DVD hire 'will survive' online era

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 11:29 13/02/2014
Dave Williamson
Heather Simpson
United Videos owner Dave Williamson said illegal downloading had hit video stores

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Internet downloading is hitting video stores hard, a Blenheim businessman says.

Instead of hiring videos, people were downloading and streaming films and TV shows, legally and illegally, United Video outlet owner Dave Williamson said.

The industry could not compete with increasing internet piracy, which had caused DVD rentals to steadily decline over the past five years. Mr Williamson said his Kinross St business was losing between 200 and 300 customers a year as a result of legal and illegal downloading.

Meanwhile, the owner of rival Video Ezy in Boyce St is to retire after 22 years in business and the shop will close next month.

It will leave United Video and Oscar's Videos, on Scott St, as the only video stores in Blenheim.

Mr Williamson said times were "tough". "Legal and illegal downloads have really hit the industry." He said the industry would have to change to survive.

"We are confident we will be around in the next five years but we will have to adapt a little more." The businessman is remodelling his store and following alternative revenue streams with an entertainment centre and the sale of confectionery.

"At the end of the day movie producers want to have a bite of the cherry when a film comes out in the cinema and another bite of the cherry when a movie hits the rental market.

"If you have illegal downloading, they don't get money."

United Video general manager Lindsay Hall said the chain had suffered a 15 to 20 per cent reduction in turnover between 2012 and 2013, mainly through of piracy. "Piracy is rampant in New Zealand and very little is being done about it by rights holders.

"We can compete with Netflix and others who charge people for downloads but we can't compete with what's free. The biggest concern is new technology such as TVs with internet access.

"You can sit in your armchair, connect your TV to the internet and with the flick of a button you can stream a movie for free."

Mr Hall was "confident" the Blenheim store would be around for a long time to come.

"People thought the number of dairies would dry up when big supermarkets arrived. They are still there on every second street corner and are surviving, and the DVD industry will survive too."

Oscar's Videos co-owner Dawn Hart said there had been a "small decline" in customers hiring mainstream movies.

The store was able retain its customer base because it had cornered the classic film market in Blenheim, Ms Hart said.

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"Our return customers are not people that would illegally download a film.

"Fifty per cent of our stock is an alternative collection of classic films, and we are the only video store in Blenheim and Picton that offers war films and classic westerns," Ms Hart said.

- The Marlborough Express

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