Forget streaming, aging boomers still want their fitness DVDs

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(Reuters) – Despite the ubiquity of online fitness offerings from Pilates videos on YouTube to indoor-cycling apps, fitness experts say aging boomers reluctant to go with the streaming flow their home exercise in a DVD format.

Fitness DVDs generated $297.2 million in sales last year and are likely to remain popular with older audiences, according to market researchers, even as the industry’s giants turn their focus to Web-based technology.

“Every time I do a (DVD) shoot, I think this will be the last one, but we keep meeting our goals,” said Miami-based fitness instructor Jessica Smith, whose company JessicaSmithTV produces streaming and DVD fitness videos.

“’Please don’t stop selling DVDs’ is something I hear from fans all the time,” she added.

Fueled by aging baby boomers, fitness DVD production grew at an annual rate of 7.7 percent in the five years to 2014, a report by market research company IBIS World showed.

The company predicts growth will slow to 3.8 percent in the next five years, as streaming competition increases and fitness DVD giants like Gaiam boost their investments in Web-based formats.

“I’d say streaming is an option for almost all providers of fitness content at this point,” Smith said. “Everybody offers some form of streaming in some way or another.”

Smith puts her DVD demographic at 55 years and older.

“The DVD audience is a little older. They want the physical DVD,” said Smith. “The bulk of our YouTube audience is younger.” Some home exercisers, especially outside of big cities, lack Internet service fast enough to download and play streaming videos in real time, she added.

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But Donna Cyrus, senior vice president of programming for Crunch Fitness, believes the popularity of DVDs will decrease.

“Because of the Internet, it’s a lot easier to access streaming,” said Cyrus, whose company streams some 60 fitness classes from Pilates to yoga to hip-hop its live subscription service.

“We saw a huge drop” in DVD sales, Cyrus said, “but we sell them on Amazon.”

Both Cyrus and Smith believe the future for streaming is bright, especially if the workouts reach a huge platform, such as Apple TV, Hulu or Netflix.

“Long-term, I want to expand my YouTube presence and partner with a large brand,” said Smith. “You always have to be looking two steps ahead, but I don’t want to change too quickly. There’s still a market for DVDs.”