‘Sense’ sees dead presidents

Buena Vista's DVD title tops rental market

Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment used its “Sixth Sense” to exploit the DVD market and regain its top position in overall market share in the video rental sector in the first half of the year.

The video rental industry enjoyed a modest 3.4% increase in consumer spending to $4.28 billion through the first 26 weeks of 2000 compared with the year-earlier frame. Most of that, however, can be attributed to the weekly double-digit improvement in DVD rental spending.

Consumers spent $228 million renting DVDs through June 25, according to VSDA VidTrac.

The nearly $8 million in rentals of “The Sixth Sense” DVDs was about 50% more than consumers spent to rent the next most popular title, Warner Home Video’s “Three Kings” ($5.31 million). The DVD numbers are, however, still a small fraction of the 12-week record $104 million generated by the VHS edition of “Sixth Sense.”

The two versions combined accounted for more than 15% of the $732 million that consumers spent on the rental of dozens of Buena Vista titles released this year, VidTrac reported.

Rental crown

That was enough to push Buena Vista back into the top overall position in rental market share, with its titles accounting for 17.15% of all consumer rental spending, just ahead of Universal Studios Home Video’s 16.74% ($714 million).

Rental revenues were spread across a much broader mix of suppliers in the first half of the year. As a result, while Buena Vista gained in market-share position, the studio actually saw its share of the overall pie dwindle and its revenue decrease. Its titles generated 7.5% less rental revenue than during the same period last year, when the studio’s $790 million (19.1%) was second to Warner Home Video’s $950 million (22.9%).

Nonetheless, “Sixth Sense” commanded attention in nearly every homevideo category. In addition to the most-rented VHS and DVD title, it was the top-selling DVD through June 18, according to VideoScan data provided by Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.

In fact, the only category not topped by “Sixth Sense” was the only one the title did not qualify for: bestselling VHS title. The rental-priced VHS version of “The Sixth Sense” has not been repriced for sale yet. Buena Vista’s “Tarzan” picked up that category.

Warner, which ended last year with the lead in rental market share, has dropped to third overall behind Universal — the result of a more than 28% decline in rental spending on Warner titles in the first half of this year compared with last.

Sales of DVDs have grown even more dramatically than rentals, with the number of DVD units purchased by consumers up 187% through June 18 compared with the same period last year, according to VideoScan.

Buena Vista’s share of all DVDs sold has jumped from 10.5% at the end of 1999 to 15.34% of what is now a much bigger market, according to VideoScan. That moves Buena Vista into the second spot, ahead of Universal, which dropped from 14.31% to 12.4%.

Much of Buena Vista’s increased bite came out of Warner Home Video’s commanding market share, which stood at 30.9% last year. Warner dominates the market, but its share of all DVD sales now stands at nearly 27%. Sales of the studio’s “The Matrix” remained strong in the first months of the year to rank the title second overall. And with just one week in the market as of June 18, Warner’s “The Green Mile” was already the 11th biggest-selling DVD title of the first half of the year and the seventh biggest renter.

Vid victor

But the VHS format still generates by far the most sales volume, and Buena Vista continues to dominate that category.

Buena Vista’s 19.22% share of the videocassette sales market is nearly identical to the 19.36% the studio held at this time last year.

The strategy of replacing unreleased animated classics with video premieres and re-released catalog titles appears to be working.

Even with the fourth bestselling VHS title, “Pokemon: The First Movie,” Warner Home Video’s VHS market share has declined from 19% at this point last year and 21% for all of 1999 to 17.5% this year.

Back on the rental side, U’s share of that business leaped from 7.7% to 16.74% on the strength of four of the top 15 best-renting VHS titles.

U titles (including those from DreamWorks) generated nearly twice as much revenue as the studio’s first-half titles in 1999. DreamWorks titles contributed $129 million to Universal’s overall $714 million, compared with $82 million last year.

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