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September Profits Boosted by Pricey DVD Sets

3 Nov, 2005 By: Judith McCourt

Beefier, pricier special editions and TV DVD packages had a profitable effect on the DVD industry in September. Unit sales were down, but consumer spending was up.

Home video revenue clocked in at an estimated $1.24 billion, according to Home Media Research, an uptick of 1.6 percent from the comparable four-week period in 2004. DVD spending accounted for 98 percent of that amount.

The overall 2.9 percent drop in DVD unit sales could have been worse. Unit sales for the top 10 September sellers were off a whopping 35 percent from the previous September, according to Nielsen VideoScan data. The blow was cushioned, however, by strong sales of catalog titles, special editions and, in particular, TV DVD. Paramount Home Entertainment's The Longest Yard remake was the month's biggest seller.

The Adam Sandler comedy, which grossed $158.1 million in theaters, sold an estimated 2.12 million copies its first two weeks in stores, generating DVD revenue of $47.6 million.

September 2004 sales, by comparison, were goosed by the Aug. 31 release of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's The Passion of the Christ, a $370.3 million theatrical blockbuster that sold 8.9 million units in its first month of release. Home Media Research pegs the retail value of Passion's home video haul at more than $160 million. Further contributing to September 2004's rosy sales picture was the release of Fox's highly anticipated Star Wars Trilogy, which moved more than 3 million units in two weeks.

With that kind of competition, September 2005 could have been a lot worse. Keeping things relatively stable was the booming TV DVD category, which generated an estimated $267 million in sales and accounted for 22 percent of all DVD sales during the four-week period.

The leading TV DVD supplier was Warner Home Video, with 24.3 percent of the business, according to Nielsen VideoScan data. Still, the two top TV DVD sellers in September came from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, which finished third in the category market-share derby with an estimated 12.7 percent of sales. Buena Vista's Lost: The Complete First Season was the month's top TV DVD seller, with consumers spending an estimated $29.5 million on nearly 750,000 boxed sets of the top-rated supernatural mystery. Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season was the No. 2 seller in September, with sales of more than 300,000 units and estimated retail revenue of nearly $13 million.

In overall home video sales, Warner again was the market-share leader for September, with 21.5 percent of the business. Buena Vista was second, with 16.6 percent, followed by Fox at No. 3 with 15.1 percent. Rounding out the top five were Paramount Home Entertainment (No. 4, 14.1 percent) and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which includes MGM (No.5, 10.4 percent).

The videocassette is virtually extinct. Consumers spent just $24.3 million on VHS cassettes, or a meager 2 percent of their overall home video spending.

Paramount, a leader in children's video — the cassette's last stronghold — was the VHS market-share leader, with 20.4 percent of the cassette business, according to Nielsen VideoScan.

The month's top VHS seller was Buena Vista's Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, with total sales of fewer than 50,000 units, less than 5 percent of the title's total sales.

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