Cable companies are notoriously tin-eared when it comes to dealing with consumers. But Comcast hopes to show that it can win movie-lovers’ hearts and cash by selling electronic versions of films and TV shows — a business that’s now dominated by Apple’s iTunes and Amazon. The cable giant should begin to sell a few hundred movies and TV shows movies and TV shows to its 20M Xfinity digital customers by year end, I’m told. (The industry term for this is Electronic Sell-Through, or EST.) The main selling point is that Comcast subs will be able to buy the content via their set top boxes, and watch on their TV sets, without the need for an additional device to link them to the Web. Adding cable or satellite companies to the retail mix is “really going to open up amazing opportunities,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told analysts last week, teasing Comcast’s expected announcement.
Spending for DVDs and Blu-ray discs is falling so fast that 2012 likely will be first year when consumers will pay more to buy and rent movies via the Internet, according to a report today from IHS Screen Digest Video Intelligence Service. The research firm says that the average household will spend $123.50 to buy and rent discs this year — down from $133.21 last year and $149.53 in 2010. The average home spent $206.78 in 2006, when Blu-ray discs were introduced. Looked at another way, people spent $8.8B last year to buy packaged videos, down 12% vs 2010. That will keep falling to $5.4B in 2016 — which IHS notes is “the level in 1997 when DVDs were first launched.” Meanwhile, consumers paid $5.7B to rent discs last year, down 7.3%. Much of that drop was due to the cut backs at Blockbuster, as well as the snafus at Netflix’ DVD rental business. With that largely behind us, and rental kiosks becoming more popular, disc rentals will increase slightly to $6B in 2016. IHS says that kiosks accounted for 34% of disc rental spending last year, and will grow to 41% this year, and hit 52% in 2015. The silver lining for studios is that the online business is growing. “If revenue were to be added from other viewing options such as video-on-demand, Internet-based sales and rentals, and subscription streaming from providers like Netflix and Hulu Plus…consumer spending …
Moguls will need a stiff drink nearby when they read Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne’s bracing report today about the state of the home video business — and Hollywood studios. He says that film operations at Universal, Disney, Paramount, Fox, and Warner Bros are worth about $19.3B, down from $40.2B in 2007. And a big reason for the 52% drop is that studios’ annual home video profits from each TV household fell to $100 last year from $127 in 2007 — and will continue to slide to $93 in 2015. Sales and high-priced rentals of DVDs and Blu-ray discs from retailers such as Blockbuster are simply falling too fast as consumers discover that they can do just fine paying $1.20 a night to rent a disc at a kiosk — or less to watch a movie from Netflix. The analyst says it’s possible that studios will boost sales of discs with the UltraViolet initiative, which gives buyers opportunities to stream the movies to mobile and other digital devices. But probably not:
EXCLUSIVE: Shoppers at malls owned by Taubman Centers will see something unusual beginning Wednesday. As part of an exclusive one-year partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, the malls will have a wall with cover art and QR codes for many the studio’s home videos. People who want to buy the movie or TV show can download a smartphone app called Fox Movie Mall, available for both iPhones and Android devices. It will enable them to scan an image and go directly to a Web site to complete the purchase for a DVD or Blu-ray disc shipped free to their home. The studio will offer discounts and goodies such as games, trailers, and additional clips for people who use the app. Fox expects to reach as many as 60M people over the next four months with the mall wallscapes. As part of the deal with Taubman, Fox also will set up lounges in several malls that will have TVs featuring