The Top Retailers in Home Entertainment 2020

Welcome to Media Play News’ third annual look at the top home entertainment retailers.

This year, we are shaking things up. We are no longer going to include streaming services in our listing, as they have grown in number and evolved from distributors of content to content creators. Sure, they still sell content — or, rather, access to content — but we want to take a step back and celebrate the pure-play retailers who are engaged solely in the business of distributing home entertainment product on a transactional basis.

These, then, are the top third-party operators where consumers go to buy or rent movies, TV shows and other filmed content — digitally or on DVD, Blu-ray Disc or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Also new this year, we are breaking down our industry’s top retailers. Some are primarily brick-and-mortar, key players in the impulse buys that still tend to drive physical media sales, particularly around the holidays. Others are solely digital, selling or renting content to consumers over the Internet. And still others are hybrids — such as Amazon, which sells both discs and digital, and Redbox, which rents DVDs and Blu-ray Discs through a network of kiosks while also offering consumers the chance to buy or rent movies digitally through its Redbox On Demand Internet service.

“We applaud our retail customers for their valiant efforts during the COVID-19 crisis and for continuing to provide essential retail services to the public while working so hard to protect their staffs,” says Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Consumers have shown an increased appetite for transactional content — on both digital and physical products — during these lockdown periods and, together with our retail partners, we have enjoyed serving their needs and bringing them much-needed entertainment and escapism. We are very encouraged by the continuing strength of the transactional business during these challenged times and look forward to partnering with each retailer as the situation develops in the second half of the year.”

“Our retail partners do it the hard way, one transaction at a time,” says Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment and Games. “Being on the front lines demands that they are listening to their customers and changing with them. During these stressful times it is great that they continue to bring people everywhere a little respite through the content we produce.”

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TOP BRICK-AND-MORTAR

Walmart

Walmart Inc. is the world’s biggest brick-and-mortar retailer and top seller of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, with more than 5,000 outlets in the United States and more than 6,000 international stores.

Long a packaged-media promotional juggernaut, on big releases Walmart will often do a gift set pairing a Blu-ray combo pack with a collectible such as a plush or keychain.

The chain also offers exclusive bare-bones DVDs of Warner two-DVD special editions for cost-conscious consumers.

On the digital-delivery side, the chain in May consolidated its digital push under the Walmart.com banner, discontinuing Jet.com, which it bought for $3.3 billion in 2016. “The acquisition of Jet.com nearly four years ago was critical to accelerating our omni strategy,” the company reported May 19.

Walmart also sold Vudu, the transactional digital movie platform it acquired 10 years ago for $100 million. In April, Comcast-owned Fandango announced the acquisition of Vudu.com from Walmart for an undisclosed amount, with Vudu continuing backend support for Walmart’s online digital movie business and existing Vudu subscribers still having access to content stored in the cloud. Both FandangoNow, Fandango’s TVOD service, and Vudu are among the handful of digital retailers that support the cloud-based movie locker system Movies Anywhere. It remains to be seen if or how Vudu will be married with FandangoNow. Walmart telegraphed its pullback from Vudu when it quietly dropped support for its Vudu to Go/In-Home Disc-to-Digital app at the beginning of the year.

Despite moves to sell digital properties, Walmart is leaning heavily into e-commerce, even as it was one of the only brick-and-mortar chains open during COVID-19 lockdown orders because of its grocery business. For the fiscal first quarter ended May 1, Walmart reported U.S. e-commerce sales rose 74%. The chain’s U.S. e-commerce sales are expected to jump 44.2% in 2020 versus 2019, according to eMarketer. “Thanks to Walmart’s prior investments in online grocery delivery and pickup services, the retailer appears to be in a strong position as consumers have increasingly turned to e-commerce amid the pandemic,” according to eMarketer’s Cindy Liu.

While many Americans have used their COVID-19 stimulus checks to cover basic needs, there’s evidence people are also spending the money on non-essentials including electronics, clothes and toys. “Call it relief spending, as it was heavily influenced by stimulus dollars, leading to sales increases in categories such as apparel, televisions, video games, sporting goods and toys,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said during the company’s earnings call May 19.

Target

Target Corp. is one of the largest discount retailers in the United States, with more than 1,800 stores. Like Walmart, Target has long been a big seller of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. Disney last October launched 25 branded sections within select Target stores, with 40 additional locations opening by October 2020.

As far as promotional activities for packaged media, Target’s go-to is the behind-the-scenes booklet add-on. For instance, for Onward, the latest Pixar release, Target offered a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a gallery booklet and slipcover for $34.99.

Like Walmart, Target has seen increased sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. Target May 20 reported a 141% increase in e-commerce revenue for the first quarter (ended March 31) as consumers stocked up on lower-margin products online. CEO Brian Cornell said Target.com saw an increase of 5 million customers in the quarter, while more than 2 million used the drive-up service. The chain said more than 70 million people have downloaded the Target Circle app to access e-commerce. Overall retail sales increased 11.3% to more than $19.3 billion, from $17.4 billion during the previous-year period.

Driven by the distribution of stimulus checks, Target Corp. also experienced a rapid increase in traffic and sales for discretionary goods, CEO Brian Cornell said on the company’s latest earnings call. Indeed, Target hardline, which includes electronics (video game hardware and software), toys, entertainment (DVD, Blu-ray Disc), sporting goods and luggage, saw revenue increase 24.6% to $2.97 billion in the first quarter (ended May 2) versus $2.39 billion in the previous-year period.

“We certainly saw an uptick as we reported starting on April 15, as those checks arrived across America,” Cornell said.

Barnes & Noble

The largest brick-and-mortar bookseller in the United States, Barnes & Noble operates more than 600 retail stores across 50 states. In addition to books, the chain boasts a sizable physical disc section in stores and also operates the BN.com website, where consumers can buy discs for delivery or pickup at stores. Known for its breadth of offerings both in-store and online, the chain boasts an online disc store featuring 60,000-plus titles.

Last year, the chain announced the successful completion of its $683 million acquisition by Elliott Advisors Limited, a private fund manager located in the United Kingdom. As a result, Barnes & Noble became a privately held subsidiary of Elliott and ceased trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

In March 2020, Barnes & Noble announced that it would temporarily close 400 of its 620 stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, Barnes & Noble has offered free curbside pickup for online orders.

Best Buy

Best Buy has more than 1,200 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico selling electronics and technology products along with physical discs.

As far as exclusives go, Best Buy’s usual go-to is Steelbook packaging for Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD discs. Turning its focus to online shopping with stores closed during the pandemic, the chain touted some catalog sales and preorders for Steelbook editions of future releases in April. Under the banner “4K Ultra HD — Celebrate 4Kpril,” Best Buy promoted a “save on select 4K movies” sale with 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles starting at $9.99 each. In May, Best Buy pushed deep discounts to incentivize movie fans to buy several titles at once. In one deal, Best Buy offered a $5 discount off The Big Lebowski with the purchase of its unofficial spinoff The Jesus Rolls on Blu-ray. Best Buy continued its 4K Ultra HD disc promotions in May as well, offering select 4K Blu-ray movies at $12.99 each, others at two for $30, and another selection at three for $45.

Benefiting from a homebound consumer base during the pandemic, Best Buy May 21 reported a 9.5% increase in domestic entertainment revenue to $554 million for the first quarter (ended May 2). That compared with a 12.7% decline in the previous-year period. The entertainment segment includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs, and computer software. International entertainment sales skyrocketed 58% to $58.2 million, compared with a 14% decline a year ago.

“In the middle of Q1, we shifted all our stores to a curbside-only operating model and were able to retain approximately 81% of last year’s sales during the last six weeks of the quarter, even though not a single customer set foot in our stores,” CEO Corie Barry said in a statement.

Best Buy June 15 began allowing a limited number of customers back into 800 stores in the United States. The nation’s largest consumer electronics brick-and-mortar chain continues to offer curbside pickup for online purchases. Stores are limited to 25% of capacity (60 customers), enforcing social distancing guidelines between staff and consumers. Best Buy is also bringing back more than 9,000 of its previously furloughed full- and part-time store employees and Geek Squad agents. Employees will be required to wear protective gear, including face coverings, at all times. Customers are advised to wear masks with Best Buy offering them to customers who need or request them.

Family Video

Arguably the last old-style, big brick-and-mortar video store chain, Glenview, Ill.-based Family Video calls itself the largest movie and game rental chain in the United States, operating more than 550 Family Video stores in 20 U.S. states and Canada. With stores in the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast, the company has a unique property-ownership model whereby it buys and develops most of its buildings and land. The company says it has developed more than 600 retail strip centers and counts Fortune 500 companies as well as mom-and-pop retailers among its tenants. Family has partnered with Marco’s Pizza restaurants adjacent to brick-and-mortar stores to offer one-stop shopping for dinner and entertainment, and sister companies such as Highland Pure Water and Ice, a self-service kiosk providing purified water and ice, and StayFit-24 fitness centers. The company also sells cannabidiol (CBD) products in certain stores and online.

During the pandemic, the company through familyvideo.com continued to push online sales of used discs — though it noted shipping delays due to many closed stores and limited access to inventory. “Most orders are shipping out in 10-14 days as opposed to our usual 2-3 days,” the company stated. The company suspended late fees during the closures (with 24-hour dropboxes still open) and extended half-off memberships.

As stores have opened back up, the company has instituted safety measures such as floor markers to promote social distancing, requiring employees to frequently wash hands, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and cleaning and disinfecting returned rental product.

Top 10 Digital Retailers

Amazon

Amazon, the largest Internet retailer in the world, is also one of the leading distributors of home entertainment product, physical as well as digital. The website offers for sale a huge selection of Blu-ray Discs and DVDs. Amazon also offers digital sales and rentals of movies, TV shows and other filmed content on a transactional basis, complementing its Amazon Prime Video subscription streaming service.

With theaters closed during the pandemic, Amazon like other transactional digital retailers benefited from the studios’ moves to release films intended for the theaters — or leaving theaters early — on premium VOD. Amazon March 22 announced the launch of Prime Video | Cinema, a new online hub where the company stated, “You can watch the latest movies just released in theaters — without leaving home.”

Disney/Pixar’s Onward was available to buy for $19.99, with Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma. available to rent at the same price. Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation’s PVOD release of Trolls World Tour — which bypassed theaters — topped Amazon Video’s digital charts as a $19.99 rental following its April 10 launch.

As online orders ballooned during stay-at-home directives, Amazon March 17 suspended third-party shipments of non-essential items, such as discs, through April 5. Amazon April 29 disclosed spending upwards of $4 billion on costs related to the coronavirus in the second quarter (ending June 30), including $300 million to test all of its employees for COVID-19. The e-commerce behemoth spent $600 million on related virus costs in the first quarter (ended March 30). To reduce liability and concerns among workers, Amazon said it would test every employee going forward.

Apple TV

Apple’s iTunes Store in 2006 birthed the digital movie sales business — and the transactional VOD marketplace has expanded significantly since then. Recently, Apple retired the iTunes name in favor a collection of apps including Apple TV, the moniker that also encompasses the Apple TV+ subscription streaming service launched in November 2019 at $4.99 a month. The new Apple TV app brings together different ways to find and watch movies and TV shows into one app, including Apple TV channels, personalized recommendations and more than 100,000 iTunes movies and TV shows to buy or rent. The transactional service has supported the digital library service Movies Anywhere since its launch in fall 2017. On 4K titles, the service supports the DolbyVision-enhanced HDR, as well as the Dolby Atmos sound format.

Like other TVOD services, Apple TV benefited from movies bypassing theaters or leaving theaters early during the pandemic, with Universal/DreamWorks’ Animation’s PVOD release of Trolls World Tour topping its charts.

Last October, Apple announced that Fire TV users in more than 60 countries can download the Apple TV app — affording first-time access to movies, TV shows and channels purchased. Roku that same month announced the Apple TV app was available on its platform for the first time.

Spectrum

Spectrum was born when cable and telecommunications company Charter Communications absorbed rival Time Warner Cable in May 2016. One of the combined company’s first major initiatives was bowing a new consumer-facing brand, Spectrum, for its cable TV and broadband services. Spectrum offers transactional access to movies and TV shows, among other services. Viewers can also subscribe to premium channels, as well as access VOD and pay-per-view. WarnerMedia and Charter Communications in April entered into a new multiyear distribution agreement that made HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s new streaming platform, available to Charter customers when it launched in May. Like other TVOD services, Spectrum promoted the pandemic PVOD premiere of films that bypassed theaters, billing them as “Home Premiere” titles.

Xfinity

The Xfinity Digital Store is owned by Comcast Corp., the country’s largest cable TV company. The transactional VOD service, which offers digital content to buy or rent, in December 2018 was the first pay-TV service to join digital movie collection locker Movies Anywhere. Access to the Xfinity Digital Store is promoted through Comcast’s cloud-based X1 set-top box. The service is also available via the Xfinity Flex streaming device ($5 monthly fee), which also offers access (for a separate fee) to Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services, in addition to AVOD content.

Xfinity Flex comes with more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows — including live streaming TV — from ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube and more. Xfinity is also offering early access to NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service, scheduled to officially launch July 15.

DirecTV

The entertainment division of giant telecom AT&T Inc. includes pay-TV unit DirecTV, which offers digital sales of movies and TV shows as well as rental of movies to subscribers. However, consumers cannot access purchased movies if their account is not active, even if they return as a DirecTV customer at a later date. They must maintain their DirecTV account to view purchased content.

FandangoNow

FandangoNow is the transactional rental and purchase VOD service owned by movie-ticketing site Fandango, which is owned by Comcast and also owns movie-rating goliath Rotten Tomatoes. In April, Fandango announced the acquisition of the transactional site Vudu.com from Walmart for an undisclosed amount, with Vudu continuing backend support for Walmart’s online digital movie business and existing Vudu subscribers still having access to content stored in the cloud. Both FandangoNow and Vudu are among the handful of digital retailers that support the cloud-based movie locker system Movies Anywhere. It remains to be seen if or how Vudu will be integrated with FandangoNow.

FandangoNow boasts more than 100,000 new-release and catalog, TV and 4K titles, and like others benefited from the PVOD release of titles intended for theaters or leaving theaters early during the pandemic, billing them at “Home Premiere” or “Early Access” titles. For instance, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, which bypassed theaters and was released on PVOD April 10, was the top film on the service for the week ended April 12, helping it notch the best weekend in its history. Trolls World Tour, available for digital rental at $19.99 for 48 hours, that week became the service’s most preordered title of all time, the best-selling film on its opening day and the best-selling film during its first three days of digital release. During the pandemic, the service has also hosted live watch parties for PVOD titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog, with stars interacting with fans via its Twitter page, and offered discounts to new users.

Also on the marketing front, FandangoNow has an ongoing campaign called “FandangoNow Flashbacks,” focusing on iconic movie anniversaries. In partnership with studios, the service offers entertainment fans catalog movies celebrating key cinematic anniversaries. FandangoNow also offers “Binge Bundles” of multiple movies for one low price and monthly “Fresh Picks” based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings, among other promotions.

The service recently launched on Amazon Fire TV. Last December, FandangoNow launched the first-ever on-demand movies and TV store on Facebook’s Portal TV. And in September 2019 the service bowed on Oculus Go and Quest. Last October, FandangoNow debuted its Imax Enhanced program, which combines exclusive, digitally remastered 4K HDR content and DTS audio technologies with high-end consumer electronics products. FandangoNow meets Imax Enhanced’s standard for 4K HDR streaming and uses a special variant of the DTS codec technology integrated in home audio equipment to deliver an Imax signature sound experience with more-immersive, more-powerful sound.

Google Play Movies & TV

Google Play Movies & TV is a transactional digital retailer that sells and rents movies, TV shows and other filmed content. It is part of Google Play, which launched in March 2012, bringing together the Android Market, Google Music and Google eBookstore under one brand. Other services operating under the Google Play banner are Google Play Books, Google Play Console, Google Play Games and Google Play Music. Like the other Google Play services, Google Play Movies & TV uses the power of the cloud to manage digital entertainment — so customers can access their movies and TV shows on their phones, and have them available instantly on their computers, tablets or connected TVs. It has also been a participating retailer in the digital library service Movie Anywhere since its inception in 2017.

At this year’s CES, Google Play announced support for dynamic metadata HDR format HDR10+. Also, last July the service began offering customers the chance to buy select Disney movies in 4K resolution at prices ranging from $19.99 to $24.99. Titles included The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Coco, The Lion King, Solo: A Star Wars Story and A Wrinkle in Time.

During the pandemic, Google Play, like other digital services, promoted titles bypassing theaters or leaving theaters early for PVOD, such as Trolls World Tour. The service billed these as “Home Premiere” and “Early Access” titles.

Microsoft Movies & TV

Microsoft Movies & TV is one of the top players in the digital transactional rental and purchase market. Consumers with a Microsoft account can rent or buy content from the Microsoft Store on Xbox, Windows and Microsoft.com and it will appear in the Movies & TV app on Microsoft devices. TV shows, some offered the day after they air on broadcast networks, can be purchased by episode or via a season pass. Some content is offered in 4K Ultra HD.

The service promoted the pandemic PVOD premiere of films that bypassed theaters, billing them as “Home Premiere” titles with the tagline, “Skip the cinema, exclusively on digital.”

PlayStation Store

The Sony-owned PlayStation Store, a digital media store aimed at users of Sony’s PlayStation game consoles, has several divisions. One of them is PlayStation Video, which sells and rents digital movies and TV shows. In addition to console access via the PS4, consumers can download the PlayStation Video app to watch content on iPad, iPhone, Android devices and Chromecast. After suffering declining subs, the live streaming division PlayStation Vue shuttered in October, directing consumers to YouTube TV.

Verizon Fios

Verizon Fios offers transactional purchases and rentals. Last October, Fios joined the digital rights locker service Movies Anywhere. Consumers can purchase titles through their set-top-box, online, via the Fios TV app or by selecting Verizon through the Movies Anywhere website or app for mobile and connected TV devices.

Like other transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) providers, Verizon Fios — owned by Verizon Communications, the country’s second-largest telecom, behind AT&T — has highlighted titles on PVOD, such as Trolls World Tour, that bypassed theaters due to the pandemic.

Special Salute

Redbox: Crossing the Digital and Physical Divide

With more than 6 billion rentals to date, Redbox is the leading disc rental chain in the United States, but it has expanded its footprint significantly in the digital realm.

“The world and our industry has changed dramatically this year,” said Redbox CEO Galen Smith. “While our focus in recent months has been ensuring the well-being of our employees and serving the interests of our customers through our kiosks and streaming offerings, we’ve remained diligent in making more content choices available to consumers.”

The company offers DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals through more than 41,500 self-service entertainment kiosks stationed at Walmarts, supermarkets and drug stores. Prices range from $1.80 a night for DVDs to $2.50 a night for 4K UHD Blu-rays (in select cities). Used disc purchases also are available at kiosks, though Redbox no longer sells Disney digital codes after a legal settlement. The company began phasing out video game rentals late last year.

On the digital side, Redbox On Demand offers movies and TV shows via electronic sellthrough and transactional rentals, without a subscription. As far as free streaming, Redbox Free Live TV launched early in 2020 with nearly 30 channels of movies, episodic series and Web shorts, including three exclusive Redbox-branded channels: Redbox Rush, with action and adventure movies; Redbox Comedy, with comedies and stand-up performances; and Redbox Spotlight, Redbox’s curated channel

of featured and recommended titles. Indie Magnolia Pictures in May announced distribution for CineLife, an ad-supported channel from Spotlight Cinema Networks, on Redbox Free Live TV, featuring independent films and documentaries from the Magnolia catalog. Cinedigm also added its AVOD channels to the Redbox service.

In October 2019, Redbox launched Redbox Entertainment, a new division to produce and distribute original content across its services. The division released The Fanatic, starring John Travolta, and Running With the Devil, starring Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne, through VOD and at the kiosks.

Overall, Redbox reaches 50 million consumers across the United States via its kiosks and On Demand offering. The company’s loyalty program, Redbox Perks, has 34 million members.

“Throughout history and especially now, entertainment provides comfort, escape and educates us on important issues,” Smith said. “We recognize that the work we do to make this happen is critical and important; and we’re proud to be living our vision of delivering quality home entertainment for everyone.”

On the marketing side, Redbox’s ongoing “Dinner & A Movie” campaign, which launched last summer, is taking on added relevancy in light of the coronavirus pandemic and governmental stay-at-home mandates. The campaign is aimed at getting consumers to watch a movie from Redbox, either rented at a kiosk or streamed online, while enjoying a takeout meal at home. The ongoing campaign has included partnerships, promotions, social media and PR campaigns. The first promotion kicked off in June 2019 with DoorDash to give customers up to three free Redbox movie night rentals (at the Box or On Demand) when they sign up for DoorDash.

With its rental kiosks conveniently placed in grocery stores and other high-traffic retailers during the pandemic, Redbox told customers via a statement that employees and retailers were cleaning the kiosks regularly and emphasized social distancing advantages.

“Our automated kiosks, by their very nature, eliminate the need for customers to interact with store personnel ‘behind the counter,’” read the statement. “Of course, customers can further minimize time and interaction at our kiosks by renting and reserving their DVD in advance online, or via our app, and then simply ‘pick up and go’ at their favorite retailer. And we have fast-tracked the deployment of ‘contactless’ technology at tens of thousands of our locations, so customers can securely pay with a quick ‘tap,’ rather than swiping or using a chip reader.”

The Top Retailers in Home Entertainment 2019: The Golden 12

Welcome to Media Play News’ second-annual look at the top home entertainment retailers. As we noted last year, technology and innovation have completely revolutionized home entertainment retailing in the more than 40-year history of this industry.

For the first 20 years, home entertainment retailing consisted first of a network of independent mom-and-pop videocassette rental shops, and then a handful of powerful national video rental chains such as Blockbuster Entertainment and Hollywood Entertainment.

The 1997 launch of DVD moved home entertainment retailing into the hands of the big mass merchants such as Walmart, which at one point controlled 40% of disc sales, as well as consumer electronics chains such as Best Buy.

But for the past 10 years, just as home entertainment viewing options have proliferated, the distribution pipeline has split into all sorts of different directions, with the only common ground being that filmed content, either digitally or physically, is being delivered to consumers on an on-demand basis.

Accordingly, studios that used to generate the bulk of their revenue through physical product sales to traditional retailers now have several other ways to generate money from their content. With transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), particularly digital sales, on an upswing, digital-only retailers such as Microsoft Movies & TV and Google Play Movies & TV have become an increasingly important component of the home entertainment food chain.

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Similarly, the rise of subscription streaming, led by Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, has led to a whole other source of studio revenue. Since streamers also distribute content — or, rather, access to content — to consumers, they, too, can be considered “retailers.” That’s in accordance to the Merriam-Webster definition of retail, which is “the sale of commodities or goods in small quantities to ultimate consumers.”

In short, retailers today are any enterprise that connects consumer eyeballs to filmed content produced by the studios and independent content suppliers.

“Clearly, technology is increasingly enabling consumers to view content in a rapidly increasing number of ways,” says Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “It is our job, as distributors, to ensure that we are not only servicing these new retail opportunities but are helping them grow, while continuing to support the more-traditional retail formats that still appeal to large swathes of the population.”

“The definition of ‘retailer’ may have evolved, but as content providers our mission remains the same — to deliver great entertainment to consumers in all the ways they choose to enjoy it,” adds Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment. “While that has certainly become more complex, the good news is that we work with an extraordinary group of retailers whose expertise ensures we can reach every consumer segment. Whether buying or renting, on digital or physical, consumers have more choice and flexibility than ever before.”

Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), says he’s always maintained that home entertainment is about convenience and value. “The digital retail experience, in itself, offers the consumer the convenience of aggregation across studios, just as it does in physical stores,” he says. “And each retailer creates its own unique value proposition for the consumer. What impresses me most is how the home entertainment retail sector uses its deep understanding of its consumers to continuously recalibrate the convenience and value equation to respond to the ever-evolving delivery mechanisms and changing consumer desires.”

The 2019 edition of Media Play News’ “Top Home Entertainment Retailers: The Golden 12” — selected by Media Play News researchers based on consumer spending estimates — remains largely unchanged from last year. The exception is the addition of Microsoft Movies & TV, which according to several key studio executives is now bigger than Best Buy, Target and Dish/Sling TV.

Web Exclusive: Bubbling Under – Eight Other Key Retailers

Dish/Sling TV drops to the “bubbling under” list of eight other key retailers — not as mighty as the Golden 12, but still important. On the bubbling under list, troubled Trans World Entertainment has been replaced with Meijer Inc., a supercenter chain throughout the Midwest, which was founded in 1934 as a supermarket chain and is credited with pioneering the modern supercenter concept in 1962. Insiders say the chain last year outperformed the category by 10 points and even grew the catalog business.

And growing the business — parts of the business, such as catalog, as well as the overall business — is really what it’s all about, for content providers as well as their retail partners.
“In our business of delivering premium content to global audiences, our relationship with our retailers is the key to our success, and as our business continues to evolve, so does the retailer’s,” says Mike Takac, EVP and general sales manager for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “Whereas endcap or corrugate placement are critical for our physical product, now carousel placement or targeted CRM efforts with our digital clients’ platforms are equally important. Additionally, we are continually challenging them to keep pace with our ever-changing high-definition digital product offerings, and they are proving to be up to the challenge.”

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The Top 12 Home Entertainment Retailers

Amazon

As the largest Internet retailer in the world, Amazon has its hands in everything entertainment. It is one of the leading sellers of home entertainment product, physical as well as digital.

Amazon offers a huge selection of new Blu-ray Discs and DVDs, with new titles available every Tuesday, the traditional “street date” for packaged media. The company recently sweetened the free shipping deal to next-day delivery instead of two-day.

Amazon also offers transactional (both purchase and rental) and subscription streaming through Amazon Prime Video, continuing to forge partnerships with cablers such as Cox, which added the service to Contour, and Comcast, which added it to the X1 platform. Amazon Prime also has been a supporting retailer of the digital library service Movies Anywhere since its 2017 launch. Keeping an eye on the hot ad-supported streaming trend, Amazon launched an AVOD service through its subsidiary IMDb.com in January. Meanwhile, Amazon Channels aggregates numerous other streaming services from top content suppliers.

Amazon Prime Video has been one of the biggest competitors to Netflix in streaming, coming in No. 2 in estimated domestic subscribers, according to Parks Associates estimates last fall.

U.S. subscribers have surpassed 100 million, according to Amazon, with eMarketer recently estimating 26 million of those used the video service (and not just free shipping) in 2018. The firm also found Hulu had taken over the No. 2 spot in domestic streaming from Amazon, but only by a slim margin of less than 1 million subscribers. Whether No. 2 or No. 3, Amazon continues to be a prime player in originals, including recent films such as Beautiful Boy and series such as “Jack Ryan” starring John Krasinski, “Homecoming” starring Julia Roberts, and “The Romanoffs” from the producer of “Mad Men.” Amazon Studios’ Cold War was recognized for three Academy Award nominations this year, including Best Foreign-Language Film. Amazon content also picked up 10 Golden Globe Award nominations and two wins in 2019: Rachel Brosnahan for Best Actress in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and Ben Whishaw for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television for A Very English Scandal. Next up is a “Lord of the Rings” original series.

On the packaged-media side, Amazon led with deals. During its Prime Day promotion in July, these included hundreds of $14.99 4K UHD Blu-ray movies, as well as discounted boxed sets, such as The Godfather three-movie collection ($10.20), Game of Thrones: Seasons 1-7 ($74.99) and the Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection 4K UHD ($79.98).

Apple TV (formerly Apple iTunes)

Less than three months after the June 2006 launch of Blu-ray Disc, Apple’s then 3-year-old iTunes Store birthed the digital movie sales business. More than a decade later, the service has a lot more competition — including a split focus with Apple’s impending Apple TV+ subscription streaming service scheduled to launch this fall. In an elaborate event featuring such stars and filmmakers as Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, Apple announced Apple TV+ would feature original content, as well as access to 100,000 iTunes titles and third-party online TV channels and SVOD services.

In June, during its annual developers conference, Apple announced it is retiring the iTunes brand and is replacing it with separate macOS apps: Podcasts, TV, and Music. Apple TV will be the new home of filmed content. The new service is expected to maintain its strong footprint in electronic sellthrough and transactional rentals despite the expanding digital marketplace. Apple TV is the new home to a still-growing library of what now numbers about 112,000 movies and 300,000 TV shows for sale or rent. A “Family Sharing” feature lets up to six people in a family share each other’s iTunes purchases. Apple also has supported the digital library service Movies Anywhere since its launch in fall 2017.

Apple markets aggressively around theatrical releases. For instance, for the release of Captain Marvel, the iTunes store discounted numerous Marvel movies, dropping the purchase price to $14.99 for such recent hits as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man.

Apple’s movie service has also made inroads in the consumer electronics space. On the eve of the January CES in Las Vegas, Samsung Electronics announced Apple movies and TV shows availability and Apple AirPlay 2 support on 2019 Samsung Smart TV models.

AT&T

The entertainment division of giant telecom AT&T Inc. includes TV streaming service DirecTV Now, in addition to pay-TV units DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and broadband. Both DirecTV and U-verse offer digital sales of movies to subscribers.

DirecTV Now ranks No. 10 in number of domestic OTT subscriptions, according to Parks Associates and eMarketer. The service reported 1.5 million subs at the end of March. AT&T in April raised DirecTV Now’s monthly price from $39.99 to $49.99 and suffered sub losses. DirecTV Now offers linear channels from major media companies such as A&E, AMC, CBS, Discovery, Disney, Fox, MLB, NBCUniversal, Turner, Univision and Viacom. The service also allows users to add on Cinemax, HBO, Showtime and Starz for an extra charge, giving them access to HBO Go, Showtime on Demand and Starz on Demand, respectively. Epix in May announced it would join the DirecTV and DirecTV Now team.

Meanwhile, AT&T has completed its acquisition of Time Warner (now called WarnerMedia), which includes Warner Bros., and is preparing for a fourth-quarter soft-launch of a branded subscription streaming video service. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in May said the company will look to partner with — rather than antagonize — third-party pay-TV operators with the new service, which he said would be centered on HBO and be included with a pay-TV subscription. Still, a report from The Informant in May quoted anonymous sources saying key shows would hit the new streaming service before cable. “The streaming service is going to be king,” one of the sources told The Informant.

Best Buy

Best Buy, which has more than 1,200 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico, has been a key player in packaged-media sales since the launch of DVD in 1997 triggered a shift in consumer habits from rental to purchase.

The nation’s largest consumer electronics retail chain reported a 12.7% drop in domestic same-store entertainment sales to $424 million for the quarter ended May 4; sales dropped 14% internationally. The business unit includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, and computer software. Still, the news came on the heels of a better fourth quarter for the chain’s entertainment unit. Best Buy in February reported a 2.7% increase in domestic fourth-quarter (ended Feb. 2) entertainment comparable store sales. The entertainment segment generated 10% ($1.34 billion) of Best Buy’s $13.4 billion in domestic revenue for the quarter.

Internationally, same-store entertainment sales dropped 2.5%, representing 9% ($117 million) of international revenue.

Indeed, the fourth quarter holiday season is a key disc promotional period for the chain, in which consumer enthusiasts can pick up discounted titles on DVD, Blu-ray and even new format 4K UHD (sometimes at around $10) as well as consumer electronics. Last year, the chain mounted a “20 Days of Doorbusters” fourth-quarter promotion, offering text alerts to customers about big deals. Throughout the year, the chain offers special treatment to various home entertainment discs, most notably Steelbook editions of key titles. Best Buy this month is taking Steelbook preorders for Fox’s Alita: Battle Angel (due July 23), Paramount’s Pet Sematary remake (due July 9) and Disney’s Cinderella (due June 25) and live-action Aladdin, which doesn’t yet even have a home entertainment release date.

Comcast

Comcast Corp., the country’s largest cable TV company, also is a key player in digital movie sales, with its Xfinity Digital Store. Way back in 2013, Comcast was the first pay-TV operator to sell subscribers digital movies with the launch of its Xfinity X1 platform, and in December 2018 it became the first pay-TV service to join digital movie collection locker Movies Anywhere. Access to the Xfinity Digital Store is promoted through Comcast’s cloud-based X1 set-top. In December 2016, Comcast inked pacts with Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures to include bonus material and related movie extras on digital releases.

Comcast has been a little slower than others, notably Disney, WarnerMedia and Apple, to embrace the over-the-top market, with executives maintaining its legacy cable pay-TV service and Xfinity X1 set-top box offer superior content and access options. But in March Comcast Cable joined the OTT video ecosystem with the launch of Xfinity Flex — a $5 monthly service offering Xfinity broadband-only subscribers direct access (for a separate fee) to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Now, in addition to ad-supported content, and digital movies for sale and rent.

Xfinity Flex comes with more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows — including live streaming TV — from ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube and more. In January, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts announced it would launch a free streaming service for its pay-TV subs in 2020 offering current and prior seasons of NBC Universal programming, some original content and a “light” advertising load.

Meanwhile, in other OTT news, Comcast Dec. 5 announced the launch of Amazon Prime Video on its broadband-based Xfinity X1 platform, joining Netflix and YouTube as major third-party over-the-top video services afforded direct access to Comcast subscribers.

Google Play Movies & TV

Dedicated to the transactional VOD space, Google Play Movies & TV is a digital retailer that sells and rents movies, TV shows and other filmed content. It is part of Google Play, which launched in March 2012, bringing together the Android Market, Google Music and Google eBookstore under one brand. Other services operating under the Google Play banner are Google Play Books, Google Play Console, Google Play Games and Google Play Music.

Like the other Google Play services, Google Play Movies & TV uses the power of the cloud to manage digital entertainment — so customers can access their movies and TV shows on their phones, and have them available instantly on their computers, tablets or connected TVs. It has also been a participating retailer in the digital library service Movie Anywhere since its inception in 2017.

On the promotional front, the service has offered 99-cent movie and TV show rentals around holidays such as Thanksgiving and to power users of its site. In advance of the 91st Academy Awards, Google Play offered deals on past Oscar-winning movies as well as the latest Oscar-nominated films. Google Play also featured apps and games inspired by the Best Picture nominees.

Its 4K upgrade feature particularly pleased movie enthusiasts. Last October the service announced in a blog posting that when 4K titles are available, Google Play will automatically upgrade customers’ past movie purchases “so you can stream in 4K, even if you originally bought the movie in SD or HD.” The blog added, “It’s all on us, just open the Play Movies & TV app and we’ll let you know which titles have been upgraded.” Google Play also announced a price drop for 4K movies, with prices as low as $14.99 to own (and $4.99 to rent).

In addition to 4K Sony Bravia TVs, the app is available on most 4K Samsung Smart TVs. In addition, the Google Play app for Samsung, LG and Vizio TVs has been updated.

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Hulu

Hulu is one of the big three streaming giants, vying with Amazon Prime behind Netflix. The biggest news for Hulu in the past year is its acquisition by previous co-owner the Walt Disney Co. Once jointly owned by Comcast Corp., Fox, WarnerMedia and Disney, Hulu saw its number of owners shrink to one, as Disney acquired 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and the other owners relinquished their stakes. Disney reportedly plans to use Hulu as an outlet for more mature content that doesn’t fit into its planned Disney+ SVOD service launching at $6.99 a month in November.

Hulu offers three streaming subscription plans: one with limited commercials for $5.99 a month, a commercial-free plan for $11.99, and the limited commercials service plus Hulu Live TV for $44.99 a month. The Live TV platform, which launched in May 2017, offers access to more than 60 channels, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and local affiliates; Cartoon Network/Adult Swim; CNN; ESPN; FX; and USA Network.

Hulu has a big library of films, although its strength lies in TV series. Hulu offers next-day streaming of network TV shows and a growing slate of original series, including “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Act,” “Catch-22,” “All That We Destroy” and “Ramy.” Hulu also has expanded its Marvel partnership with two new live-action series, “Ghost Rider” and “Helstrom,” slated to debut on Hulu in 2020, joining Marvel’s “Runaways” and an animated slate. Not coincidentally, Netflix is ending its Marvel shows as Disney expands into streaming via Hulu and Disney+.

Hulu on May 1 said it has 28 million subscribers, including 26.8 million paid and 1.3 million promotional accounts.

Microsoft Movies & TV

Microsoft Movies & TV is one of the top players in the digital transactional rental and purchase market, offering hit movies and TV shows. Consumers with a Microsoft account can rent or buy content from the Microsoft Store on Xbox, Windows and Microsoft.com and it will appear in the Movies & TV app on Microsoft devices.

In August, Microsoft Movies & TV became the sixth digital retailer to join the digital rights locker service Movies Anywhere, allowing film fans to sync their Microsoft account to Movies Anywhere and centralize their digital movies purchased from Microsoft alongside those purchased from other connected retailers. Microsoft joined Apple iTunes, Walmart’s Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and FandangoNow in supporting the service.

Movies on Microsoft Movies & TV are offered in 4K UHD with HDR or 1080p HD across a wide variety of genres. Titles can also include bonus content such as director’s commentaries, deleted scenes, and interviews with the cast and crew.

TV shows, some offered the day after they air on broadcast networks, can be purchased by episode or via a season pass to save up to 30% per episode with the latest episodes automatically delivered to the consumer’s library.

Netflix

Netflix has graduated from founding king of subscription streaming to a disrupter of the entire studio system — and now the studios and others with deep pockets are coming for it. Disney with its impending SVOD service Disney+ and consolidation of Hulu ownership; WarnerMedia with its own impending SVOD service; and Apple with its Apple TV+ streaming service are among the entities lining up to join Amazon Prime in challenging the Netflix kingdom starting this fall. Netflix executives in April said they were “excited to compete.”

As of now, Netflix ranks No. 1 in domestic subscribers, according to both Parks Associates and eMarketer estimates. Netflix ended the first quarter of 2019 with a total of 148.86 million paid subs: 60.2 million domestic and 88.6 million international. And that’s as the service raised prices domestically. Back in January, the company upped its monthly basic $7.99 single-viewer, non-HD plan to $8.99; the standard $10.99, two HD streams plan rose to $12.99; and the premium $13.99, four-stream HD plan was increased to $15.99. Meanwhile, Netflix’s legacy by-mail disc rental service continued to generate significant operating income, contributing $46.7 million in operating income on revenue of $80.6 million in the quarter ended March 31. The service ended the period with more than 2.5 million disc subs.

Netflix also rattled the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors, which in April announced it would continue to welcome movie nominations from streaming services, such as Netflix, despite protests from luminaries including Steven Spielberg, who argued for more stringent requirements for any film considered for an Oscar. At the 2019 Oscars, Netflix racked up three awards (though not yet a Best Picture) for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.

On the originals front, Netflix made good on its promise to continue to spend billions. The service made deals with the production companies of Regina King, Dark Horse Entertainment, and Michelle and Barack Obama, among others, and planned series with the likes of Mike Myers and the director of the popular “High School Musical” franchise. Meanwhile, Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock, was streamed by more than 80 million households worldwide (26 million domestically) in its first four weeks, Netflix announced in January — a rare peek into actual viewership of Netflix.

Redbox

With more than 5 billion rentals to date, Seattle-based Redbox is the leading rental chain in the United States. The company offers DVD, Blu-ray Discs and video game rentals from $1.75 a night through more than 41,500 self-service entertainment kiosks stationed outside Walmarts, supermarkets and drug stores.

On the digital side, Redbox On Demand offers movies and TV shows via electronic sellthrough and streaming rentals, without a subscription. Launched just a year and half ago, the service was established as a complement to the disc-rental kiosks to service transactional customers who don’t want to travel to a kiosk. Nearly 60% of Redbox On Demand consumers are people who have either stopped renting discs at Redbox kiosks or never patronized Redbox before, Redbox CEO Galen Smith says. And the new arm of the company is expanding aggressively. Redbox apps are featured on all Vizio SmartCast TVs and on TVs made by Samsung and LG. The service has grown its library since launch to include more than 12,000 titles.

Redbox has also stepped up its marketing. In one continuing campaign launched in August 2018, the company is extolling the virtues of watching movies together (an activity facilitated by Redbox). Called “Back to the Movies” and informed by research that found 61% of Americans miss days when movie nights were a planned activity with family and friends, the campaign is aimed at combating digital isolation and creating meaningful consumer dialogue around the power of movie nights in bringing people together. It has been promoted through video spots on social media, among other efforts. Next up, engaging studio partners in the cause and a wider media campaign.

Also, in a major strategic expansion this year, Redbox in April announced its first exclusive, Bob Saget’s film Benjamin. The dark comedy bowed exclusively on Blu-ray Disc and DVD at Redbox kiosks nationwide April 23. On the same day, the film was available for a la carte streaming or digital purchase on Redbox On Demand. The film was the first “Redbox Original” released on Redbox On Demand.

Target

Target Corp. is one of the largest discount retailers in the United States, with more than 1,800 stores. Like Walmart, Target has long been a big seller of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, and in the early days of DVD drove mass adoption of discs by using them as a loss leader to drive traffic into stores.

Target is also known as a strong merchandiser of discs, routinely placing them on endcaps by the cash registers. This past January, Target wheeled out a display of titles from the previous year with the banner “Rewind: Best of 2018.” Titles such as Crazy Rich Asians, Smallfoot and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again were offered on DVD and Blu-ray Disc for up to 40% off.

In a shot across the bow at online behemoth Amazon, Target during the holiday season announced it would offer free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items with no minimum purchase and no membership requirement beginning Nov. 1. Free two-day shipping had previously only been available to customers who spent $35 or used the chain’s proprietary Red Card.

Walmart/Vudu

Walmart Inc. is still the big brick-and-mortar goliath in packaged-media sales, with more than 5,000 outlets in the United States and more than 6,000 international stores. The footprint devoted to product has been reduced a bit over the years, but the company remains one of the top retailers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, as well as video games.

Among other promotions, the chain continues to offer exclusives such as an April $22.96 DVD collection of three movies teaming Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly — Holmes & Watson, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; or a Lego mini-figure packaged with the May release of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. In another recent exclusive, Walmart May 21 began offering Universal’s faith-based Run the Race, a family drama executive produced by athlete Tim Tebow and his brother Robby Tebow, on Blu-ray and DVD a month before its availability on disc at other retailers nationwide June 18. Boosting its entertainment departments, Walmart last October also started the rollout of collectibles sections selling movie, TV show and pop culture-themed merchandise.

On the digital-delivery side, the chain owns Vudu, a transactional digital movie platform that celebrated its 10th anniversary two years ago, but Walmart reportedly toyed in the past year with starting a branded over-the-top streaming service and then scuttled those plans. Still, the chain has just hired Suresh Kumar to a “new elevated” chief technology officer and chief development officer role, with experience at Google, IBM, Microsoft and Walmart nemesis Amazon, who reports directly to president and CEO Doug McMillon. Reports also say the chain is looking into original productions for streaming. Meanwhile, Vudu, which is a founding digital retailer in the digital locker service Movies Anywhere, continues to be Walmart’s digital standard-bearer. In addition to movies to buy or rent, Vudu also offers ad-supported free streaming of a selection of titles, and pundits have speculated that business is set to expand.

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The Top Retailers in Home Entertainment 2019: Bubbling Under

In our June 2019 issue, we profile the top 12 retailers in home entertainment, which can be found here.

In addition to the top dozen retailers in home entertainment for 2019, Media Play News below profiles eight other key retailers, as identified by studio and retail sources, that are bubbling under those top 12.

CBS All Access

The over-the-top service CBS All Access has 4 million subscribers, according to eMarketer. Owned and operated by CBS Interactive, it offers original content, content newly aired on CBS’s broadcast properties, and content from CBS’s library. The service costs $5.99 per month with limited commercials and $9.99 per month commercial free.

Original content on the service includes “Star Trek” spinoffs “Star Trek: Discovery” and the upcoming “Star Trek: Picard”; a new “Twilight Zone” series, produced by Us and Get Out director Jordan Peele; and “The Good Wife” spinoff “The Good Fight,” starring Christine Baransky.

Charter/Spectrum On Demand

Spectrum On Demand, owned by cable and telecommunications company Charter Communications, provides transactional and other access to thousands of movies and TV shows, including programming from NBC, ABC, CBS and more. Viewers can also subscribe to premium channels (such as HBO), Video On Demand and Pay-Per-View, which includes movies, special events, live concerts, stand-up comedy specials and more. In January, Charter Communications launched the Spectrum TV App on Apple TV.

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Family Video

Despite the extinction of most brick-and-mortar video rental stores, Glenview, Ill.-based Family Video — which celebrated 40 years of business last October — continues to survive, reportedly generating $450 million in revenue in 2017 operating about 700 stores in rural areas throughout the Midwest, Southwest and Northeast. Parent Highland Ventures owns the property from which most Family Video stores and more than 500 third-party tenants operate, giving the chain a real estate lifeline that has allowed it to maintain a video rental business long after Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video closed their doors. Franchise brands include Marco’s Pizza, Stay Fit 24 (which Family Video launched in 2008), Total Wireless (2018), and kiosk-based Highland Pure Water & Ice (2017).

FandangoNow

FandangoNow is the transactional rental and purchase VOD service owned by movie-ticketing site Fandango, which also owns movie-rating goliath Rotten Tomatoes and MovieClips, the top multi-channel network for trailers and movie-related content.

FandangoNow is one of the retail partners in Movies Anywhere, the digital movie collection service. It serves millions of visitors a month, with more than 80,000 new-release and catalog movies, next-day TV shows, and a growing library of 4K titles available to watch on more than 200 million connected, over-the-top and mobile devices.

FandangoNow not only ties in digital purchases and rentals with its movie-ticket-selling parent, offering free digital movies to fans who buy Fandango VIP tickets to early access screenings, but also offers “Binge Bundles” of multiple movies for one low price and monthly “Fresh Picks” based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings, among other promotions.

Dish Cinema/Sling TV

Sling TV, the streaming service owned by Dish Network, launched in January 2015, marking the first time a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) offered non-subscribers access to both live TV channels and on-demand content. It now has 2.4 million subscribers, according to eMarketer.

Like other SVOD services, Sling TV allows users to choose between various tiers, with prices that start at $15 per month for a small amount of channels and go up as more channels are added.

In October, the service launched a campaign featuring married couple and actors Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman inviting consumers to become “slingers.”

PlayStation Store

The Sony-owned PlayStation Store is a digital media store aimed at users of Sony’s PlayStation game consoles. The store has five divisions: PlayStation Vue, a live-streaming TV service, with 800,000 subscribers, according to eMarketer; PlayStation Music, an on-demand music streaming service powered by Spotify; PlayStation Now, a video game streaming service; PlayStation Plus, offering multiplayer experiences; and PlayStation Video, which sells and rents digital movies and TV shows. In addition to console access, consumers can download the PlayStation Video app to watch movies and TV shows.

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Meijer

The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer chain operates 245 supercenters throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. It offers groceries, pharmacy services and general merchandise, including home entertainment discs, for sale. The chain offers hundreds of titles on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD in its electronics department.

YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium is a subscription streaming service launched by YouTube as a paid, premium alternative to its free service. The $11.99 per month service has 1.5 million subscribers, according to eMarketer. YouTube Premium provides advertising-free streaming of all videos hosted by YouTube, offline play and background playback of videos on mobile devices, YouTube Music, and access to original series and films — including “Cobra Kai,” the series based on the 1984 movie The Karate Kid.

Walmart Covering the Digital Spectrum — at the Retail Store

Walmart may be considering launching a branded over-the-top video service, but it hasn’t turned its back on home entertainment at the retail level.

The world’s largest retail chain of home entertainment reported low single-digit increase in same-store entertainment sales during the second quarter (ended July 27). It was the strongest entertainment quarter in the fiscal year. Entertainment includes electronics, DVD, Blu-ray Disc movies, music CDs, video games and books.

During a recent late-night visit to a Walmart Supercenter in North Platte, Neb. (pop. 25,000), new-release and catalog movies and TV shows were available in abundant supply across all formats (including 4K UHD Blu-ray) in point-of-purchase displays and on store shelves.

From Warner Home Video’s Ocean’s 8 Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo placard greeting visitors at the door to the $3.74 DVD dump bin, this Walmart store had exponentially more titles than customers.

The location featured standalone displays for catalog titles in price points ranging from $9.96, $14.96 to $24.96. The Ocean’s 8 4K UHD Blu-ray combo (which bowed Sept. 11) was available for $29.96.

The latest HD format appears to be taking off, according to the Consumer Technology Association. The trade group expects 1.2 million 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc players to ship in 2018 (39% growth over 2017), which will make up 22% of all BD player shipments (regular BD + UHD BD). 4K UHD Blu-ray player revenue is expected to reach $180 million (up 17% over 2017).

The North Platte Walmart also marketed titles available through the industry-backed Movie Anywhere platform as well as Walmart-owned Vudu.com. The latter included digital cards for sale that activate online access to content through a code printed on the purchase receipt.

While this Walmart store didn’t appear to be shrinking shelf space for packaged media, it did heavily market digital access. A strategy Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, contends reflects geography, especially in rural areas he says are behind the curve in adopting digital distribution.

“Sounds like what we saw five years ago in metropolitan areas,” said Pachter.

Media Play News just reported 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s ‘R’-rated superhero comedy Deadpool 2 was the top-selling disc for the third consecutive week.

And with good reason.

Fox’s shrewd in-store marketing of the sequel starring Ryan Reynolds features an entire display of “other” Fox titles with the Deadpool character superimposed on the box art and following disclaimer on the back: “I wish I was in this movie but I’m not.”

The marketing, however, was lost on Katie O’Shea, a Boulder, Colo., resident in the North Platte Walmart shopping for vacation staples.

Wandering through the entertainment section, O’Shea had stumbled across the DVD dump bin and began digging.

“I look for actors I like and movies I haven’t seen,” she said. “I like action movies. They are in a bargain bin. They’re less expensive. Seems like a good deal you can’t resist.”

O’Shea, whose DVD purchases included Criminal (Lionsgsate), The Monuments Men (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Three Kings (Warner Bros.), said she was impressed with the quality of movies available in the dump bin, adding that paying $14.99 or more for a movie at Walmart seemed too expensive.

“I can pay that at home,” she said. “It was fun to look through the selections.”

 

 

 

The Top Retailers in Home Entertainment 2018: The Golden 12

Technology and innovation have transformed home entertainment retailing in a way none of us could have imagined back in the early days of the business, when the only way to watch movies and other filmed content on demand was by renting a videocassette at the local video store.
Just as our home entertainment viewing options have proliferated, the distribution pipeline charged with getting this content to the consumer has branched out into a network of increasingly diverse delivery methods — from physical disc sales and rentals to digital subscription streaming or transactional VOD.

Web Exclusive: Bubbling Under – Eight Other Key Retailers

“While retail has taken many new forms over the years, the underlying premise has never changed,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of worldwide digital distribution at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “It is all about providing great environments for consumers to discover, enjoy and collect film and TV content. As physical retail has evolved and digital services have proliferated, we believe there has never been a better time for fans to access and consume our content in any way that they wish.”

“The retail landscape continues to evolve as advancements in technology have vastly expanded the ways in which we all enjoy content,” says Bob Buchi, president of worldwide home media distribution at Paramount Pictures. “The advent of digital storefronts and streaming services has been a boon to both consumers and content providers, and while the retail landscape has changed, consumer appetite for quality content has not. As content providers we must work closely with the wide range of retailers to satisfy growing consumer demand by clearly communicating the benefits and value associated with every option, from physical to digital and rental to ownership.”

Increasingly, home entertainment retailing is not an either/or proposition. Lines have blurred and blended between digital and physical, purchase and rental/streaming. Moreover, some of the top retailers have begun acquiring and distributing their own content. This is nothing new — back in 1998, when video rental was still driving home entertainment revenues, Blockbuster Entertainment Corp. launched its own film acquisition company, DEJ Productions — but never has this push toward proprietary movies and TV shows been as powerful as it is today, with Netflix setting an ultimate goal of 50% original content and Amazon expected to spend $5 billion on original content in 2018.

Back in January 1984, Video Store Magazine published for the first time a salute to the top 12 retailers, based on consumer video rental revenue their owners willingly reported to the magazine’s research team. The cover depicted the retailers as 12 golden eggs in an egg carton, a nod to the golden opportunity video rentals presented to even the smallest mom-and-pop entrepreneurs.

This year, Media Play News is doing so again (sans golden eggs) — only this time, our market research staff has relied on a variety of components, from interviews with studio heads and retailers to public financial reports, to assemble a list of what we believe are the 12 biggest retailers of content in the United States, based on total revenue.

As Entertainment Merchants Association president and CEO Mark Fisher says, “This diverse mix of top retailers offers the consumers access however they want to enjoy home entertainment.”

Fisher adds: “In our earliest days as a trade association, the only retail model was the VHS rental store. Today our support for retailing ranges from addressing challenges in physical DVD distribution, to what’s become our core focus, guiding the digital distribution industry toward more-efficient and more-effective  processes. The one thing that hasn’t changed for us as a trade association is the need  for a platform for industry community and
collaboration.”

“The mix of top retailers illustrates the breadth of which consumers are engaging across various formats and business models — in some instances serving different audiences, interests and consumer behaviors,” says Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The retail experience continues to evolve, and in a digital environment where there is unlimited access to libraries of content, retail partners have focused on developing broad ecosystems with rich playback experiences where enhanced discovery and personalization is becoming the norm,” Bonner says. “Technological advances coupled with data have provided a nice runway for innovation, which we expect to continue at a rapid pace.”
Innovation isn’t limited to digital storefronts.

“Across the retail landscape, bold innovation, smart execution and the willingness to embrace change all have been key drivers of our category’s vitality,” notes Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “From department redesigns and striking in-store displays to compelling pre-order programs and event-level marketing, the collective redefining of the consumer experience has never been more prevalent.

“With an eye toward the future, Walmart has been an exceptional partner in its commitment to invest in the category’s longevity. From our partnership on the first WOW corrugate for Jurassic World to our more-recent collaboration in reimagining the home entertainment footprint in stores, Walmart has made exceptional strides in elevating our category and driving urgency for our products while creating newfound excitement around the shopper experience. Plans to build upon that momentum continue as we together are working to soon take WOW corrugate displays to a new level.”

Retailers are ranked alphabetically; assigning even a relative revenue value is next to impossible. Amazon, for example, said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it generated $6.4 billion in revenue related to retail subscriptions in 2017, which shakes out to about 65 million to 80 million Prime members. But how much of that should be allocated to the “free shipping” element rather than the “free streaming” component?

Retailer profiles were originally compiled for the EMA annual report, which Media Play News editors — through parent company JCH Media Inc.’s custom publishing division — also produced.

The Top 12 Home Entertainment Retailers

Amazon

Amazon.com, the largest Internet retailer in the world, is also one of the leading sellers of home entertainment product, physical as well as digital. And its Amazon Prime Video service is a strong No. 2 to Netflix in streaming, giving subscribers unlimited access to thousands of movies, TV shows and other filmed content.

Amazon in April said it had exceeded 100 million Prime members globally since launching the $99 annual membership loyalty platform with free two-day shipping 13 years ago. Prime membership includes free access to Prime Video, Prime Photo, Twitch Prime (video games), Prime Now deliveries and Prime Music, among other services. Shortly after that announcement, Amazon bumped up its annual Prime membership fee by $20, to $119.

Amazon reported total 2017 sales of $177.9 billion, a 31% spike from the prior year. In July 2017 The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon had about a 20% share of the digital sellthrough and streaming business, thanks to both its Amazon Prime subscription service and its standard Amazon Video catalog.

Amazon has promised an even bigger push into original content as it competes globally against Netflix and other SVOD platforms. In early 2018, JPMorgan’s Doug Anmuth estimated the company will spend $5 billion on video content this year, keying in on big-budget original shows and sportscasts.

In 2017, Amazon’s most-popular original content included the Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea, the Emmy-winning series “Transparent,” and Amazon Studios’ Paterson. “We’re going to continue to invest in video and increase that investment in 2018,” CFO Brian Olsavsky said on an October 2017 earnings call. “We’re very bullish on what we’re seeing both with how customers are responding and the quality of the [original] content.”

Apple/iTunes

More than a decade ago, Apple’s iTunes Store launched the digital sellthrough/rental market when its revolutionary digital music store, which opened in 2003, began offering video content. Today, the iTunes Store features more than 112,000 movies and 300,000 TV shows for sale or rent, playable across a broad array of Apple devices.

In July 2017 The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple’s share for selling and renting movies, TV shows and other video content has dropped to between 20% and 35% — down from over 50% as recently as 2012. Apple responded to requests for comment by the Journal by saying it focuses on providing users with content from HBO, Netflix and other subscription services through the App Store. Apple also told the Journal that its movie rentals and purchases had risen over the last year and had reached their highest level in more than a decade.

Despite revolutionizing digital media consumption, Apple until recently hadn’t put much focus on original content. Interviewed by CNN last March at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Eddie Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services, said this is changing. “We’re completely all-in,” he told CNN, noting that Apple’s focus is on quality rather than quantity. “You need to have a great story,” he said.

Last year, Apple hired former Sony executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to run its original content team — which over the past year has grown to about 40 people. Cue told CNN that Apple was after someone who “really knew the business but was also willing to think about it differently.” Since hiring Van Amburg and Erlicht, Apple has signed deals for more than 10 TV shows, many with big-name actors, producers and directors. Just this month, Apple inked a content deal with Oprah Winfrey.

Apple Services (which includes the App Store and iTunes) has been the fastest-growing revenue segment for Apple, adding 270 million customers in the latest quarter — up 100 million from the same period in the previous year. “Services is fast becoming Apple’s primary growth driver,” Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote in a May note.

AT&T/DirecTV Now

The entertainment division of giant telecom AT&T includes TV streaming service DirecTV Now, in addition to pay-TV units DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and broadband. Both DirecTV and U-verse offer digital sales of movies to subscribers. In its year-end report for 2017, AT&T said DirectTV Now tallied 368,000 net adds to reach nearly 1.2 million DirecTV subscribers. DirecTV Now offers linear channels from major media companies such as A&E, AMC, CBS, Discovery, Disney, Fox, MLB, NBCUniversal, Turner, Univision and Viacom. The service also allows users to add on Cinemax, HBO, Showtime and Starz for an extra charge, giving them access to HBO Go, Showtime on Demand and Starz on Demand, respectively.

Meanwhile, AT&T has completed its acquisition of Time Warner (now called WarnerMedia), which includes Warner Bros., after a judge ruled June 12 that the merger could go forward. The U.S. Justice Department had sued to block the merger on the grounds that the combined companies would force rivals to pay more for “must-have” content from the Turner Networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT, and that the result would be higher prices for consumers.

Best Buy

Since the launch of DVD in 1997, Best Buy has been a key player in home entertainment software sales. The company was founded by Richard Schulze in 1966 and called Sound of Music before the name changed to Best Buy in 1983. Best Buy generates nearly $40 billion annually. Best Buy has more than 1,500 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and contends that more than 70% of the population lives within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store.

In February 2018 Best Buy announced plans to close all of its roughly 250 smaller-format mobile phone stores by the end of May. Around the same time, Best Buy announced it will no longer sell CDs as of July 2018. But while observers fear cutbacks in DVD and Blu-ray Disc may be next, there has been no indication of this. Five years ago, CEO Hubert Joly said store floor space optimization mandated shrinking packaged-media space and redoubling emphasis on growth areas. But when asked about DVD and Blu-ray Disc, he said, “I love these categories.”

Today, the nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer continues to sell packaged media in stores and online — including 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. In May 2018 the company said entertainment segment same-store sales for the first quarter were flat, after a 16.8% increase in the fourth quarter.

The entertainment segment, which includes products such as DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs, and computer software, in Q1 generated just 7% ($589 million) of Best Buy’s $8.4 billion in domestic revenue.

Comcast

Comcast Cable, the country’s largest cable TV company, also is a key player in digital movie sales, with an estimated 15% share of the market, according to a July 2017 report by The Wall Street Journal.

Comcast in 2013 became the first pay-TV operator to sell subscribers digital movies with the launch of its Xfinity X1 platform. As Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, told Home Media Magazine in January 2017, “Comcast’s 2013 entrée into EST was an unequivocal game changer for the digital sellthrough market. Overnight, Comcast took its place among the industry’s top digital retailers.” In December 2016, Comcast inked pacts with Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures to include bonus material and related movie extras long associated with packaged media. Access to the digital store is promoted through Comcast’s cloud-based X1 set-top. X1 upgrades include a so-called “smart” keyboard, a simplified transactional VOD folder, a personalized screensaver, a power saver and DVR.

Earlier this year, ABC News observed, “Comcast has turned its X1 TV set-top box into something resembling a Roku or Apple TV streaming player, complete with app-like menus and a voice-activated remote. During the Olympics, X1 merged both TV and online videos to give viewers a one-stop experience.”

Comcast has also embraced Netflix, with the streaming service launching on Comcast’s X1 cable set-top box in November 2016. Philly.com at the time said the launch “broadens consumer appeal for their respective services and helps Comcast with federal regulators who say that pay-TV companies should integrate traditional TV and streaming services on set-top boxes.”

Dish Cinema/Sling TV

Sling TV, the streaming TV service owned by Dish Network, was launched in January 2015, marking the first time a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) offered non-subscribers access to both live TV channels and on-demand content. Dish in February 2018 said Sling TV had 2.212 million subscribers as of the end of 2017, putting it well ahead of such
rivals as DirecTV Now (1 million subscribers as of December 2017), PlayStation Vue (455,000 as of December 2017), Hulu with Live TV (450,000 as of January 2018), and YouTube TV (300,000 as of January 2018).
Like other SVOD services, Sling TV allows users to choose between various tiers, with prices that start at $20/month for a small amount of channels and go up as more channels are added.

Google Play

Google Play Movies & TV is an online video store considered one of the big four digital sellthrough dealers, along with Amazon, iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu. The store sells and rents movies, TV shows and other filmed content, as well as video games, digital music, magazines and newspapers, and various Android devices.

Google Play was launched in March 2012, bringing together the Android Market, Google Music and Google eBookstore under one brand. The services operating under the Google Play banner are Google Play Books, Google Play Console, Google Play Games, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music and Google Play Newsstand.

Google Movies & TV periodically runs promotions, like the 2017 holiday season’s “The 12 Days of Play,” with 99-cent movie and TV show rentals.
In March, Google unveiled a major revamp of its Google Play Movies & TV app and an update to the Google Play Store itself “that show you which streaming services have the content available, in addition to whether it’s available for rent or purchase, as before,” according to Tech Crunch. “In the updated Google Play Movies & TV app, you’ll now find three tabs in the new bottom navigation bar which will direct you to your “Home,” “Library” or your “Watchlist.” The watchlist is a feature the app recently gained as well, but now it has a much more prominent position. As you browse through the app, you can click on titles to read more about them, as before, but now you’re also able to see where the item can be streamed.”

Hulu

Hulu is one of the big three streaming giants, behind Netflix and Amazon. The SVOD service is jointly owned by Comcast Corp., 21st Century Fox, WarnerMedia and the Walt Disney Co. It offers two streaming subscription plans: one with limited commercials for $7.99 a month, and a commercial-free plan for $11.99.

Hulu has a big library of arthouse and foreign films, although its strength lies in TV series. Hulu offers next-day streaming of network TV shows and it is also developing a growing slate of original series, including “The Path,” with Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” fame, and the teen superhero drama “Runaways,” based on the Marvel comic book. In 2017 Hulu won eight Emmy Awards for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a web television series about a dystopian future following a Second American Civil War in which women, called Handmaids, are forced into sexual and child-bearing servitude.

In May 2017 Hulu launched a live online TV platform, offering access to more than 50 channels for $39.99 per month. Those channels include ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and local affiliates, along with Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, CNN, ESPN, FX, USA Network and many more. At the same time, Hulu announced that it had signed a deal with Scripps Networks Interactive to bring their channels — including Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel — into the on-demand and live-TV service.

In March 2018, Hulu launched a personalized March Madness experience that included push notifications for game start times.

Netflix

Netflix is the 800-pound gorilla of the streaming world. Originally a disc-by-mail video rental service aimed at consumers frustrated with late fees and return trips to video stores, founder Reed Hastings took the monthly subscription model to the nascent streaming world in 2007 and never looked back.

Based in Los Gatos, Calif., Netflix expanded its rapidly growing subscription streaming business internationally, beginning with Canada in 2010, and within six years was operating in 190 countries. Netflix began producing original content in 2013 with its first series, “House of Cards,” and now vows to ultimately produce 50% of the content it airs.

CFO David Wells in February said Netflix will spend more than $8 billion on content in 2018 and expects to have around 700 original TV shows on the service worldwide this year, on top of 80 original movies.

Current hit digital originals include “Orange Is the New Black,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Arrested Development” and a reboot of the 1960s sci-fi series “Lost in Space.”

Netflix said it ended the first quarter (March 31) with 125 million subscribers worldwide. Hastings in March said the company expects to generate $15 billion in user fees in 2018 — almost twice the $8 billion it will spend on original content. Netflix now has more domestic subscribers than all of cable television, combined. Speaking at a Los Angeles tech event, he reiterated Netflix has no desire to pursue live sports — unlike rival Amazon Prime Video — focusing instead on original episodic programming and feature films.

In May, Netflix’s market cap hit $153 billion, higher than that of the Walt Disney Co. — which is planning to launch its own SVOD service in 2019.

Redbox

Redbox is the country’s leading video rental dealer, operating not a chain of physical stores but, rather, a fleet more than 40,000 bright-red video rental kiosks at Walmarts, supermarkets and drug stores. Consumers can rent DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, video games and, in a growing number of kiosks, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs.

The Seattle-based company for years was at odds with studios that claimed its low-cost rentals cannibalized movie sales, prompting three of the six majors to institute month-long holdbacks. But those battles are now largely over, with all studios selling new product to Redbox — direct and either on street date or within a week of it — with the exception of the Walt Disney Co., which is suing the kiosk operator over the sale of digital movie codes.
Selling anything is new ground for Redbox. A little more than three years after abandoning a failed SVOD venture with Verizon, Redbox in December 2017 launched Redbox On Demand, a digital distribution service with more than 6,000 movie and TV show titles available for on-demand streaming or purchase and digital deals with all major studios except for Disney.

“Our customers come to us for that transactional experience — it’s Friday night, and they want to watch a specific movie,” Redbox CEO Galen Smith told Media Play News in January 2018. “We try to satisfy them with our kiosk network, but there are occasions where you might not want to go out and rent a movie from a kiosk. So rather than lose that transactional occasion, we’re giving them the chance to get it online.”

Making good on a promise it made in January at CES, Redbox in May announced the launch of 4K Ultra HD rentals in six test markets. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs rent for $2.50 per night, 50 cents higher than the rental rate for regular Blu-ray Discs (DVDs are $1.75). The test is rolling out across more than 2,500 kiosks in Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Detroit, Miami and New York City.

Target

Target Corp. is the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States, behind Walmart. The Minneapolis chain, with 1,812 stores as of 2017, has long been a big seller of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, and along with Walmart was a key player in driving mass adoption of DVD, using discs as a loss leader to drive traffic into its stores.

In February, Billboard reported that in the fourth quarter of last year Target told music and video suppliers that it wants to switch to scanned-based trading. As of Feb. 1, the chain only pays for DVDs after they are rung up at the register, Billboard says, with music suppliers sent down the same path two months later.

Walmart/Vudu

Unlike fellow mass merchant Target, Walmart Inc. shows no signs of cutting back on packaged-media sales. The footprint devoted to product has been reduced a bit over the years, but the company remains one of the top retailers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, as well as video games.

Based in Bentonville, Ark., Walmart as of Jan. 31, 2018, had 11,718 stores and clubs in 28 countries, operating under 59 different names. Of those stores, 4,761 are in the United States, accounting for more than 62% of total sales.
Walmart in February reported a low single-digit increase in same-store entertainment sales during the fourth quarter (ended Jan. 31), driven by the winter holidays. It was the strongest entertainment quarter in the fiscal year. (Walmart doesn’t disclose actual revenue figures.) “Entertainment” includes electronics, toys, cameras and supplies, photo processing services, cellular phones, cellular service plan contracts and prepaid service, DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies, music CDs, video games, and books.

In May, Walmart said U.S. comp-store sales were up 2.1% from the prior year, while total revenue for the quarter rose 4.4% to $122.7 billion.

Walmart also owns Vudu, a digital movie platform that celebrated its 10th anniversary in June 2017 by offering 10-cent movie rentals on select catalog titles. Other special offers included $4.99 weekend movie rentals and $10-and-under TV weekends. Vudu in March 2017 upgraded its app, giving users — for a fee — access to cloud-stored digital versions of their DVD and Blu-ray Disc collections from a smart phone or mobile device. Converting DVD to standard-definition or Blu-ray to high-definition costs $2 each, while up-converting DVD to HD (1080p) costs $5. The app effectively extends Walmart’s in-store disc-to-digital service, which was launched with studios in 2012. Consumers can also convert discs from a computer at Vudu.com.

In August 2017, Vudu arrived on Apple TV. The new app allows users to watch the movies and TV shows saved to their Vudu libraries, but like its iOS counterpart, the Apple TV version of Vudu doesn’t allow them to rent or buy videos through the app directly. Instead, they have to make a purchase through the browser or another device first.

The Top Retailers in Home Entertainment 2018: Bubbling Under

In our June 2018 issue, we profile the top 12 retailers in home entertainment, which can be found here.

The following are eight other key retailers, as identified by studio and retail sources:

CBS All Access

Celebrating its second birthday in January 2018, CBS All Access is a subscription streaming service operated by the CBS Network. Its marquee title is “Star Trek: Discovery,” available only to subscribers, who also gain access to CBS broadcast content one day after it airs on the network.

CBS All Access is “doubling down” on its investment in original content, CBS COO Joseph Ianniello said at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference in March 2018, promising six or seven new originals in the coming year.

In August 2017 CBS announced plans to expand All Access streaming service on an international basis, beginning this year in Canada before heading to other markets.

CBS All Access, which costs $5.99 monthly with limited ads and $9.99 without, will launch upwards of seven original series in 2018, including a new season of “Star Trek: Discovery” and pending reboot of “The Twilight Zone” from Oscar-winner Jordan Peele (Get Out) — in addition to select live TV, NFL game telecasts and catalog programming.

Charter/Spectrum On Demand

In addition to offering its own online TV subscription service — Spectrum TV Stream — to its broadband-only customers ($13 a month for a basic channel package), Charter Communications also is pushing toward more original content.

In January 2018 Charter said it has created a new SVP position to oversee original content and filled it with Katherine Pope, who will oversee all original programming initiatives, including the creation and launch of a planned lineup of new shows available first on Charter-carried channels. Her portfolio will include Charter’s original-content partnerships with AMC (struck in April 2017) and Viacom (November 2017). Pope joined Charter from Studio 8, where she was head of TV and helped launch the company’s independent TV unit.

Family Video

Family Video Movie Club Inc. is the last surviving national video rental chain. Based in Glenview, Ill., Family Video has more than 775 stores in the United States and Canada, concentrated in the Midwest. The chain also operates an e-commerce site where customers can buy video games as well as used DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

Family Video was founded in 1978 by Charlie Hoogland and remains a privately held, family-owned business. The company owns the land on which its stores sit and also operates several sister companies, including Marco’s Pizza and Stay Fit 24 fitness centers.

“The world of entertainment is growing more and more complicated,” the chain says on its website. “Consumers have a lot of confusing choices and troublesome technology to overcome just to watch a movie. We see it very simply: rent a Blu-ray, purchase some popcorn, save some money, and enjoy your evening.”

Family Video won’t do revenue-sharing, preferring to buy movies outright and keep 100% of the rental proceeds. Total sales for 2016, according to Forbes, are estimated at $400 million. And if business falls, Family Video has been known to shrink its stores by putting up drywall and leasing out the extra space to such other companies as Subway or H&R Block.

FandangoNow

Owned by Fandango, one of the three big movie-ticket services, FandangoNow is a transactional VOD service that was known as M-GO prior to its acquisition by Fandango in 2016. FandangoNow made quite a bit of waves in 2017.

An early February distribution deal with HBO Home Entertainment gave the service  individual current and catalog episodes of the network’s original series, from $2.99 an episode in standard-definition, to as little as $38.99 for a full season. “Games of Thrones” and “Westworld” are among the more-recent HBO series included. Also in February, FandangoNow debuted its first original program, “Extreme Home Theaters,” a series of short-form videos looking at standout home theater set-ups.

In March 2018 digital movie collection service Movies Anywhere added FandangoNow as its fifth digital retail partner. Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu were partnered with the service at launch last year.

And in time for the May 8 home entertainment debut of Black Panther, FandangoNow launched 4K Ultra HD titles for all Android TVs, bringing the service’s catalog to Sony Bravia-connected TVs, NVIDIA Shield 4K HDR streaming media players and Hisense brand connected TVs. The new product rollout adds to FandangoNow’s support of 4K devices, including Roku, LG and VIZIO.

Microsoft Movies and TV

Microsoft Movies and TV is an online video service that offers movies and TV shows for rent as well as purchase. Purchased content can be viewed on any Windows 10 or Xbox device or downloaded for future offline viewing.

In October 2017, Microsoft updated its built-in app, Microsoft Movies and TV, with support for 360-degree video (via Aggiornamentilumia). This new feature is part of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality efforts in Windows 10, and will use a motion controller to be able to move around the 360-degree content.

Microsoft’s Movies & TV isn’t currently available on the Web, iOS or and Android, but in March 2018 a company spokesman said it may join Movies Anywhere, a digital movie service backed by five of the six major studios as well as Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and Walmart/Vudu. “Microsoft is committed to delivering rich entertainment experiences to our customers,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Thurrott.com. “And we’re in discussions with Movies Anywhere about bringing their service onboard.”

PlayStation Store

The Sony-owned PlayStation Store is a digital media store aimed at users of Sony’s PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Portable game consoles via the PlayStation Network. The store has five divisions.

The PlayStation Store (also known as PlayStation Games) offers a wide range of downloadable content both for purchase and for free. This content includes full games, add-on content, playable demos, themes and game/movie trailers.

PlayStation Video sells and rents digital movies and sells digital TV shows. The service in 2015 premiered its first original series, “Powers,” based on the Marvel comic book.

PlayStation Vue (PS Vue) is a streaming TV service owned by Sony. Launched in March 2015 as a  multichannel video programming distributor, PlayStation Vue combines live TV (various cable-originated television channels), on-demand video, and cloud-based DVR to stream movies, TV shows, and sporting events directly to a PlayStation console or other supported device — including smart TVs, digital media players and apps — without a subscription to a cable or satellite television provider. As of December 2017, the service had approximately 455,000 subscribers.

PlayStation Music is an on-demand music streaming service powered by Spotify. Subscribers get free and premium access to over 30 million tracks. The service is available in 41 markets via the PlayStation Network on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xperia tablet and mobile devices.

And PlayStation Now is a video game streaming service with more than 600 PS3 and PS4 games that are streamed directly to users’ PS4s or PCs.

Trans World Entertainment

The last of the big music chains, Trans World Entertainment sells CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and video games. In October 2016, Trans World acquired etailz Inc., an independently operated digital marketplace retailer across all product categories. etailz uses a data-driven approach and proprietary software to grow brands on Alibaba, Amazon, Jet, eBay, and Walmart in the U.S. and internationally.

In March 2018 the company reported that sales at its flagship F.Y.E. chain in its latest fiscal year declined 14.3% to $268 million from $313 million. Etailz.com revenue topped $174 million. Comparable-store sales at F.Y.E. were down 8.7%, and the company ended fiscal 2017 with 260 stores in operation, compared with 284 at the end of fiscal 2016.

Back in January, CEO Mike Feurer had said, “The F.Y.E. segment continues to be impacted by declining mall traffic, the general accelerated decline in the physical media business and the specific lack of strong franchises resulting from the lowest summer box office in 25 years.”

YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium (prior to May, YouTube Red) is a subscription streaming service launched by YouTube as a paid, premium alternative to its free service.  YouTube Premium provides advertising-free streaming of all videos hosted by YouTube, offline play and background playback of videos on mobile devices, and access to original series and films — including “Cobra Kai,” the hot news series based on the 1984 movie The Karate Kid.

Cablefax in May reported that the YouTube Premium will include the new YouTube Music, an ad-free music streaming service with a mobile app and desktop player. YouTube Premium subscribers will continue to have access to all YouTube Originals as well as original series from around the globe. The service will roll out soon to existing markets in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Korea, with new markets such as Canada and Germany being added. YouTube Premium costs $11.99/month.