Home entertainment spending falls 5%

First-quarter drop not as steep as feared

Consumer spending on home entertainment during the first quarter was estimated at $5.3 billion by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, down 5% from the first quarter of last year.

The DEG estimate, based on studio and retail input as well as industry tracking sources, includes sales and rentals of DVD and Blu-ray Disc as well as digital distribution. The DEG further says home entertainment's net contribution to studios was down less than 4% for the quarter.

The news comes after discouraging reports from some individual studios that estimated the first-quarter spending shortfall would be as high as 11%, with a 15% decline in DVD sales partially offset by a lower drop in rental spending (9%) along with a 108% gain in Blu-ray Disc sales.

Blu-ray Disc is still a small portion of the market, generating about $230 billion in consumer sales in the first quarter of this year, but its upward traction is lifting studio executives' confidence.

"When considering that this all has been achieved in the worst recession ever, it is clear that home entertainment's stability is fueled by Blu-ray's popularity," said Bob Chapek, DEG chairman and president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. "We remain confident that demand for Blu-ray will continue to grow given that it is a revolutionary platform.

Digital distribution further lifted the total, coming in with an estimated consumer spend of $487 million, up 19% from the year-ago quarter. This is the first time that digital sales have factored into the DEG's quarterly numbers report.

"People are choosing new ways to consume entertainment," said Ron Sanders, DEG president and president of Warner Home Video.

The DEG also notes that Easter, typically a big sales period for home entertainment, was not in the first quarter this year, unlike last year, when it fell in March.

According to figures compiled Swicker & Associates on behalf of the DEG, nearly 20 million Blu-ray Discs shipped to retail in the first quarter of the year. Blu-ray compatible devices, including set-top players, PC drives and PlayStation 3 consoles, are now in more than 10.5 million U.S. homes.

"While the country is experiencing one of the most dramatic downturns in history, the home entertainment window remains stable," said Amy Jo Smith, executive director of the DEG. "With the home entertainment window down less than 5% for the quarter, this shows us that even amidst belt tightening, consumers are still hungry for pre-recorded content, be it through physical media like DVD and Blu-ray Disc or digital distribution."

Warner Home Video, as usual, led the studios in market share for the quarter. According to Home Media Magazine's market research department, the studio generated an estimated 17.2% of the consumer spending total -- a drop of 4% from the first quarter of last year, when its distributed New Line Home Entertainment line was still viable.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment finished second with a market share of 13.9%, up 0.9% from the first quarter of last year, while Sony Pictures Home Entertainment finished third with 12.8% (up 1.5%) and Paramount Home Entertainment came in fourth with 12.2% (up 1%).

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment came in fifth, with 12%, taking the biggest hit from the Easter holiday not being in the first quarter. Universal Studios Home Entertainment finished the quarter with an 11.1% market share, while Lionsgate had 7%.