The declining state of retail video sales in the UK

With the advancement of technology, the world has access to a humongous amount of content worldwide. The audiences flock to cinemas to watch big budget, visual effects masterpieces or enjoy so many films in every genre which release every week.

There is however a conflicting set of data in the British Film Institute’s (BFI) annual report of 2018 which suggests that retail video sales have been dropping consistently for the past 10 years. It has plummeted from £2,237 million in 2008 to just £742 million in 2017.

Data Source: British Film Institute

The volume of sales in millions has gone down from 257 to 83 in the same time-frame. The maximum drop was from 2011-2012 with a difference of 28 million.

Now there is a major question at hand. Colossal film studios like Warner Bros., Disney and Sony pictures have been increasing budgets for their films with every release and coming up with blockbusters like Godzilla, Avengers and Spider-Man. So, if these films do a business of billions at the box-office then why is the number of people who want to watch them at home steadily declining?

There are a few possibilities for this outcome. The first and foremost is competition. Online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Prime video have been taking over the online media space and have become a source of home entertainment for a huge number of people.

According to data by the number of Netflix subscribers alone in 2015 were over four million in the UK and the forecast for 2020 is that the number will reach over nine million. The UK has a great collection of content on Netflix with almost 700 TV Series and over 2000 movies.

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Considering there are many more streaming platforms than just Netflix, the online media space is surely a contributing factor in dropping retail video sales. Furthermore, cinemas have many offers for viewers to convince them to come and watch more films on the big screen.

For instance, Cineworld has an unlimited membership for just £17.90 a month which allows audiences to watch as many films as they want and as many times as they want. This is a bargain for many people who like the big screen experience. And with formats like IMAX and D-BOX, the appeal is much more than a television screen.

People who have unlimited membership believe that if they can go to the cinema whenever they like, there is no point in spending more money to buy the film when it releases on home media. A university student, Adnana Zimbru said: “It’s a convenient investment to make. Unlimited movies for a small price are amazing compared to spending £14 on one film without membership.”

Talking about retail media sales, she added: “I don’t really buy films on Blu-Ray because if I want to watch it I just go to the cinema. The point is that even if you buy it, you are not going to watch it more than a couple of times. That’s just wasted money.”

There is another form of online competition to film sales which is not of legal nature. Online piracy also known as torrenting has been a threat to all forms of media for years. According to Muso’s annual piracy report of 2017, the UK is fifth on the list of countries ranked by visits to piracy sites.

Muso global piracy rank
Image Source: Annual Piracy Reports, Muso

With a country internet population of just over 60 million, the visits to piracy sites were almost 4 billion. That averages up to almost 65 visits per person. This shows a major problem in tracking piracy online and how easily copyrighted content is available for free.

Statista also released data of internet users who were 12 years or older in the UK asking them about consuming films illegally and unsurprisingly, the dominance was held by the illegal side of things.

Illegal film statista
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Muso also revealed that globally there were 300 billion visits to pirate websites which was up 1.6% compared to 2016. It is obvious that if people have access to films in high definition or ultra HD so easily then they are neither going to buy them or have a subscription to any online streaming platform.

It is not just torrenting websites, but also websites which allow illegal streaming of content which are part of the problem. Muso also revealed that 53% of piracy occurred on unlicensed streaming sites with it being highest in the United States of America with 27.9 billion visits by users.

Tackling piracy is a never-ending process as it is so deeply rooted in the heart of the world wide web. Furthermore, the change in preference from buying films to buying streaming platform subscriptions is inevitable as people seek to access their favourite content from the comforts of their home.

There is enough evidence present to suggest why retail video sales have been declining steadily over the past 10 years and it is a mix of change and corruption. It is evident that the internet has got a good, bad and an ugly side to it like everything else and to just blame Netflix like Stephen Spielberg did won’t be a fair conclusion.

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