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Piracy Study: The Longer the DVD Window, the Worse the Sales (MESA)

By Chris Tribbey

The time between the theatrical release of a new film and its availability on DVD almost always sees the movie hit piracy sites, but now a new study actually puts a number to how much piracy impacts a film’s bottom during that span.

The study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that an additional 10-day delay between the availability of a pirated version of a film and its legitimate DVD release date correlated with a 2-3% reduction in DVD sales.

Part of the problem, according to the study: the studios continue to window between theatrical and DVD in every county, based on the start of the theatrical release. But if a film is released in theaters in the U.K. a month after the U.S., so too will the DVD hit the U.K. a month after it was released stateside. And by that time, the film has long been available online illegally.

“These strategies worked well in the absence of global digital networks,” the report reads. “However, these established release windows are coming under increasing pressure from interconnected global markets where promotion in one country can drive demand in other countries, and from shifting consumer tastes that are reducing the importance of the theatrical window for revenue generation.”

Looking at 220 movies released between January 2009 and April 2011, the report found that it took 17.5 weeks before a film hit DVD. In every other country, that number was at least two weeks longer, with Japan (27 weeks) having the longest window.

“Because of this, consumers in Japan had to wait, on average, 179 days between the time a movie is available on pirate networks until they can purchase the DVD legally in the domestic market,” the report reads. “This problem isn’t unique to Japan. Even in the U.S., a pirated version of the DVD is available on average 45 days before the legal version in our data.”

For more information about the study, click here.