Reversing its previous declines in market share, iTunes managed to pad its leadership position in the U.S. online movie market, according to new IHS Screen Digest Media Research.

iTunes’ share of U.S. consumer spending for movie electronic sell-through (EST) and Internet video on demand (iVOD) rose to 65.8 percent in the first half of 2011, up from 64.9 percent for  the same period in 2010. The expansion contrasts with the first half of 2010 when the share held by Apple’s iTunes declined by 11.9 points year-on-year. In fact, the first half of 2011 marked the first increase in share for iTunes since 2009.

Notably, iTunes experienced the largest revenue increase growth among all online movie providers during the first half.

“iTunes’ expansion of its market lead represents a remarkable achievement in light of intensifying competition from a slew of aggressive rivals,” said Arash Amel, research director, digital media, for IHS, in a statement. “Much of iTunes’ success can be traced to the rising usage of Apple’s AirPlay system, which allows wireless video streaming to consumer electronic devices including TVs. This has expanded the reach of iTunes to new platforms, boosting sales of movies from the system.”

Other factors that enhanced iTunes’ share included the growing installed base of the iPad and price promotions.

Along with Apple’s market share advance, the other big success story among the major online movie stores in the first half was Walmart’s Vudu. Vudu’s share of EST and iVOD movie revenue rose to 5.3 percent in the first half of 2011, up from 1.0 percent during the same time in 2010. This allowed Vudu to rise to the No. 3 position earlier this year, up from fifth place.

The No. 2 online movie store, Microsoft’s Zune Video Marketplace, lost market share in the first half, declining to 16.2 percent, down from 18.5 percent during the same period in 2010. The company had enjoyed a market share surge during the 2010 holiday season courtesy of the strong sales of the Kinect, a motion-sensing system for the Xbox 360. Kinect helped improve sales at that time of the Xbox, which can access movies on the Zune Video Marketplace. However, the impact of the surge since has dwindled, causing Zune’s share to decline.

For Sony, its PlayStation Store accounted for 4.4 percent of iVOD and EST movie share in the first half, down from 8.2 percent in 2010. This caused the PlayStation Store to drop to the fourth position, down from third place, which it had long occupied.

In the case of Amazon, a boost in revenue to reach 4.2 percent in the first half, up from 4.0 percent in 2010, was not enough to keep it in the No. 4 rank, as the surge from Vudu pushed the online retailer down to fifth place. The company in the first half was engaged in a shift in its business to streaming video on demand (SVOD) and Amazon Prime.

Together, the U.S. iVOD and EST business in the first half of 2011 amounted to $229 million, with EST accounting for $118 million and $111 million for iVOD. For the full year of 2011, IHS predicts the market will rise to $487 million, with EST representing $247 million, and iVOD taking up $240 million.

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