Consumer Spending on Home Entertainment Up in First Half of 2012

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After steadily declining for the past five years, home entertainment sales have broken their downward trajectory, thanks in part to a 13.3% lift in Blu-ray Disc purchases.

More than five years of steady declines in consumer spending on home entertainment appear to have been arrested.

Consumer spending on home entertainment in the first six months of 2012 was up 1.4% from the first-half tally last year, lifted by a variety of factors, including a five-fold increase in subscription streaming, a 13.3% lift in Blu-ray Disc purchases and healthy gains in both VOD and electronic sellthrough.

Spending on home entertainment – which includes DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales and rental, as well as digital distribution – came in at $8.4 billion, according to numbers compiled by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group with studio and key retailer input.

Spending in the first half of 2011 was just under $8.3 billion.

Blu-ray Disc spending continued its upward trajectory, especially in the catalog end of the business, which saw sales rise 26%.

Consumer spending on all packaged media still finished the first half down from last year. But sellthrough spending, the traditional barometer by which studios measure the health of the business, was only off a few percentage points – a sharp contrast to the double-digit declines that segment of the business had posted in recent years. DEG figures show consumers spent an estimated $1.7 billion on buying discs in the first six months of this year, down a mere 3.6% from what they spent in the first half of 2011.

In addition to the growth of Blu-ray Disc sales, digital distribution continued to gain traction, underscoring the expansion of UltraViolet, the studios’ digital locker initiative. Indeed, UltraViolet gets credit for driving EST spending up nearly 22% in the first half of this year—and 27% in the second quarter. UltraViolet recently surpassed 4 million household accounts.

Additionally, VOD was up 11.6% from the first half of 2011, with a 17.2% gain in the second quarter—which suggests increasing consumer demand due to from wider access and improved ease of use.

The biggest gains came in subscription streaming, largely a function of Netflix’s move away from physical discs. Subscription streaming more than quintupled to an estimated $548.6 million in the first half of 2012 from $85 million in the first six months of 2012.

Total sellthrough spending, including EST, came in at $4.06 billion, down about 2% from $4.14 billion in the first half of 2011.

Total rental spending, including VOD, was down 18% to $1.68 billion from $2.05 billion. The decline in rental spending was largely due to huge drops in brick-and-mortar disc rental ($305.8 million, off 39% from $503.2 million in the first half of 2011) and subscription disc rental ($348 million, off 48% from $670.8 million).

Total subscription revenues, physical disc and streaming combined, stood at $896.6 million as of June 30, 2012, up 18.6% from $755.8 million at the halfway point last year.