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SECTOR FOCUS Ecommerce lessons to be learned from how the media and content market has evolved

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Music, games, TV content and books are all increasingly online businesses. Selling entertainment content in whatever form is now something that all ecommerce practitioners need to keep a weather eye on – and from which there is much to learn. That is why the RetailX Media Sector report is a must read this summer.

The media sector in 2020 – for the sake of this report broken down into physical and digital sales of books, games, music and video & TV content – was worth an aggregate $236bn. Around $194bn of these sales were digital, accounting for 18% as an aggregate, although it varies across the sectors.

A breakdown by sector shows what each is worth and the percentage of physical to digital sales in 2020:

• Games $160bn (80% digital = $128bn)

• Music $20bn (75% digital = $15bn)

• Video & TV content $50bn (100% digital)

• Books $6.3bn (18% digital = $1.13bn)

Physical gaming on consoles and PCs was worth $82bn in 2020, more than mobile gaming, which was at $77bn – most of which is downloaded games content. Streamed games are still a nascent market.

Streaming music has become the main way in which music is consumed, with streaming services accounting for $14bn of the total $16bn spent on digital music. Downloading has withered rapidly from its 2012 peak and is now seen as a stepping-stone technology from physical music to streaming.

The global market for digitally streamed video on demand (sVOD) content is currently worth around $50bn in 2020, having grown rapidly since 2018 when it was valued at an already impressive $38.9bn. It is forecast to hit close to $90bn by 2024. Akin to music, downloadable VOD content was seen as a stop-gap between physical and streaming services.

Books is still dominated by physical sales – both new and used and of both books and audiobooks – with just 18% being digital. This is starting to change, with online digital book rental services beginning to emerge, but the book business is very much behind the digital curve.

A similar paradigm is seen, to a lesser extent, with games, music and VOD. While physical items in these categories account for a small proportion of sales, what sales there are of physical media is taking place online.

Interestingly, the sale of physical peripherals to enhance enjoyment of digital media is growing as the download and streaming channels grow. Physical media does have a niche, with some ‘purists’ in gaming and music still looking to buy physical formats.

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