Why Selling Film Downloads Is So Difficult

Though the whole notion of ownership is called into question by the nature of streaming video, consumers would do more buying than renting of films online if studios seeking higher margins had their way. But a new PricewaterhouseCoopers study offers some insight into why that attitude may be sheer folly.

A combination of PwC survey and focus groups in the latter half of 2010 reveals that the consumer mindset has so clearly switched away from purchase. Of all the available methods to obtain movie content, purchasing a physical copy ranked lower than five different rental scenarios whether digital or not; the 20 percent who said they prefer to buy a DVD was actually the same percentage who said they would sooner borrow a DVD than make any kind of transaction at all.

It gets worse when the purchase is in digital form. Purchasing a download from a website commanded only 7 percent of responses. Even worse: the 5 percent who said they use the digital copy that comes free with a purchase of a physical disc. Digital copies fared particularly badly in the PwC study. 60 percent of respondents said they never even used the digital codes.

Asked under what circumstances a consumer would buy films, the responses clearly suggest that purchase opportunities are not regular occasions. The top answer was, obviously, for movies that would be watched more than once, at 66 percent. In second with 50 percent was giving films as a gift.

Particularly disconcerting are a few of the more digital-minded answers at the bottom: Only 25 percent cited content “extras” as a reason for buying a DVD, yet that’s a pretty big focus for the studios. And faring even worse, predictably, was the fact that a digital code was part of the purchase, with 16 percent.

It makes you wonder why even bother trying to induce anything but rentals.