It came as no surprise that streaming, music and gaming markets would surge in a year that brought public restrictions, hybrid working and more time spent indoors to the U.K. A new report by Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) has quantified that growth, putting digital entertainment up almost a quarter since 2019 to generate a combined £9.7 billion, the ninth consecutive year of growth, proving contrary to the theory of a one-off growth spike in 2020.
“The entire sector was braced for revenues to settle down in 2021 after 2020 grew an astonishing 18.7%, but growth continued – for the ninth successive year,” says Kim Bayley, chief executive officer, ERA. “Strikingly this growth is increasingly independent of new release activity; the vast majority of this growth being driven by digital services making entertainment more accessible and convenient than ever before. If we can repeat this success in 2022, the UK entertainment market will exceed £10bn for the first time.”
For the first time, physical record and music sales were up – by 7.3% to be precise – with streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple and Amazon helping the U.K. music scene to generate around £1.6 billion in 2021; a total of 8.7% over 2020.
According to the ERA, around 70 pence of each pound spent on music in the U.K. was paid to streaming services, with subscriptions growing 10.9% while sales of vinyl shocked the world as it grew for the first time in decades by 23.2%.
“New releases undoubtedly increase the engagement of music fans with streaming services and in 2021 the music industry delivered several blockbusters,” says Bayley. “What is increasingly clear, however, is that the biggest driver of revenue is the innovation and investment of the services themselves.”
Streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime saw U.K. revenues grow by 28.2% to £3.1 billion, more than tripling its size since 2017, thanks to hit shows like “Squid Game.”
Physical sales of video at retail took a stern fall, where streaming growth rose 28.2% on 2020; meaning that 90 pence of every pound spent on entertainment in the U.K. is via online services.
“Crises tend to amplify existing trends and the coronavirus pandemic has clearly been a significant factor in the explosive growth of video streaming and precipitous decline of disc sales,” adds Bayley. “On the positive side, however, the reopening of cinemas and the significant backlog of Hollywood blockbusters means we can expect renewed growth in ownership formats in 2022.”
The top ten sold movies globally according to NPD were “F9: The Fast Saga;” “Wonder Woman 1984;” “Croods: A New Age;” “Godzilla vs. Kong;” “Black Widow;” “Raya and the Last Dragon;” “Space Jam;” “Mortal Kombat;” “Monster Hunter;” and 1988’s “Beetlejuice.”
The only sector to see a slight downfall in 2021 was gaming, due largely in part to the supply chain disruption that faced next generation consoles and 2021’s comparative standing to the phenomenal growth of 2020. However, the gaming market has continued its trajectory to generate £4.2 billion in revenue at retail.
“The U.K. games market is more than double the size it was 10 years ago, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% which is extraordinary by any standards,” says Bayley. “The strong growth in mobile gaming can only benefit the market long-term. Despite the slight reverse in 2021, we can be confident that the games business will continue to prosper.”
The most downloaded, purchased and played games, according to NPD, were “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War;” “Call of Duty: Vanguard;” “Madden NFL 22;” “MLB: The Show 21;” “Resident Evil: Village;” “Battlefield 2042;” “Super Mario 3D World;” “Pokémon: Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl;” “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales;” and “Far Cry 6.”