The pandemic may have increased audience for a myriad of streaming and VOD options by keeping consumers indoors, but not all forms of in-home entertainment apparently benefited.
The rate at which DVD sales and rentals declined in 2020 versus the year prior saw a pronounced acceleration compared to the levels at which it had been dropping for the past decade, according to data released by the Digital Entertainment Group, a trade organization for the home entertainment industry.
Physical sales and rentals of discs each tanked by more than 25%, a staggering reality for those invested in selling and collecting physical media. The prior year rentals barely exceeded a 20% decline while sales were at an 18.29% dropoff.
Some were hoping this would not be the case after observed increases in DVD sales last spring as nationwide lockdowns were underway. However, DEG’s quarterly sales figures for physical discs show that the second quarter of 2020, as well as the first, were still down from their 2019 counterparts.
What prevented physical discs from seeing a rebound in revenue at a time when theaters were closed and people were stuck indoors?
Streaming has to be considered the main culprit behind the continued disintegration of physical media, as new services from WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal became available in May and July 2020, respectively. Plus, the November 2019 launch of Disney+ offered an all-in-one stop for brands like Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar that often top home entertainment charts.
The appeal of a service like Disney+ is that every Disney brand and release is gathered in one place. Every Disney title among the top 20 watched-at-home releases is available to stream on Disney+, and “Onward” even saw an expedited streaming debut after its theatrical run was cut short.
HBO Max operates on similar logic when it comes to the Warner Bros. catalog, as “Joker,” “Scoob!” and “Birds of Prey” are all available to stream there (whereas the “Harry Potter” films are still confined to a licensing deal with NBCUniversal).
Even before the pandemic began sweeping its way through the U.S., Universal and Warner Bros. launched a joint venture to continue distributing DVDs of their films, offsetting the extra cost of manufacturing titles for the format by themselves.
Physical discs were on the way out before the pandemic, but now more than ever they’ve lost relevance with the public, as the pandemic itself is a hurdle to purchasing discs in the wild.
Streaming will continue to upend traditional release and consumption models for content, so if physical discs couldn’t make any sort of comeback in 2020, this is it for the format. Better utilize the extra space in your TV stand’s cabinets for something else.