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Rentrak: Hurricane Irene drives VOD usage

Fri, 09/02/2011 - 8:30am
Mike Robuck

Hurricane Irene's rainy weather prompted viewers along the East Coast to hunker down and watch movies last weekend, which resulted in a 10 percent spike for paid movies on VOD.

Rentrak's OnDemand Essentials service tracked VOD viewing via cable and other TV services for paid movie content across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Census Regions of the United States during the hurricane. Rentrak's numbers were no doubt partially skewed by the number of VOD viewers who didn't have service due to power outages and other service-related problems from Hurricane Irene.

Through its Home Video Essentials service, Rentrak found that the number of DVDs and Blu-ray discs rented in the coastal states north of Virginia increased, ranging from 30 percent to as high as a 300 percent increase in physical media rentals in some instances. Once the effects of Hurricane Irene were starting to be felt north of Virginia late on Saturday afternoon and continuing into Sunday, then disc rentals dropped dramatically, down to levels 20 percent to 40 percent below the weekend period prior to the severe weather activity.

Not surprisingly, some moviegoers stayed home during the inclement weather. Rentrak's Box Office Essentials reported that movie ticket sales dropped 19 percent due to the hurricane, as compared with the same weekend a year ago.

While Hurricane Irene did dampen ticket sales this past weekend in the Northeast, with New York, Boston and New Haven most impacted, theatrical box office sales were still up 4 percent from the beginning of the summer 2011 box office period.

"On Saturday, while Hurricane Irene was hitting the Southeastern coastal states, people from states north of Virginia still had relatively good weather, so they went out and rented a large number of DVDs and Blu-ray discs in preparation for being stuck indoors when Irene continued up the coast," said David Paiko, vice president of home entertainment at Rentrak. "While it was logical that bad weather impacted movie-going in theaters in the same region, Hurricane Irene drove a significant increase in movie rentals across brick and mortar locations, as well as a spike in paid VOD movie transactions."

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Census Regions are made up of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. No other region of the country saw this increase in VOD usage during this past weekend.

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