Black Friday 2021 fizzles out, as the pandemic, streaming and pre-BF sales all combine to hurt
Black Friday 2021 has turned out to be a disappointing one for Blu-ray sales, with revenue down compared to last year's already horrific BF sales event.
Blu-ray sales were down 27.1% compared to last year, which was already a massive 54.5% down compared to the last pre-pandemic Black Friday in 2019. DVD sales were also down some 18%.
Last year's fizzle of a sales event was partly down to pandemic related lockdowns and the lack of new releases. But with more big releases having arrived this year, and lockdowns a thing of the past for most of North America, it was a surprise that Blu-ray sales still failed to beat last year's historically low mark.
Some of this was down to retailers like Amazon launching their pre Black Friday Blu-ray sales, which saw many titles discounted to under $10 in early November, taking away some of the impact on the actual big sales day.
Some of this is also related to studios choosing to fast-track big releases to streaming platforms in response to the pandemic. Out of the Black Friday week's top 10 Blu-ray sales, 6 titles were either released simultaneously on streaming platforms, fast-tracked to it or, in the case of "Zack Snyder’s Justice League", was a streaming exclusive. With most of these titles already available for free to subscribers of Netflix, Disney+ or HBO Max, it seems some have chosen to save their cash and opt for the streaming version instead.
While the pandemic definitely has had an effect on Black Friday sales, the overall trend for physical media is a downward one. A look back over the last six years back to the peak of Black Friday Blu-ray sales (in 2016) shows an alarming trend, accelerating in the last two years due to the pandemic:
Compared to six years ago, the peak of Black Friday Blu-ray sales, revenue was down a massive $79.98 million, or 75.3%!
Blu-ray, in particularly 4K Blu-ray, still offers the best quality picture and sound for the latest movies, as compared to 4K streaming (which is limited by bandwidth at present). Despite this, the convenience and low-cost nature of subscription streaming lead many casual viewers to opt for the streaming version, even if the disc version has been heavily discounted. On the other hand, videophiles will accept nothing less than the quality offered by 4K discs.
With better releases coming soon to home video, and streaming fast-tracking declining in popularity as the pandemic (hopefully) winds down, next year's Black Friday sales will be key in confirming, or disproving, the notion that physical media has had its day.