More than £1 billion was spent on downloaded films, music and games in 2012 – a 11.4% increase on 2011. Digital sales are now a quarter of the UK’s entire entertainment market.
This increase, however, coincided with a notable 17.6% drop in physical sales of CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray and video games, as high street retailers lose further sales to online giants such as Amazon.
It is surprising to see such a high proportion of sales are still for physical products nearly a decade after Apple’s iTunes Store opened and revolutionised the download market for music. Last year saw digital sales for music overtake physical for the first time, but films and games are not yet over this hurdle. This is in part due to the much larger file-sizes needed for films or big budget games in comparison to music, but also due to technological problems of interoperability caused by digital rights management.
Most music sold online today is in the mp3 format which can be played by any device made by any manufacturer and can easily be burned to CD if desired. Both films and games bought online, however, contain strict digital rights management protections which prevents people from using them on the devices they want to – for example DRM-protected films will be more difficult to play on a TV than a DVD or Blu-ray which can be played in the relevant disc players that people have attached to their TVs already.
Downloads can offer “convenience and portability” as described by Kim Bayley, director general of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), but only when DRM is not involved. With DRM, such media just causes headaches.