Digital video outguns physical disc in the UK for the first time

But Star Wars shows the Force is strong with Blu-ray...

The UK's video entertainment market has finally shifted towards digital as new figures show streaming and renting overtook physical ownership in 2016.

The data, released by the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE), outlines 51 per cent of market value last year came from consumers opting to rent or stream movies and TV. 

The figures for the previous year showed physical media accounting for 52 per cent, and digital 48 per cent.

While this represents a shift that many have been predicting – or falsely suggesting had already happened – for years, the overall picture from BASE is of a still healthy Blu-ray and DVD market, and a booming home entertainment market overall.

Year-on-year growth of 2.2 per cent meant £2.25bn was ringing through UK tills and websites as film fans and telly addicts enjoyed a year marked by the releases of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spectre, Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War and Batman vs Superman, plus TV shows such as Game of Thrones Season 6, Planet Earth II and The Night Manager.

Indeed, a breakdown of format figures for Star Wars: The Force Awakens shows physical media remaining the number one choice for new release titles. The Disney blockbuster stole the top sales spot with over 2.3m copies (from both physical and digital), yet a massive 51.5 per cent came via DVD, 34.4 per cent from Blu-ray and 14.1 per cent via digital.

Adds BASE: 'This is the second home entertainment record for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2016 as the title took the mantle for fastest ever selling Blu-ray earlier in the year, selling through 531,949 Blu-ray copies in the first week of release.'

Fantastic Twentieth Century Fox

Despite this success for Disney, Twentieth Century Fox won the Blu-ray battle, amassing a 21.2 per cent value share courtesy of popular titles The Martian, The Revenant, Spectre and Deadpool.

There's also good news for Universal Pictures, which took 18.5 per cent of value share across all formats. The studio saw 38 of its releases pass the 100,000 sales milestone, including 2016 flicks The Secret Life of Pets and Star Trek Beyond, plus 2015 titles Jurassic World and Minions.

2016 is the first year that Ultra HD Blu-ray sales have been added to the mix, with 96 titles released. Perhaps surprisingly, the best-selling platter was Deadpool, although its sales tally of eleven thousand units illustrates that 4K disc is still very much an early adopter market. 

When it comes to digital, subscription services are the driving force. Says Richard Cooper, Head of Video at global information supplier, IHS Markit: 'The two key players in this market, Amazon and Netflix, now both offering the ability for UK subscribers to watch offline, enabling access to extensive catalogues without the need for mobile internet. Digital retail and rental markets have also expanded with players such as Sky extending their offer to include TV content.'