At the end of 2004, Screen Digest research indicates that DVD video player/recorder penetration had reached 50.5% of TV households in Western Europe. The format has achieved this level of penetration just six years after its official European launch in 1998. By comparison, the VCR achieved a similar level of European penetration shortly before the end of 1990. Of course, uptake of both technologies was more rapid in some markets than others. In the UK, where DVD penetration is expected to have hit 61% by the end of 2004, VCRs reached a similar level in early 1988; in France (also 61% DVD penetration this year) it took until 1992. But in several markets DVD penetration this year is expected to be close to VCR penetration at end 1990.
Screen Digest has been tracking European VCR sales since 1976 (when our data shows that 15,000 units were sold in the UK and 10,000 in Germany). Taking this date as the starting point of the VCR era, it took the technology 14 years to reach a similar level of penetration (52.2%) at the European level and even in the UK it took 11 years. This analysis compares consumer DVD prices and tie ratios (annual rentals or purchases per household) in 2004 with VHS prices and ratios at the equivalent stage of VCR penetration to illustrate how consumer video behaviour has changed over this period.