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Spending on entertainment exceeds print sales for the first time, study finds.

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For the first time on record, the British public spent more money on music, video and games in 2017 than on books, magazines and newspapers, according to research by Sheffield Hallam University.

Commissioned by the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), the University's Leisure Industries Research Centre found that Britons spent £7.2bn on music, video and games last year compared with £7.1bn on books, magazines and newspapers.

The figures have been published for the first time in the ERA Yearbook out today and highlights how the key driver of these findings is the dramatic growth of digital services from the likes of Spotify, Steam, Netflix, Amazon, Deezer, Sky, Apple and Google.

While entertainment sales reached an all-time-high for the third year in succession, spending on the printed word was found to be stagnant and down on its 2007 peak of £8.3bn.

Dr Themis Kokolakakis from Hallam's Leisure Industries Research Centre, said: “The 2008-2009 recession hurt both the entertainment and reading markets. Since 2012, the entertainment market has recovered very strongly producing record 2017 results. Traditional media is under pressure, partly because of the growth of streaming services and online 3D interactive gaming, partly because there is so much competition for people’s time and attention. Entertainment has grown while reading has stagnated.”

The report also found that 2017 was a banner year for the entertainment industry with revenues up by 8.8% compared to 2016. That 8.8% growth rate exceeded that of every sector monitored by the research team including eating out (up 7.7%), alcohol consumption (up 6%), holidays overseas (up 4.4%) and gambling (up 1%). Total leisure spending was up 5.2%.

ERA CEO, Kim Bayley, said: “It is an extraordinary testament to the appeal and resonance of digital entertainment services that they have helped home entertainment to hit this milestone nearly 550 years since the invention of the printing press.

“The success of the UK entertainment market is ultimately the result of collaboration between the creatives, studios and labels that produce compelling content and the retailers and services who bring it to the public.”

The ERA Yearbook also highlights a dramatic change in the make-up of the entertainment business. Five years ago, more than 80% of revenues were generated by discs or downloads. In 2017, 56% of revenues came from so-called access models like music and video streaming, electronic movie rental or subscriptions to online multiplayer games, paying for digital micro-transactions and making in-app purchases on mobile devices.

While the Yearbook tracks the continuing growth in digital, two physical formats showed notable growth:

  • Boxed software for consoles like the new Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 which generated their first growth in 10 years – up 5% to £750m;
  • Vinyl albums which continued their long-term revival with sales up 34% to reach £87.7m.

Kim Bayley added: “Digital services may be grabbing the headlines, but physical retailers continue to identify new opportunities to showcase and drive sales of discs. Vinyl is a prime example of retailers nurturing demand for a product most people had long written off.  It would be foolish to underestimate the consumers continuing affection for physical product.”

The ERA Yearbook also includes the 2017 ERA Entertainment Chart, combining data on both digital and physical sales of music, video and games.

It reveals that Ed Sheeran’s Divide was the best-selling music, video or games title in the UK last year, achieving sales of 2,702,839 albums.

In 2017, 33 music, video or games titles sold over half a million units. Of these, 10 sold over 1m units and three over 2m. Of the Top 40 biggest sellers, seven were music albums, 10 were videogames and 23 were videos, led by a trio of titles from Walt Disney Studios – Beauty & The Beast, Rogue One – A Star Wars Story and Moana.

For a full list of the entertainment click here

For press information: Contact the Entertainment Retailers Association on 0207 440 1595. For an interview with lead researcher, Dr Themis Kokolakakis, contact the Hallam Press Office on 0114 225 2811.