NCL survey: consumers demanding more from their DVD collections – National Consumers League

April 6, 2009

Near-unanimous agreement: Consumers believe backing up DVD content is a Right; many bothered by inability to do so

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Washington, DC—Americans’ attitudes towards DVDs are evolving and driving expectations about their use, according to a new survey released today by the National Consumers League. The Opinion Research Corporation survey of 1,000 consumers, aged 18-64, who own a personal computer, conducted March 11-16, finds that—amidst a backdrop of a slowing market and troubled economy, when consumers’ satisfaction may be more important than ever—Americans are overwhelmingly interested in the ability to copy or back up their DVDs to their computers and laptops.

With 69 percent of respondents reportedly watching DVDs on their computers, and with more than a third saying they’ve had to repurchase lost or damaged DVDs in the past, consumers are resoundingly interested in the ability to back-up their DVD content. According to the survey, 90 percent (and 93 percent of those with children in the household) agree that DVD owners should be able to copy a DVD to their computer in the same way that they save music from a CD.

For years, consumers have been able to freely copy and back up the content on their compact disc (CD) collections to their hard drives and other devices. Given the growing availability of affordable hard drives capable of storing the contents of multiple DVDs, NCL wanted to examine whether the expectation of freedom of usage from the CD market is translating to the consumer DVD market. 

Consumers currently have limited options for saving the contents of most commercial DVDs to their computers, whether for back up purposes or simply so that they can easily access their DVD library without carrying around the actual discs.  Some “expanded” editions of DVDs, which are usually sold at an additional cost, come with the ability to save an additional copy to a computer.  NCL, the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy group, commissioned the study to examine consumers’ opinions related to the entertainment content stored in their DVD collections.

“Clearly, advances in technology have left consumers expecting a great deal of freedom when it comes to movies that they’ve purchased,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “Consumers’ attitudes towards saving content have been shaped by their ability to freely copy the contents of their CD collections to their computers and iPods. Our survey shows that they are eager to have that same ability with their DVDs and are frustrated that the market has not adapted to meet that desire.”

Survey Highlights: DVDs are in widespread use beyond the TV set

More than a third (35 percent) of consumers surveyed reported owning more than 50 DVDs, with the average household owning 78 DVDs, but consumers are no longer exclusively using a conventional television-and-DVD-player configuration:

  • 69 percent of respondents—and 74 percent of those with children—reported that they (or members of their family) use a computer to watch DVDs.
  • Nearly a third of respondents (31 percent) use a portable or in-car DVD player regularly. For respondents with children in the household, portable DVD players are even more common, with 40 percent reporting regular use.
  • More than a third (38 percent) of respondents reported that they have had to repurchase at least one DVD because it was lost or damaged. For respondents with children in the household, this number increased to 45 percent.

“Consumers are taking their DVDs on the road with them,” said John Breyault, NCL’s Vice President for Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “With the growth in popularity and affordability of hand-held and car-based DVD players and video-capable MP3 players, when and where consumers watch movies has changed dramatically.”

Survey Highlight: Consumers indicate a high desire to copy DVDs
While the majority of consumers (82 percent) have never saved a copy of a purchased DVD to their computers’ hard drives, and a small number (4 percent) has tried and failed, respondents demonstrated overwhelming interest in being able to do so:

  • Nearly all (90 percent; 93 percent with kids in the house) say DVD owners should be able to copy a DVD to their computer in the same way that they save music from a CD.
  • Half of those surveyed (51 percent) were bothered that they can’t save most DVDs to their hard drives without cracking the encryption or purchasing an expanded version of the DVD; these numbers were higher among those respondents with children in the household (56 percent) or between the ages of 25 and 34 (67 percent). In this age group, 92 percent think they should have this right.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of those who said they should be able to save a copy of a DVD onto their hard drive have had to repurchase DVDs due to loss or damage.

Survey Highlight: The economy and the DVD Market – Is there a further slow-down ahead?

While the great majority of consumers (89 percent) are satisfied with the value they are getting out of the DVDs they purchase, many reported that the economy has changed their DVD buying habits:

  • More than half of respondents (55 percent) said that they are currently purchasing fewer DVDs than they did a year ago.
  • Four in ten (41 percent) said they expect to purchase fewer DVDs one year from now.
  • However, 41 percent said the ability to save a copy of their DVDs to their computer or laptop would make their DVD collections more valuable, and 40 percent said it might cause them to buy more DVDs.

Click here for complete survey results, including an executive summary and a copy of the questionnaire. The National Consumers League thanks RealNetworks for the unrestricted educational grant that made this survey possible.


About the National Consumers League

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit

Survey Methodology

1,000 online surveys were administered to adults 18-64, who personally own a desktop or laptop computer, between Wednesday, March 11th and Monday, March 16th, 2009.  Data was then weighted to better represent the national Internet population.  Variables included in the weighting are gender, region, age, and race.

About Opinion Research Corporation

Opinion Research Corporation, an infoGroup company, has offered innovative solutions to the toughest market research challenges of clients worldwide since 1938. Since the 1960s, ORC has conducted CARAVAN®, the USA’s longest continuously running consumer omnibus. In addition, the firm has been conducting national, speech reaction, state and flash/overnight polls for CNN since April 2006. To learn more, visit