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DEG's latest report on DVD sales, rentals holds back on key stats

July 16, 2009 | 12:53 pm

Blockbuster Apparently some key information about the DVD business is now highly classified.

The Digital Entertainment Group, an organization that counts all of the major studios and DVD player manufacturers as members, has issued its latest sales report, but what's noteworthy is what's not included in the release.

Though DVD sales were down and rentals were up in the first half of 2009, DEG won't say what that means in real numbers making the percent changes kind of useless.

According to DEG, sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs plunged 13.5% in the first six months of 2009 compared with a year ago. That more than offset a 8.3% gain in rental revenue driven by budget consciousness during the recession, as well as double digital gains for the still small digital distribution and Blu-ray markets.

However, DEG refused to disclose the current size of the sell-through market or the decline of standard definition DVDs, which still make up the vast majority of home entertainment revenue.

That is a curious shift, because DEG traditionally has disclosed that information and even did so for the first quarter of this year.

Instead, the group only released more favorable information. The 8.3% jump in rental revenue, for instance, signals that consumers are more eager to rent movies for a few bucks than buy them for $15 or $20 during the current economic downturn.

Sales of high-definition Blu-ray DVDs surged 91% in the first half, but their total revenue is still $407 million, a relatively minor figure amount of money in Hollywood. Warner Bros., for instance, spent about that much to produce and market just one movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

Digital distribution is also still growing, although not by as much as Blu-ray. Sales and rentals through outlets such as iTunes, Amazon and Xbox Live grew 21% in the first half to $968 million.

The overall size of the home entertainment market including sales and rentals for DVDs, Blu-ray and digital distribution, the DEG said, was $9.73 billion in the first half of the year, off 3.9% from a year ago.

There were some encouraging signs in the second quarter, however. Overall purchases and rentals of DVDs and Blu-ray discs were down 5.6% in the second quarter. DEG said that was an improvement over the first quarter, although, once again, it declined to say by how much.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: A consumer checks out DVDs at a Blockbuster store in Wilsonville, Ore. Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer / Getty Images