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US movie viewers make sudden shift to net

More films watched online this year than on disc

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Lovefilm subscribers in the UK are already streaming more content over the net than they're receiving on disc through the post, and now it's been claimed that folk in the US will acquire more paid video content online this year than on physical media.

According to IHS Screen Digest, a market watcher, Americans will this year pay to watch 3.4bn net-sourced movies, be they downloads or streams. They'll only buy 2.4bn DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

Screen Digest's numbers show online movie viewing has rocketed from next to nothing in 2007, 2008 and 2009, to a small mark on the graph in 2010, and thence to more than a billion transactions in 2011.

Yet the decline in physical disc sales has been slow during this period and, Screen Digest's forecast suggests, after a bigger but by no means extreme dip over the next couple of years, will continue a slow decline.

US Movie transactions: online vs disc
Units: billions

Screen Digest US online vs physical disc views

Data source: IHS Screen Digest

The bottom line: though Americans may be watching more online video than ever through 2016, they'll still be buying a heck of a lot of discs too.

One medium, then, does not entirely displace the other. And it suggests that while online will become viewers' main source for movies and shows they haven't seen before, they will still want to maintain disc collections of material they anticipate watching again and again.

Plenty of folk won't have access to online sources too.

Although online will account for the majority of transactions in 2012, it is set to attract a far lower share of revenue, Display Search said. Online spending will total $1.7bn, rather less than the $11.1bn spent on (far fewer) discs.

Come 2016, online will still account for just 17 per cent of sales revenue, with pay TV yielding eight per cent and sales of physical media 75 per cent. ®

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