New Reality: Retailers, Distributors Say DVD Sales Down, Not Out
Death, not the most cheery of topics, is not so much an ‘if’ as a ‘when’ upon this mortal sphere. None of us can avoid the Grim Reaper when he comes knocking. And none of us knows when he’ll come knocking.
Detractors of the DVD medium say the same thing about the life of the Digital Video Disc: It’s not so much an “if” in terms of the use of adult DVDs coming to an end — to be fully replaced by the Internet, VOD (Video on Demand), and/or video-streaming — as a “when.”
And yet those same detractors don’t know precisely when the end will occur, if anytime soon.
For the DVD, will its tombstone be erected with “R.I.P.” etched in big letters sooner than later? — or vice versa?
Could it be, perhaps, that VOD is not bringing about the demise of the DVD format as quickly, or conclusively, as those same detractors think. So say a handful of distributors and retailers regarding the current status and future of adult DVDs, one of the last more-tangible forms of entertainment media, which, as we learned, is still not such a terribly unpopular format.
Who’s Buying This Stuff?
Indeed, who precisely is the typical consumer of DVDs these days? Are they younger? Older? Male? Female?
According to Bob Christian, general manager of Adam & Eve, it’s all of the above.
“The Adam & Eve retail stores enjoy a high percentage of women customers and a high percentage of couples. They’re the ones buying the upper-end movies — the new features, romances, plot-driven titles, and educational movies, such as the “Nina Hartley Guide” series. It’s generally the guys who buy the niche DVDs.
“Age-wise, we’re seeing all ages buying DVDs, which is good, since we worry about the younger segment not buying them.”
Jeff Dillon, vice president of business development and marketing at Eline.com in San Francisco and consultant for GameLink.com, reports that the demographics from his end are telling, if not perhaps pinpointed with such relative scalpel-sharpness.
“The over-30 crowd is the best market for DVD sales,” Dillon notes. “People over 30 grew up with DVD players in their home and are used to watching movies on their television — and DVDs provide the best experience for watching movies on a TV. Plus, consumers over 30 have a higher disposable income, and they don’t mind paying for content.”
Michael Moran, CEO of Lion’s Den chain of nationwide adult stores, describes an even slightly different consumer animal.
Says Moran: “We’re seeing a definite increase in younger female customers (purchasing) DVDs, but the main demographic is still males over 40.”
Selling Like Hot Cakes?
And what are some of the more popular adult titles purchased today on DVD? Is it just the feature material which most couples, supposedly, gravitate towards?
Or it really that simple?
According to Pure Play Media’s Adam H., it’s not so much about specific titles as it is about the provocative, the unique.
Notes Adam H.: “Studios creating content that stands out — niche genres, titles that appeal to customers looking for specialties — are finding greater success than ever before.”
Dillon believes it’s just as much about caliber as it is about creativity. “With the Internet overrun with user-generated content for free, people are looking to spend their hard-earned money on features and high-quality productions — and companies that produce quality content still create demand on DVDs these days.”
In terms of what, and who, is hot, Philip Del Rio, vice president of retail operations at LFP/Hustler Hollywood, isn’t at all shy about laying it on the line: from genres, to companies, to directors, to female performers themselves.
“Popular genres (being sold via DVD),” cites Del Rio, “include interracial, anal, features/couples, and bondage. Popular studios are Blacked.com, Jules Jordan, Marc Dorcel, Evil Angel, Digital Sin, Wicked, and Elegant Angel. And while in-demand directors include Jules Jordan, Mike Adriano, Jacky St. James, Greg Lansky, and Mason, more sought-after stars are Carter Cruise, Riley Reid, Keisha Grey, Romi Rain, Julia Ann and Anikka Albrite.”
Moran agrees not only with Del Rio, but Dillon and Adam H., as well.
“As DVD sales continue to trend downward,” Moran points out, “working harder to bring in a higher quality of product at a more appealing price point to the customer that model has helped us slow the decline throughout the Lion’s Den chain. While standard genres are still popular, we’re seeing more and more demand for couples-based titles as porn becomes more mainstream.
“These days we’re also seeing an increase in customers following certain directors. Our customers are starting to recognize that the quality of a director’s work carries on no matter whom they might be producing for. Some of the most-asked-for directors in our stores are Axel Braun, Mason and Brad Armstrong.”
Adam & Eve’s Bob Christian sees the popularity of DVDs currently existing at opposite ends of the porn-consumer spectrum.
“The Adam & Eve retail stores are doing best with the two ends of the market, not so much in the middle. As stated earlier, the leaders of the upper-end are new features, romances, plot-driven and high-quality movies, the “Nina Hartley Guide” series… . The most popular studios in this area include Wicked Pictures, New Sensations, Girlfriends Films, along with Adam & Eve Pictures.
“On the lower end,” continues Christian, “cheap, inexpensive niche DVDs sell still to people willing to pay something, but not much, for adult content. Adam & Eve’s online business is similar to that of the retail stores, but we do find that the online customers buy more Adam & Eve Pictures features and comps from us, while they purchase a more diverse studio mix for niches.
“In terms of female talent,” Christian concludes, “the more sought-after performers include Carter Cruise, Anikka Albrite, Mia Malkova, A.J. Applegate, Chanel Preston, Jenna Ivory — I’ve got my eye on her — as well as Aidra Fox and Adriana Chechik.”
So Is DVD On Its Way Out Or Not?
The standard DVD model — in terms a movie being captured on a steamy Porn Valley set, packaged as a DVD, marketed, shipped from a warehouse to stores, and eventually purchased by someone, who excitedly pops it into his/her/their home DVD player — is it still being sustained?
“In some case, yes — in others, no,” Philip Del Rio asserts. “Some (retailers) have been able to successfully adapt and others haven’t. But I don’t see DVD going the way of VHS. Not entirely. And not soon. VHS was flat-out replaced in every home by the DVD format. Nothing has come along to completely take over the market entirely, and until that happens, and as long as DVD players are still common household items, there will be a high potential for DVD sales.”
Dillon goes for the throat, being nothing if not literal in his description of the market.
“The reality is that a DVD customer dies everyday and isn’t replaced. So it’s hard to sustain a market with no new blood entering it. Yes, the DVD market has slowed in its decline and will continue to decline as DVD customers die off or gravitate to watching movies online, i.e., VOD.
“However, DVD will always be the preferred physical format for consumers to watch their porn. DVDs will never completely go away, just as vinyl records and comic books are still enjoyed by many. So, collectors will continue to buy DVDs of their favorite movies.”
Moran sees both gloom and bloom in the future.
“DVD sales,” he says, “are continuing to decrease, as delivery systems with an unlimited supply of content at the click of a button are making it harder and harder to get customers to purchase DVDs. As technology continues to advance, it will become even more difficult to sell DVDs.
“Today, however, DVDs are still very important to us and it’s up to us to stay relevant. From our standpoint, although our DVD customer base seems to be shrinking, there is still plenty of higher-quality content being produced, and we’re still finding ways to get the most from this category.”
So, when all’s said, can we flat-out state that there’s plenty more mileage left in the adult-DVD format or not? Do DVDs still have a few healthy years remaining in adult entertainment? Or is the Grim Reaper sardonically grinning outside the door, ready to announce himself? If he hasn’t already begun knocking?
“Who knows?!” Christian animatedly chimes. “I think the analogy is more likely to be with ‘vinyl’ records than with VHS. Yes, the overall demand for DVD continues to wane. I wish I could say it’s strong and growing. Still, I think DVD will stick around for those who love to own things which they can hold and touch — versus online streaming — and, of course, for the reliability, quality and the extras. DVD replaced VHS as a hard-goods media, and I don’t see a new hard media coming along any time soon.
“Streaming is the future, but DVD ain’t dead!”