By Marcus Leach

Physical video entertainment sales in December were up 8.4% in value to £473.3 million on the same period last year, as highly anticipated hit titles were released in time for the gifting season, according to the British Video Association (BVA).

Christmas is traditionally the most important time of year for video sales and in 2011 December represented 23% of the year’s total physical sales, the best performance since December 2003, when it represented 23.1%.

For the first time ever great British titles, featuring popular home-grown talent such as in Harry Potter, Inbetweeners, The King’s Speech, Pirates of the Caribbean, Paul and Peter Kay, dominated December disc sales and indeed the Top 10 chart for the whole of 2011, representing 80% of the year’s Top 10 unit sales.

Growth was seen in the value of Blu-ray, up 26.9% last month, while the nation’s favourite format, DVD, proved very much in demand throughout December, taking 87% share of physical disc sales worth £410.1 million, a rise in value of 6.0% on December 2010.

DVD’s volume sales also rose 6%, reaching over 43 million units sold in December, alongside a 31.1% increase in Blu-ray Disc over the same period, 5% of which were 3D Blu-ray Discs. During 2011 as a whole Blu-ray continued to increase its share of the physical disc market, as volume sales rose 18.4% year on year to 15.3 million units, producing a total value of £222.8 million, which is 13% of all physical disc sales.

In the growing paid-for digital video market IHS Screen Digest estimate[i] that downloads and digital rental transactions grew in value by 15% in 2011, with a 12% year on year increase in transactions to 71 million. The rise reflects a growing interest in tailored online services, particularly in video streaming and downloading, which now account for around 13% of the overall video market, worth some £292 million in 2011.

Although overall sales of discs fell 4.9% in value and 7.2% in volume year on year, DVD and Blu-ray Discs are still by far the most popular way to watch video entertainment, with consumers spending £1.75 billion on over 207 million units in 2011. When added to digital and rental transactions the total video entertainment sector is estimated to amount to more than £2.25 billion in consumer spend in the last 12 months.

"As we predicted, titles released in December meant the industry finished the year on a high, despite the gloomy economic situation," Lavinia Carey, BVA Director General said.

"It demonstrates the public’s huge appetite for video entertainment and quality British works in every genre. Like other sectors, the video industry faced a huge squeeze on consumer spending in 2011 and it has met the challenge head on by increasing the number of ways consumers can watch fantastic content and get the most for their money.

"Triple Play packs are a great example of this as they enable audiences to view a title in three different ways — DVD, Blu-ray, including true 3D and a digital copy — be it on different devices at the same time or at different times and places, according to the whole family’s taste."

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