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Consumers go digital: video games, books, music and magazines are now purchased online more often than physical copies

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Consumers worldwide increasingly depend on smartphones to access digital media & content and tend to go online to purchase video games, movies and books, according to the latest “State of Digital Downloads” research report from Limelight Networks , a global leader in digital content delivery.

Highlighting consumers’ shifting demand for both streaming and downloading content, the annual report found that only 14% of all respondents still prefer to rent or purchase DVDs of movies and TV shows, and only 25% prefer hard copies of books or traditional print media.

In comparison, two-thirds (66%) of respondents prefer to stream or download TV shows and movies, while 38% prefer to download books, newspapers, and magazines. When it comes to music, almost half (46%) of respondents say they prefer to download music rather than stream it or purchase a CD.

Comparatively, European respondents’ entertainment consumption is similar, with 13% of European consumers preferring to rent or purchase DVDs of films and TV shows. Around 15% of German and UK respondents opt to consume entertainment through these traditional mediums, compared to just 9% of their French counterparts.

The preferences for streaming rather than downloading content continues to grow. Notably, two-thirds of European consumers (62%) prefer to download or stream TV shows and movies. The highest streaming rate is observed in France at 49%, compared to 42 and 40% in the UK and Germany, respectively.

More than one third (37%) of German consumers choose to download books and magazines, with the UK (36%) and France (30%) not far behind. German respondents are 58% less likely to consider obtaining hardcopies. Similarly, respondents in Germany and the UK (34%) opt to download music in comparison with less than a third (25%) of French consumers. Instead French respondents are 56% more likely to stream music.

“Digital content is now the preferred format for media consumption by a growing mobile-first audience,” says Michael Milligan, Senior Director at Limelight Networks. “There’s no question that content needs to be easily accessible and optimized across all connected devices and global networks if it’s to reach the widest possible audience and provide the best experience. This is no longer a feature for providers, but a necessity for survival.”

The study goes on to show that consumers want free content. When it comes to accessing music, half of consumers (51%) will only download it if it’s free. British (56%) and German (44%) audiences are significantly more likely to accept having to pay for music than their French neighbours (29%) A further 74% will only download a mobile application if it is free. However, this pattern shifts when it comes to books and movies, which customers are more willing to pay for (40% are willing to pay to download TV shows and movies.)

Consumers also expect fast downloads. Nearly one-third (30%) of all respondents highlight slow download times as their primary frustration with downloading content. Japan, in particular, has little patience for slow downloads with 41% of respondents citing this as their top frustration. Consumers in the UK also cite slow downloads as their number one frustration. Interestingly, the concerns around downloading varies significantly across European consumers. The bigger concern for German consumers (32%) is when it doesn’t work. By contrast, French respondents are more frustrated by content that has to be started all over again (29%)

New apps and app updates are the most common type of content downloaded. In fact, these are downloaded 22% more often than music, the second most downloaded type of content and the Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t gained widespread adoption yet. Two-thirds (66%) of consumers do not yet have devices such as digital assistants, home automation hubs, or internet-connected thermostats and have no plans to purchase them in the next two years.

However, consumers aren’t avoiding IoT due to security concerns. In fact, less than 30% of all respondents express a security concern with either digital assistants or smart home devices.

This is reflected in attitudes of European consumers. Respondents in the UK are the most concerned (28%), followed by Germany and France respectively (26 and 21%, respectively). UK consumers have the highest number of privacy concerns with nearly one third (26%) seeing this as a major issue around IoT devices.

The “State of Digital Downloads” report is based on a survey of 3,500 consumers ranging in age, gender, and education in France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, the UK, and the U.S. The complete ‘State of Digital Downloads” report is available here.

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