“Bridgerton” shows that original page-to-screen adaptations don’t need a theatrical release to drive book sales, but not every book-based show or movie has the same impact on the small screen
PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., March 16, 2021 – A page-to-screen adaptation has historically been tried and true way to boost a book’s sales. Some readers prefer to read a book before seeing it on screen, others are drawn to the book after they watch the story on screen, but it was widely believed that a movie or TV-show adaptation would reliably elevate a book’s long-term sales. That predictable pattern is holding for original adaptations from streaming services, now that Netflix and other streaming video on-demand (SVOD) services have become mainstream in the United States, according to The NPD Group (www.npd.com). However, not all page-to-screen releases on streaming services perform the same.
NPD recently gathered subscription streaming video data for “Bridgerton” and “A Wrinkle in Time” from its Subscription Video Track service — placing it alongside U.S. print books sales data from NPD BookScan. The side-by-side comparison revealed the effects of Netflix streaming on book sales, providing additional insight into page-to- screen book sales.
“Book sales are generally bolstered by related video content appearing on Netflix and other streaming services, but the release timing, previous box-office movie releases, and other factors also play an important role,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “In some cases, when a high-profile original adaptation is released by a streaming service, the sales spike for related books is large and immediate. However, the same can’t be said for every show or movie, especially if the project had a previous release in some form.”
“Bridgerton” gets a boost
“Bridgerton” has become the exemplar for what a streaming-native adaptation can do for a book series, boosting corresponding books sales by the thousands. Interest in the book has continued, even after series viewing declined, with the TV tie-in book edition outperforming other formats. The second book in the series, “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” experienced a delayed increase in sales as people first discovered the series, catching up as the “Bridgerton” phenomenon spread. “SVOD has definitely reached the point where it can generate the buzz to support integrated marketing campaigns that increase book sales, but it’s not always the case,” McLean said.
“A Wrinkle in Time” falls short
Not every SVOD release will lead to increased book sales, even for marquee properties. The film version of “A Wrinkle in Time” first premiered at the box office in February 2018, followed by its debut on Netflix in September 2018. The box office release had a big impact on book sales, pushing it to the top of the bestseller list for kids throughout 2018, but the move to Netflix had a far less dramatic impact on additional book sales.
For the biggest book properties, there is a saturation point after which returns diminish. “It is likely that those who were most engaged with ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ purchased the book alongside the theatrical release during the initial marketing period, and sales and readership for the story were already saturated by the time the show hit Netflix,” McLean said. “Original content tends to have a stronger impact on SVOD viewing and consumer discovery, which pays dividends with book sales.”