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How has the coronavirus lockdown impacted streaming?

Staff Writer

Reading time: 4 mins

The digital video sector has officially boomed during the coronavirus lockdown, with spending on buy-and-keep digital downloads rising 87 per cent year-on-year.

Spending reached £113 million from March to June 2020, while 1.8 million new customers either bought or rented online content – taking the total number of consumers transacting digitally to a record high of 5.5 million in that period.

The figures, released by the British Association for Screen Entertainment and compiled by the Official Charts Company, show that Britons increasingly turned to digital retailers to access entertainment at home – a marked boost for the transactional video market when the streaming boost in recent years has largely been driven by subscription services.

The data covers the 12-week period from 28th March, with digital purchases accounting for 51 per cent of the home entertainment sector, ahead of the 49 per cent made up by physical media purchases. While growth in digital ownership was already evident, with its share at 29 per cent in the same period in 2019 and at 37 per cent in the 12 weeks prior to lockdown, it is clear that digital video has made huge gains at a time when many of us were forced to stay home.

The overall transactional market (both physical and digital) has grown by 6.9 per cent in value terms. During the lockdown period, discs proved to be remarkably resilient even in the context of many bricks and mortar retailers either being forced to close or to pivot to focus on essential provisions.

The digital market benefited from a strong line-up of releases, not only including the early digital releases or straight-to-streaming premieres such as Trolls World Tour. During the lockdown period blockbusters such as Jumanji: The Next Level, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, 1917 and Frozen 2 were joined on digital platforms by family-friendly releases such as Onward, Knives Out and Jojo Rabbit. The average volume sales for digital purchase rose from more than 350,000 units per week in the 12 weeks from the start of 2020 to more than 565,000 units a week in the 12 weeks from 28th March.

While the average selling price for a digital copy has risen year-on-year by 4.4 per cent to £8.51, the fact that the ASP has fallen marginally against its pre-lockdown position suggests that audiences are also engaging with the value proposition offered by the breadth and depth of catalogue content available through digital retailers alongside the pick of titles fresh from the cinema. The diverse range of older titles that digital customers have sought out during the pandemic includes classics such as Forrest Gump, Top Gun, Grease, Apocalypse Now and titles from the Harry Potter franchise, with titles released pre 2010 representing 38 per cent of all digital sales during lockdown.

Liz Bales, Chief Executive at BASE, said: “With nearly two million new customers buying or renting entertainment content from a digital store during the lockdown period and contributing to the wider transactional video market returning to growth, the digital transactional market has been a beneficiary of the fact that the government’s Stay Home policy provided the right environment for it to flourish. With new release and catalogue content available instantly and without subscription, digital content has been able to play an important role for many in providing some much-needed light relief from the reality of lockdown.

“The fact that more than half of consumers anticipate they will maintain habits formed during lockdown , such as engaging more broadly with digital delivery, underlines the need for the video category to optimise around the opportunity delivered by the growth it has seen. Historically, home entertainment has proved robust in times of economic crisis and the addition of a meaningful number of new customers to digital transactional, alongside the resilience of the disc market, means the video category at large has plenty to build upon even as consumer confidence and discretionary spend potentially become challenged as we look to the future.”

The Premium VOD offerings did account for 6.2 per cent of all digital rentals over lockdown, according to Kantar. That translates to a 19 per cent share of rental spend in the period, with Kantar estimating that more than half a million customers experimented with the new release format. In keeping with the PVOD success of Trolls World Tour, families have the largest share of spend and are accessing content through their TVs rather than through other devices, endorsing the popularity of the movie night in that continues to be a key occasion for transactional purchases. With AMC and Universal notably inking a deal for a Premium VOD window in the US, the past four months may have been crucial to making early digital releases a routine reality.

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