The UK overtook France in 2001 to become the European country with the highest penetration of DVD players. This followed a generic campaign funded jointly by hardware and software companies to promote DVD over VHS.

New figures from industry research company Screen Digest show that the overall European market for rental and sell-through video software grew by 20%, despite VHS sales dropping by 11% in value.

The shift from tape to disc has been less marked in unit terms - VHS fell by only 5% - due to the higher price that DVD is able to command. However unit sales of DVD have now overtaken VHS in some territories. According to GfK research quoted by Screen Digest, DVD passed VHS in March and now accounts for 54% of units sold.

Screen Digest's analysts see the DVD release of family movies Shrek and Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone in mid-2002 as pivotal titles accelerating the switch from VHS to DVD.

But there are some dampers on DVD's growth. In East and Central Europe lower disposable incomes have meant that DVD take-up has been slower than in the West. And, with DVD recorders still twice as expensive as simple DVD players, Screen Digest does not see DVD yet replacing VHS as an everyday way of recording.