Stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 drove digital home entertainment sales to an all-time record level in March, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, a trade consortium.
Total spending on digital transactions, including electronic sell-through and video on demand, reached
$596 million, up 48% over March 2019. Theatrical films rose 57% in EST and 67% on VOD during the month.
Studios titles hitting the digital rental marketplace in March like Jumanji: The Next Level, 1917 and Richard Jewell saw a boost from quarantine viewing, with theaters no longer an option for consumers.
The DEG statistics, notably, do not don’t include PVOD, specifically titles defined by the DEG defines as “premium rental pricing for titles with shortened or no theatrical windows.” Disney’s Onward and Sony’s Bloodshot are two examples from March whose proceeds were counted in this tally.
Overall U.S. consumer home entertainment spending in the first three months of 2020 was $6.9 billion, the DEG said, a 15% increase from same period a year earlier. That uptick corresponded with a 5% drop in box-office performance in March.
Citing data from IHS Markit, the DEG said consumer spending on subscription streaming increased 27% in the first quarter from the year-earlier period.
Full visibility on the COVID-19 marketplace during the pandemic is difficult to attain given the decisions by some studios — notably Disney — to migrate titles more quickly to their own direct-to-consumer platforms. Rather than transactional sales, those subscription platforms are measured by subscriber growth, average revenue per user and other metrics. Some releases, among them Universal’s Trolls World Tour, have also skipped theaters altogether but the distributors generally keep the PVOD data close to the vest.
When physical DVD and Blu-ray sales are factored in, the first-quarter picture is not quite as rosy. Total sell-through, including physical discs, fell 7% in the month to just shy of $1.4 billion despite the digital gains. Most retail locations, including big box stores, had to close their doors in March and major online sellers like Amazon were prioritizing delivery of essential pandemic-related supplies during the period.