DVD’s long tail

13 May, 2014 by Don Groves

The top-selling 10% of films and DVDs dominated the box-office and home entertainment revenues in Australia in the early 21st Century but a significant “long tail” emerged for DVDs.

That’s according to a study by Jock Given, Professor of Media and Communications at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, and Marion McCutcheon, a Research Fellow at the Institute.


In that time the annual number of movies screened in cinemas increased by 25% while the number of DVDs jumped nearly tenfold between 2002 and 2009 but then fell by 20% in the two years to 2011.

The authors conclude there is a “long tail” in revenue-earning for the lowest-selling DVDs but virtually none for the lowest-grossing movies.

Their research was based on B.O. data from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia and DVD figures from market researchers GfK Australia for 2002-2011, for a project about the distribution of fiction content, supported by the Australian Research Council, the ABC and Screen Australia.

A summary of their findings was published in Inside Story (http://inside.org.au/heads-or-tails).

The top 10% of films released in cinemas in that period generated an average of 62% of revenue each year and the top 20% averaged 83%. The bottom 50% averaged just 2%.

The top 10% of DVD titles accounted for 70% of revenue in 2002 and 78% in 2011 while the top 20% grew from 83% to 91%. The bottom 50% fell from 4% of total revenue in 2002 to 1%.

But because the number of DVDs in circulation grew so much over the decade to around 36,000 in 2011, the authors tested different measures of the “head” and “tail.”

This approach suggested a different picture. The top 1,000 DVDs earned 84% of total revenue in 2002 but only 53% in 2011. Titles ranked below 2,500 earned 30% of total revenue in 2011, up from just 3% in 2002.

So the authors conclude there is a long and thin tail for DVDs, albeit that the great mass of titles below the most popular individually may sell only a few copies.