Why the industry needs the ‘50-quid man’.

For years, the industry has been bracing for the predicted demise of the DVD business and huge growth in the VoD market. So does the news last week that music and DVD retailer HMV was going into administration in the UK signal the final nail in the coffin?

Far from it. As Geoffrey Macnab reports, physical DVD sales are still quite strong in the UK. The British Video Association recently confirmed that “physical discs took over 78% of all 2012 consumer expenditure, accounting for more than $2.9bn (£1.8bn) of the total $3.6bn (£2.3bn) video market”.

HMV had 19% of that physical DVD business, according to industry research. The chain was the last film-specific retailer on the high street, so if those stores shut, what then?

Sure, we can buy physical DVDs online through Amazon or hundreds of other retailers, but distributors will miss the impulse buys that come with physical transactions.

The distributors lament that if HMV disappears, so would the so-called ‘50-quid man’, the affluent male consumer who drops his daughter at Topshop on a Saturday, or is bored at lunchtime and stops for a browse at HMV, emerging with a handful of products he hadn’t planned to buy. Even ‘recommended for you’ functions on DVD sales websites don’t recreate that experience.

It saddens me that supermarkets are now seen as the go-to stores for DVD purchasing (representing 38% of the value of DVD physical sales in the UK). They usually appeal to the broadest mass market consumer and don’t encourage customers to browse and take chances, only to maybe throw a Danny Dyer thriller into the basket with the garlic bread.

VoD is a very important piece of the puzzle that will continue to grow.

But don’t expect DVDs to become extinct anytime soon. The culture of physical ownership doesn’t go away quickly. Buying an iTunes download is still quite different to having a beautiful Criterion DVD package on your bookcase. (Note to younger readers: a bookcase is a thing we had before Kindles.)

So fingers crossed HMV’s stores survive under some other guise, or that impulse buyers find another easy way to keep spending money on film. The industry needs the 50-quid man.