Maturing market, piracy blamed.

Despite an increase in household penetration of DVD players, the U.K. home video market reported a 5% fall in unit sales in 2005, the British Video Association said Wednesday (Jan. 4).

The blame for the decline was placed in part on the maturing of the market, a "challenging" retail climate, increasingly sophisticated piracy operations, a disappointing slate of films and also on the dramatic decline in VHS sales.

VHS sales fell 72% year-on-year to 10.4 million units, according to figures obtained by Billboard sister company the Hollywood Reporter, and were not made up by the DVD format. DVD sales grew 7.5% to 211 million units as player penetration lifted from 62% to 75% of U.K. households.

The top selling title for 2005 was Buena Vista Home Entertainment's "The Incredibles", which shifted more than two million units. It was followed closely by Universal's "Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason" on 1.9 million units. "Madagascar," which, despite a late November release, sold 1.69 million copies.

Universal was the top sell through studio in terms of market share, taking 17.2. Last year, Universal was ranked No. 4. In second spot again was 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with 14.3%. Warner Home Video followed with 12.5%; last year, Warner was ranked No. 1.

The BVA suggested that the outlook for 2006 was brighter on the back of a more upbeat box office performance in the second half of 2005. It also said the arrival of the Universal Media Disc -- the Sony PlayStation Portable movie format -- had helped stimulate the market. Launched in September 2005, some 500,000 UMD videos (300,000 in December alone) had been sold by the end of the year. In addition, the BVA pointed to the strong growth in sales of High Definition television at Christmas and predicted that "there will be a ready market for HD optical discs presently in development." Downloading services and video iPods would lead to further growth in the video market in the future, it added.

"This time last year we warned that the video market was maturing," said BVA director general, Lavinia Carey. "While DVD continues to deliver solid growth, of which many industries would be happy in the prevailing retail climate, there is no doubt that this is now a maturing market and this is further impeded by high levels of copyright theft of new titles.

"But if the DVD seems like a middle-aged format at just seven years old, there are more than enough bright young opportunities coming to market to see the video sector maintain its dynamism in the future."