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Analyst: Consumers Prefer Movie Rentals to Purchase, Theatrical

25 May, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Twenty-eight day delays on new releases find consumers opting for older releases and catalog titles

Consumers continue to migrate toward less expensive options for home entertainment, including subscription video-on-demand (streaming), kiosks and by-mail, and away from sellthrough (physical and electronic) and movie theaters, according to a new report.

Michael Pachter, analyst with Los Angeles-based investment firm Wedbush Securities, issued the conclusions in a May 24 research note compiled from a sanctioned survey of 2,500 qualified U.S. consumers in April.

Monthly consumption of discs (DVD and Blu-ray) rented at a video store or purchased at retail dropped 8% from the previous consumer survey conducted in May 2010. During April, consumption of movies rented at kiosks, by-mail and streamed increased 8%.

Specifically, net frequency of use for Netflix streaming increased 8%, Netflix disc rentals increased 1% and Redbox rentals increased 1%. All are expected to continue their respective growth during the next 90 days.

It should be noted that Pachter covers financials for Netflix (“Underperform” rating), NCR Corp. (Blockbuster Express) and Coinstar/Redbox (both “Outperform”).

Conversely, frequency of use for Blockbuster Express kiosks declined 6%, Blockbuster Online (Total Access) dropped 10%, Apple iTunes transactional movie rentals fell 4% and Amazon VOD dropped 8% during the period.

With Netflix and Redbox restricted to new releases unlike Amazon VOD, iTunes, by-mail and video stores, Pachter believes consumers are increasingly indifferent toward street date access to new releases, and instead prefer the economics of renting slightly older (and cheaper) titles.

Indeed, respondents expect pricing of movie rentals at kiosks and video stores to decline with current average in-store ($3.92) and rental download ($2.71) exceeding the most they are willing to pay for in-store ($3.49) and download ($2.65) rentals.

Interestingly, when compared with a $1.99 movie rental from a video store, respondents are 7% less likely to rent from a kiosk or download service if that price is identical. In other words, consumers will opt for greater selection at a traditional brick-and-mortar video store when the daily rental price is identical to kiosk or download.

While survey respondents increasingly view video stores as unnecessary (up 32% from last May), they more favorably consider downloading or streaming movies (up 32.6%) and rental kiosks (up 4.2%). Noteworthy, the number of respondents who felt downloading or streaming movies from the Internet to be slow or complicated declined 14.3% from a decline of 5% last May.

Overall, when asked about their movie consumption in April, 24.1% (up from 22.5% last May) of respondents said they watched movies on cable TV; 16.9% (down from 20.7%) said they bought discs; 14.4% (down from 16%) said they went to the movie theater; 11.8% (up from 9.4%) rented discs by mail; 9.7% (up from 6.6%) said they downloaded or streamed from a Web-based service; 8.3% (up from 6%) rented from a kiosk; 5.6% (up 0.1%) opted for transactional VOD; and 5.3% (down from 9.4%) frequented a video store.

“In our view, Netflix will continue to benefit from increasing consumer adoption of its by-mail and digital streaming options, and Redbox will benefit from strong brand recognition and an increasing number of kiosks,” Pachter wrote. “Both Netflix and Redbox will continue to benefit from Blockbuster’s demise with Netflix likely to take many of its subscription rentals by mail customers, and Redbox taking its rental kiosk and brick-and-mortar store customers.”


About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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