UK sees 1999 DVD sales explode

More than 4.1 million DVD films were sold in 1999, compared to just 180,000 the previous year -- a growth of 5,000 percent

The first full year figures for DVD sales released by the British Video Association (BVA) saw the UK dramatically outstrip the US, with phenomenal growth rates.

More than 4.1 million DVD films were sold in 1999, compared to just 180,000 the previous year. Taking an average unit price of £17, this represents sales of over £70m -- a growth rate of 5,000 percent, compared to 900 percent for the first year of sales in the US.

As predicted by analysts and hardware manufacturers alike, this Christmas saw the format explode. Over 40 percent of the whole year's sales occurred in December, with 1.4 million films sold. This is an increase of 1,515 percent over December 1998.

The eagerly awaited DVD version of the Matrix had a large part to play in these staggering sales. According to David King from the BVA's DVD Committee, the film "blew everything else out of the water", selling 200,000 units in December. The Matrix was highly praised for being one of the first DVDs in the UK to fully exploit the possibilities of the format by including a range of innovative extras.

King believes that increased consumer awareness of DVD was the most important factor in the format's rocketing success last year. In January the BVA recorded public awareness of DVD at just 15 percent. This had risen to almost 50 percent of the population by December.

"Developments such as the Internet and digital TV mean that the UK audience is more ready to pick up on new technology than ever before," said King. "People understand the advantages of moving from VHS."

Hardware manufacturers have also had a part to play, aggressively marketing their products to a British public eager to reap the benefits of digital video technology. The promotional tie-up between Toshiba, Blockbuster and Warner had a "huge impact", according to King. Bryan Welsh, managing director of online retailer DVDplus, agrees that canny marketing agreements such as this "go a long way in pushing the market forward".

The British Video Association is meeting this week to discuss predictions for DVD sales this year and is extremely confident over the future of the format. The DVD Committee expects to see over 600,000 players sold in the coming year, which would mean an installed base of at least one million players by December. "Last year has proved that when you get the format in front of the consumer it's not a matter of if they will buy it, but when they will," said King.

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