The number of Americans buying movie discs dropped 9 percent from 2009 to 2011, but would have fallen more dramatically without the growth in high-definition Blu-ray discs, according to a new report.
In total, 116 million Americans are estimated to currently buy movies on DVD or Blu-ray, according to the NPD Group, down from 128 million in 2009.
However, 26 million of those people are buying discs on Blu-ray, which are more expensive and therefore more profitable for their makers than standard DVDs.
The percentage of the population who are buying Blu-ray discs jumped from 9 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2011, according to two online consumer surveys conducted by NPD.
“While Blu-ray may not be the replacement for DVD that many once hoped for, it is certainly adding strength to the physical video-disc market,” NPD entertainment industry analyst Russ Frushtick said in a statement.
The report did not include any data on digital distribution, a market that is also growing and helping to make up for some, but not all, of the downturn in DVD sales and rentals.
A recent study by IHS Screen Digest said that Internet purchases and rentals of movies jumped 38 percent in 2010 to $385 million.
However, it did say that 50 percent of people who intended to buy a Blu-ray player were interested in part because many such devices also provide access to “subscription video download services” such as Netflix.
Also helping is that Blu-ray players and discs have been falling in price.
“The fact that prices are now within the budgetary range acceptable to rank-and-file consumers is helping bolster the overall value proposition of the Blu-ray format,” Frushtick said.
The NPD analyst also noted that the downturn in movie disc sales during the first three months of 2011 was magnified by a lack of popular movies, as indicated by soft box-office returns for the industry in the fall of 2010.
That drop was indicated in financial results for two studios. Universal Pictures’ home entertainment revenue fell 24 percent in the first quarter of 2011, while Walt Disney Studios reported a 14 percent drop.