Print sales have been overtaken by sales of home entertainment products for the first time ever, according to a report from the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) - thanks to the rise in popularity of services such as Netflix, Amazon and Spotify.
The British public spent £7.2bn on money on music, video and games in 2017 in comparison to £7.1bn on books, magazines and newspapers, according to official figures from ERA published on Thursday (1st March).
In the report, spending on the printed word was described as "stagnant" - having fallen substantially from its 2007 peak of £8.3bn - in contrast to entertainment sales which reached an all-time-high for the third year in succession, up 8.8% on 2016.
Dr Themis Kokolakakis, from the Leisure Industries Research Centre which contributed to preparing the report, said the 2008-2009 recession had hurt both the entertainment and reading markets. However, while the entertainment market has "recovered", he said traditional media was not rallying in the same way partly because of increasing competition for consumers' time.
"Since 2012, the entertainment market has recovered very strongly producing record 2017 results," he said. "Traditional media is under pressure, partly because of the growth of streaming services, partly because there is so much competition for people’s time and attention. Entertainment has grown while reading has stagnated."
ERA credited "the dramatic growth" of digital services from Spotify, Steam, Netflix, Amazon, Deezer, Sky, Apple and Google to be "a key driver". Whereas five years ago 80% of revenues were generated by "buy-to-own formats", such as discs or downloads, in 2017 56% of revenues came from "access models" like music and video streaming, electronic film rental or subscriptions to online multiplayer games, and in-app purchases on mobile devices.
This said, the report tracked "notable growth" in two, digital physical formats: boxed software for consoles like the new Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4, which generated their first growth in 10 years, up 5% to £750m; and vinyl albums, sales up 34% to reach £87.7m.
ERA c.e.o. Kim Bayley said: "Vinyl is a prime example of retailers nurturing demand for a product most people had long written off."
She added: "It would be foolish to underestimate the consumers continuing affection for physical product."