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Second-Quarter Bonanza

19 May, 2011 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's a pity the first quarter couldn't have ended a week later. The same week the news hit that disc sales had plummeted nearly 20% in the first three months of this year, Warner Home Video released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 and promptly triggered a disc-buying frenzy the likes of which we haven't seen in some time. Consumer spending rose by the double digits, and since Warner Home Video holds back its titles 28 days from leading rental outlets Netflix and Redbox, buying Deathly Hallows was the only way to see it — unless you happen to be lucky enough to still live by a brick-and-mortar video rental store.

Like it or not, DVD and even Blu-ray Discs are now seen as a commodity, not a novelty. Disc sales are going to live and die by their box office, although smart scheduling — tip o' the hat, Team Warner! — and strong marketing certainly can have an impact, as well. But the days when a studio could put any old movie out on disc and realize respectable sales are long gone. If a movie tanks at the box office, it's going to tank on disc, regardless of timing, regardless of marketing.

Theatrical dealt our industry a cruel hand in the first quarter of this year, and while our industry played it as well as it possibly could have, we still lost. Not only did disc sales to consumers take a nosedive, but the press jumped on the decline as just another affirmation of its belief that packaged media is a dinosaur and discs of all types — CDs, DVDs, even Blu-ray Discs — will soon go away. The disc-is-dead chant has become something of a mantra among the media, and I fear no amount of data or other evidence to the contrary is going to change that. It's sort of like the controversy over President Obama's birth certificate: all right, he's produced it, we've all seen it — and yet there are still those who insist the document must be forged and there's no way the President could possibly have been born in the United States.

We at Home Media Magazine — which is now part of the Home Media Group, a rebranding I believe better reflects all the different things we do in the area of content creation and aggregation, market research and analysis — will soon have before you a White Paper on Blu-ray Disc, coinciding with the format's fifth anniversary.

In a succinct, easy-to-digest format, we are presenting the facts about this remarkable format: software, hardware, what it is and what it does, why it was developed, and how it's doing. And if you take a step back and look at the parade of facts and figures that have accompanied the Blu-ray Disc format since its commercial birth in 2006, you witness a most compelling success story made all the more remarkable by its roots in a format war and adolescence during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Against almost overwhelming odds — certainly far worse conditions than DVD ever had to contend with — Blu-ray has revolutionized home entertainment and established itself as the "now" as well as "future" format for home entertainment.

Our white paper will be published at the end of May. Watch for it.

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