysts at a recent Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. “The Tuesday release is not a factor anymore, is not a driver anymore. So the floor space optimization project again is to shrink these categories and emphasize the categories where we can grow.”
Comcast-owned NBC network just launched one of the season’s most heralded TV shows — available only on the Internet. “Bajillion Dollar Properties” is an eight-episode parody of the real estate industry and available on Seeso, the network’s upstart comedy subscription streaming service.
The series follows last year’s streaming experiment of the entire season of the David Duchovny TV drama “Aquarius” following its broadcast premiere. It marked the first time NBC offered programming concurrently online for binge viewing.
NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said the move marked a “forward-thinking” way to consumers in an evolving home entertainment ecosystem.
“We are fully aware how audiences want to consume multiple episodes of new television series faster and at their own discretion,” he said.
That said, as the nation’s second-largest pay-TV operator after AT&T/DirecTV, Comcast’s cable unit continues to grapple with the emergence of OTT video. It continues to try to contain market changes, including going direct-to-consumer, within the confines of the pay-TV ecosystem.
It is currently testing a standalone online TV service for Xfinity subs using portable media devices. Called “Stream TV,” the $15 service is testing in Boston, Chicago and Seattle, with plans to make it available nationwide this year.
NBC launched “NBC Classics,” an ad-supported site (www.nbc.com/classic-tv) featuring complete seasons from more than 20 vintage TV shows, including “Airwolf” (1984), “ The A-Team” (1983), “Battlestar Galactica” (1979), “Knight Rider” (1982), “Kojak” (1973), “The Incredible Hulk” (1977), “Emergency!” (1972) and “Miami Vice” (1984), among others.
Xfinity subs gained access to TV Everywhere platforms HBO Go and Showtime Anytime via Roku streaming devices, offering episodes from “Game of Thrones,” “True Detective,” “Silicon Valley,” “Ray Donovan,” “Masters of Sex” and “Penny Dreadful,” among others.
Comcast upped its retail game after launching the Xfinity Digital Store in 2013 — the first for a cable operator. It featured movies and TV shows from 20th Century Fox, MGM, Lionsgate, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., A24, Relativity Media, Starz and Vertical Entertainment — weeks ahead of their packaged-media release.
Made available to Comcast’s 21 million-plus subscribers, the service quickly became one of the top digital sellthrough platforms, rivaling iTunes and Amazon Video. The following year the digital store offered 100 current movies at under $10, in addition to a daily movie special — marketed on Facebook — for $1.
“As one of the top digital retailers of new-release movies in the country, our customers’ desire for convenience and simplicity when purchasing and viewing digital content has never been greater,” Nancy Spears, VP of digital media distribution and monetization Comcast Cable, said in a blog post.
It’s been a busy year for Hulu Plus. The subscription streaming service, co-owned by The Walt Disney Co., Comcast and 21st Century Fox, in January received its first Golden Globe nomination for its original series “Casual,” produced by Lionsgate.
On March 30, Hulu Plus debuts original series “The Path,” from NBC Universal. The show comes on the heels of “11.22.63” from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King. And on March 31, Hulu Plus bows exclusive rights to all 100 episodes of “Curious George.”
“This partnership [with NBC Universal] represents both an expansion and a commitment to our kids and family offering,” said Craig Erwich, SVP, head of content at Hulu.
The license deals underscore a mandate from Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch to thrust Hulu from under the shadow of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video as a legitimate SVOD player.
Indeed, Hulu Plus reached distribution agreements with AT&T and Cablevision, giving their subscribers direct access (and billing) to the SVOD. It inked similar pay-TV deals with Armstrong, Atlantic Broadband, Mediacom Communications, Midcontinent Communications and WideOpenWest (WOW!).
Separately, Hulu and Lionsgate acquired the rights to theatrical comedy Joshy, which will be released on Lionsgate Premiere and will stream exclusively on Hulu Plus following a theatrical run. Lionsgate produces four TV shows for Hulu Plus.
The SVOD service, along with Amazon, snapped up pay-TV rights to Epix content after Netflix declined to renew a distribution deal with Epix.
The service also diversified its subscription plans, with the “no commercials” ($11.99) and “limited commercials” ($7.99) options. It also secured exclusive SVOD rights to “Seinfeld,” the iconic sitcom’s first streaming venture in a deal with Sony Pictures Television and co-creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David reportedly worth $160 million.
Hulu and Viacom last October expanded a partnership granting Hulu Plus exclusive rights to select series from Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV.
“We’re looking for that defining show,” Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins said at the time, adding that a “couple of shows” won’t help an SVOD service stand out. He said Hulu Plus will continue to spend on a “diverse set of content offerings.” Already, the service acquired from Fox rights to “Empire” and “Last Man on Earth.”
In January, Hulu inked a deal with IFC Films, making IFC’s documentaries exclusively available on Hulu Plus this fall.
Hulu signed a new multiyear agreement with Sony Pictures that includes access to catalog shows and movies such as “The Shield,” “Dawson’s Creek,” Jerry Maguire and Midnight in Paris.
Hulu showcased original programming at the Winter Television Critics Association press tour in January, unveiling details around upcoming series “Shut Eye."
“Hulu, as an investment for [Disney], we think is a good long-term strategy because we think the popularity of the platform is only going to grow,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC in February.
Netflix stands out among the top home entertainment retailers. Its subscription streaming business plan runs counter to the traditional retail transaction of buying or renting a single movie or TV show.
But then Netflix has been turning convention on its ear since 1999, when it launched the first by-mail DVD rental business. Introducing the first over-the-top video service in 2008, Netflix laid the streaming foundation for what some observers believe has become the new rental business model — on steroids.
In January the company announced global service to nearly 200 countries. While domestic subscriber growth slows, the worldwide footprint guarantees Netflix international sub additions for the foreseeable future.
Netflix ended 2015 with nearly $11 billion in content obligations — much of it for original series and some movies.
The company has slowly phased out distribution deals with major studios for films as it focuses on exclusive distribution and original content. Last summer, the company chose not to renew a deal with Epix, which included pay-TV rights to movies from Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and MGM.
“Our focus has shifted to provide great movies and TV series for our members that are exclusive to Netflix,” CCO Ted Sarandos said at the time.
In 2013, Warner Bros., MGM and Universal Pictures collectively pulled nearly 2,000 movies from Netflix in order to market them directly through upstart Warner Archive Instant. A similar non-renewal with Starz in 2012 affected about 1,000 titles.
Netflix maintains separate agreements with The Weinstein Co., Cinedigm Corp., MPI, Alchemy, Rogue Pictures, and Lionsgate, among others, for select new releases.
Later this year, Netflix becomes the exclusive pay-TV distributor of Disney theatrical movies — a landmark deal when announced in 2012.
“Products like Netflix are pretty attractive because they offer [consumers] user-friendly, efficient and often times a much less-expensive way to watch television,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told analysts last year.
Netflix made moves to feed demand for TV shows in 2013 when it inked a deal with Marvel for a slate of original live-action TV shows, including “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones.”
Indeed, Netflix commands 48% of the OTT market, according to research firm Digitalsmiths.
Following last October’s debut of Netflix’s first original theatrical release, Beasts of No Nation, followed by The Ridiculous 6, Netflix is upping its theatrical mojo in 2016. The service is releasing Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, War Machine, The Little Prince, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.
In January at Sundance, Netflix spent big on securing rights to a batch of indie titles. All box office releases coincide with global streaming access — a disruptive release strategy that has drawn criticism from theater operators, but is embraced by viewers, according to Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.
“We've got an aggressive slate in 2016,” he said on the company's January webcast.
With a $62.6 million operating profit on revenue of $407 million in the most recent fiscal period, Redbox remains atop the packaged-media rental market — by a wide margin. It also finds itself at an operational crossroads.
Renting new-release DVDs for $1.50 a night ($2 for Blu-ray) affords Redbox few competitors, including transactional VOD, which charges $5.99 for a new digital rental. But kiosk revenue fell 17%, nonetheless, during the 90-day period ended Dec. 31, 2015, from $490.7 million during the previous-year period. The decrease reflects a sobering 24.3% decline in movie rentals.
Redbox generated 135.8 million rentals in the quarter, down from 179.5 million rentals year-over-year. Management attributed the decline to streamlined release slates by the studios. Revenue-per-rental increased about 10% to $2.98, due primarily to a price hike implemented in late 2014.
Enter Erik Prusch, former CEO of telecom Clearwire, who took over the helm at Redbox corporate parent Outerwall last summer. He also became president of Redbox in December after dismissing former president Mark Horak.
“Redbox is a compelling business,” Prusch said on a February fiscal call. “We will manage the business for profitability and cash flow, and we will continue our focus on expense management, operational efficiencies and network optimization.”
The executive is confronting a home video market in secular change as consumers gravitate toward online options, including subscription streaming. Kiosk rental revenue declined nearly 3% in 2015 to $1.78 billion, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. Meanwhile, subscription-streaming revenue skyrocketed 25% to $5 billion.
To buttress industry support, Redbox secured distribution renewals with most major studios, including Universal Pictures Home Entertainment last month and Warner Home Video and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment last year. The kiosk vendor inked renewals with Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures in October 2014.
It also began renting video games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles. Redbox entered the games market in 2011 and now generates about 2% of its annual revenue renting Xbox and PlayStation games.
“We are confident that millions of consumers will continue renting from Redbox for many years to come, as a majority of our customers use the kiosk to complement digital alternatives,” Prusch said.
That said, Outerwall March 14 announced it will “explore strategic and financial alternatives” to maximize shareholder value. Translation: The board is looking to sell select business units, if not the company.
Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter believes the board is focused more on operational efficiency than transfer of ownership.
"They're looking to maximize cash flow, which means cost-cutting and generating more revenue," he said. "If management is able to stabilize the Redbox business, the company is likely to attract private equity interest."
Home entertainment may be transitioning to digital distribution and streaming, but in the business of packaged-media retail, Target remains on target.
After an attempt to sell and rent digital movies via Target Ticket ended last year with no explanation — just 18 months after launching — Target refocused on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in stores. In addition to devoting significant store space on Black Friday to studio catalog titles, Target continues to stock new-release movie and TV show point-of-purchase disc displays at checkout.
The chain remains committed to packaged media, seeing DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales, in particular, as a way to drive traffic into their stores by harnessing consumer excitement about new movies arriving on disc each week.
A few years ago, Target took the unusual step of offering the Inception and latest “Shrek” Blu-ray/DVD combo packs for the same price as the single DVD. The retailer continued that trend in consumer electronics, selling a Panasonic wireless 3D Blu-ray player 60% below SRP — a strategy aimed at kickstarting 3D package media.
The chain figures prominently in Home Media Magazine’s weekly merchandising segment. Along with Walmart and Best Buy, Target regularly offers exclusive special-edition discs and bonus features on studio releases. For the March 22 release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, Target offered consumers 45 minutes of exclusive content. Target included a 28-minute featurette about the "Massacre at Hardhome" episode with Blu-ray releases of HBO's Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season. A notable Target exclusive for Fox's The Peanuts Movie included a 25-minute bonus DVD with the featurettes "The Voices of The Peanuts Movie," "The Art of Dreaming Big" and more. Peanuts Movie discs at Target also included a coupon for a free popcorn and soda at the Target Café. Target will sell a Blu-ray Disc with special box art, packaging and 20 minutes of exclusive bonus content for the April 5 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
The chain offered a couple of exclusive deals with several new kidvid titles. Those who purchased Universal's Barbie: Spy Squad DVD ($9.99) or Blu-ray ($14.99), or a $17.99 doll based on the movie, could get a free Spy Squad Pet toy valued at $3.99. And, Target gave a $5 gift card with the purchase of Nickelodeon's Paw Patrol: Brave Heroes, Big Rescues DVD ($7.99) with a $9.99 Air Rescue pup toy. Target is offering a free $5 gift card when pre-ordering The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Ride Along 2 or Deadpool.
When it comes to home entertainment, Target is aiming to please with innovative merchandising, exclusives and pricing.
Walmart remains a key seller of packaged media, despite seeing a low single-digit drop in its fourth-quarter (ended Jan. 31) general merchandise sales, which includes entertainment.
Lionsgate recently attributed 45% of its packaged-media sales to Walmart. When asked last year about concerns that Walmart may be shrinking shelf space in stores devoted to DVDs and Blu-ray Disc, co-COO Steve Beeks shrugged it off. He said Walmart typically makes changes to in-store packaged-media configurations every 18 to 24 months, based on consumer feedback (i.e. purchases).
“We’re always watching what [Walmart is] doing,” he said.
Indeed, in his February fiscal call, Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., said the world’s largest retailer continues to “make progress” in entertainment sales by focusing on “our operating model,” which he said included customer service, product assortment and department layout.
Walmart’s clout over any major studio release continues. Most recently, it secured a 30-minute bonus-feature disc included with HBO's Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season. A special two-pack of Sony Pictures' The Night Before DVD also includes The Interview and This Is the End. Another Walmart exclusive involved a special edition of Cinedigm's God's Not Dead, featuring an exclusive preview of the sequel accessible through the chain’s Vudu.com streaming service. Walmart also joined several major retailers taking preorders for proprietary editions of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s pending Star Wars: The Force Awakens packaged-media release.
Walmart-owned Vudu last November announced a slate of Warner Bros. movies made available digitally in 4K Ultra HD resolution. It disclosed a pact with Dolby Laboratories that offers Warner’s remastered movies with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
“We were at the forefront of high-definition digital video, and now, by offering movies with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, we’re again giving customers the opportunity to enjoy a premium visual and audio experience,” said Scott Blanksteen, VP of product for Vudu.
The digital platform also joined Netflix, FandangoNow, YouTube, Vidity and Amazon Prime Video offering select 4K content on the new Roku 4 streaming media player.