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It’s an expensive cycle, building a home video library. Just when consumers had filled their cabinets with VHS tapes of their favorite movies, the DVD came out. With its smaller size, clearer picture and wealth of extras and options, DVD became the format of choice for millions in rounding out their video collections. Finally, a few years ago, Blu-ray defeated HD DVD to become the next generation format.

Unfortunately for Blu-ray and its backers, we are now seeing a trend that Hollywood is desperately trying to reverse: the “rent but don’t own” mentality. For years, studios have (correctly) assumed that consumers would buy a movie they like on VHS.
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Then they would buy the special edition of the movie on VHS. Then the DVD release would happen: cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. It’s a trick George Lucas and company have down to a science.

In the last couple of years, however, with a perfect storm of tightened consumer purse strings and an abundance of cheap and convenient disc and VOD movie rentals, people are realizing that they don’t need to own movies any more. This has caused much hand-wringing and finger-pointing in Hollywood, but by all appearances seems to be a permanent shift in consumer behavior. We’ve finally started to get off the treadmill.

Where does a shiny, expensive new format like Blu-ray fit into this new world, then? BD continues to see sales growth, with 24 million units predicted to be sold in the major markets in 2010. Purveyors of the format have also attempted to cash in on the 3D trend by releasing 3D-compatible BD players and titles. At the same time, however, the format is battling with the perception that it’s not nearly the technological leap that DVD was over VHS. For many, many consumers, DVD is proving to be “good enough”.

What about the rental market? Redbox and Netflix, the major players still standing in the physical rental market, have both made strides to fold Blu-ray into their offerings. Netflix offers BDs in its by-mail service for a small upcharge, and Redbox rents major titles in HD alongside  standard-def ones in its kiosks for a $.50 premium. A search of Redbox kiosks in my area found 50 that were stocked with Blu-ray within a few miles of my house. Overall, however, VOD and DVD rentals still dwarf those of Blu-ray, and many consumers don’t consider BD worth the premium.

What does the future hold for Blu-ray, then, if it may not be destined to conquer either the sales or the rental markets? Personally, I love the format, having purchased a Blu-ray player about 18 months ago. I love the visual clarity and crystal-clear sound that Blu-ray offers.
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 Since buying the player, I’ve probably bought about 20 BDs, mostly to replace DVD versions of my absolute favorite films. I’m noticing, however, that I’m only taking a “best of the best” approach, and not buying nearly the number of movies that I used to buy on DVD. That seems to be mirrored by many other BD adopters, and coupled with a likely smaller rental market penetration, doesn’t bode well for the format as a true successor to DVD.

My prediction: we have entered the age of niches, in which there will not be one dominant format going forward. DVD will slowly die off, but will not be fully replaced by Blu-ray. Physical media itself will stick around for a while, but will eventually be surpassed and supplanted by streaming and downloads. I love Blu-ray, but will never fund it the way I invested in previous generations of technology.

Over to you, Insiders—we love to hear your opinions. Give us your thoughts on why you have or have not embraced the Blu-ray format, and where you think it’s going.

27 Responses to “(R)editorial: Thoughts on Blu-ray’s Present and Future”

  1. Visitor [Join Now]
    JBG [visitor]

    We should probably mention that one of the main reasons for this trend is the low quality of film production coming from Hollywood and the like – there simply haven’t been any movies worth owning lately.

  2. Visitor [Join Now]
    ben [visitor]

    blah blah blah…with duplication software readily available nowadays…people can rent a movie and copy it…therefore renting it-then subsequently owning it. just bc it isnt blogged here by many people…its a popular trend. and lets be candid here…a duplicated dvd in most cases looks just as clear as the original on the tv screen. money must be burning holes in cat’s pockets to seriously go and buy a ‘blu-ray’ movie. give me a break.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Unhappy [visitor]

      Let me ask you this: so, all laws are good and fair, just because some pundits in Washington voted on it (e.g., DMCA)? I look at it like this: you offer me something for a price, then I pay the price but don’t get that something (e.g., I don’t get to see the movie) – am I not right to demand a compensation? Is it illegal if next time I take matters in my own hands? How about satisfaction? Who exempted the studios from that? Things are not that simple. The fact that matters is: people are voting with their wallets and no amount of technological measures is going to change that. In fact, the reason why “piracy” has become so wide-spread is because of the attempt of the studios to use technological means (and not economic) to attain their goals, and those technological actions by the studios are met by technological reactions by the public.
      In fact, let me take some time to give you an unorthodox example. And that is the… adult film industry. They spend no money on trying to “protect their artists’ intellectual property”, they have no concerns about their products showing up freely on websites and torrents, just as they didn’t care when people would copy their VHS tapes. We are not talking here about valuable artistic content of those products but, regardless, there is something else that appeals to people (whether we like it or not). And even with having the stigma of buying their products openly (credit card records, etc.) versus anonymously visiting a “tube” website and watching/downloading full quality for free, people still readily pay good money to buy adult films. Just think about that.

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        Red Rover [visitor]

        At 20 cents a blank DVD I copy every movie I rent (10-24 per month). At less then a buck per rental it’s $15-$24 a month. They’re there if I get to them to view, and I can’t remember the last time I actually watched a rental copy. They’re all copies of rentals. They get rented & returned the next day so they can send me new ones. Buy? Haven’t bought a DVD new or used in 6 years, but my library has easily 500 titles. Sadly most of them not even worth the 20 cents for the blank DVD. Blu-ray? 3D? Not until the present format goes away – which won’t be anytime real soon.

        • Member [Join Now]
          Alan Smithee [8traxrule]

          If you’re using single-layer DVDs then you’re probably compressing most new releases. Dual-layer blanks cost closer to $1 each. And yes, copying is wrong, though when I do it I think I at least have a close to valid reason.

          The picture on Blu-Rays is great (and so far they can’t be cheaply copied, so that problem is solved for now) but the loading time on some is infuriating- You have to wait more than a minute sometimes just to get the damn movie to start, even if you don’t want to play with any of the ‘extras’!

          • Member [Join Now]
            FallonaBottom [fallonabottom]

            Yes! I experienced that same delay! And don’t even think about pausing it . . . you may have to start it all over. It could be that I just have a very crappy BD player, but my crappy (i.e. cheap) dvd player never took such a long time to load the movie.

          • Visitor [Join Now]
            Red Rover [visitor]

            Single Layer – no point to adding the expense for my purposes which is just to have a library of entertainment if/when I need it. As far as ‘feeling bad’ I don’t need to justify it to anyone. Nor does anyone’s opinion on the topic matter to me.

  3. Member [Join Now]

    The movie companies have gone to the well too often – they release a movie, then a year later the special edition, then anniversary editions every 5 years, all with “new” features – People have realized they are being ripped off for the same old movies. Also, enough people remember the rush to replace their VHS with DVD that they’ re saying “I’m not going through that again just so a new format can come along in 5 years and make all these discs out-of-date”. As far as VOD and downloads, internet connections are going to have to get faster and more reliable before they overwhelm physical media.

  4. Member [Join Now]

    Most people still have movies on VHS; movies that are available on DVD/Blu-Ray.

    “My prediction: we have entered the age of niches, in which there will not be one dominant format going forward. DVD will slowly die off, but will not be fully replaced by Blu-ray. Physical media itself will stick around for a while, but will eventually be surpassed and supplanted by streaming and downloads.”

    Yes! I agree with that.

  5. Visitor [Join Now]
    firstlawofnature [visitor]

    Great post. I think this gets a lot of the current mindset of the consumer correct. Renting wins over ownership for the intermediate term and no one renting format gets all the marbles.

    By virtue of their existence both netflix and redbox will help keep physical media around for a long time. DVD would last 50 years if it was priced at $.25 to rent. At a $1 maybe it lasts 15 years.

  6. Visitor [Join Now]
    MrMadChef [visitor]

    My movie rack is, right now, about 2/3 VHS, 1/3 DVD. Many of the DVDs were bought on the cheap/clearance shelf at Wal-Mart, some to join or replace their VHS counterparts, and others that I bought because I enjoyed the movie or had other reasons (the night Patrick Swayze died, I went to Wal-Mart and picked up Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, and Ghost; wanted to get Donnie Darko but they didn’t have it). Part of my hesitation to going to bluray is that I’ll have to buy a bluray player. Why do that, when I have a tv with a built-in DVD player in the bedroom, and in the living room, a DVD player, an Xbox that plays DVDs, and two VCRs that are still in working order? Granted, the bluray player will play my DVDs, but it’s an extra expenditure in a down economy at a time when I don’t have a lot of disposable income.

  7. Member [Join Now]
    VioletDC [violetdc]

    Well, I haven’t bought a Blu-Ray player yet, and probably won’t. I remember going thru switching all my: 1) Beta to VHS; and 2) VHS to DVD. As the writer mentioned, ‘DVD is good enuf’; besides, blu-ray movies are just 2 expensive. I don’t purchase every new movie that comes out anyway; just those that I know I’ll watch over and over, so that I get my $’s worth.

    • Member [Join Now]
      Alan Smithee [8traxrule]

      I’ve gotten tons of Blu-Rays for $10-20, not much more than the same title on regular DVD. You just have to watch for sales. Even at full price most Blu-Rays are a bargain compared to laserdiscs- most of those averaged $40!

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        Dr. Shade [visitor]

        I still own and buy laserdisc they are still putting new movies on them in asia and if you buy off of ebay it’s cheap enough.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Dr. Shade [visitor]

      I remember seeing ten years ago that they were perfecting a way of storing info on crystal cubes holographically ( your whole movie collection on a half inch cube ). they must have that tech totally figured out now they are just holding it back, to make more profits when your BD become obsolete.

  8. Visitor [Join Now]
    Mike [visitor]

    I believe you pretty much covered it in your article. Streaming video is where it’s headed so why spend the funds switching to bluray when regular DVD is good enough? Streaming movies for a nominal fee to purchase just like music is going to be the new way to purchase movies and store them on your hard drives. They can be high def as well.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Jordan [visitor]

      I have to agree with you.
      A couple of weeks back I attended the Clearwater Film Festival.
      I attended a panel where they said the future of movies is not going to even be on disc. It will be on downloads onto the new generations of phones which you will be able to just plug into your tv and watch.
      No more going to Redbox or waiting for your netflix to arrive in the mail.

      • Member [Join Now]

        That assumes that Comcast, Cox, Verizon, AT&T, etc. don’t price people to death for bandwidth. Bandwidth is going to become a greater and greater issue.

  9. Visitor [Join Now]
    Mr. No Blue-Ray yet [visitor]

    Good read and it’s all true from my standpoint.
    I have quite a few VHS movies still and a lot of DVD’s.
    And right now, you can find the good DVD’s for only $2-$5 used so unless there was a significant reason to upgrade I don’t see a point.

    Also, my TV is old school so it’s not even HDTV which I figure I’d upgrade both TV and DVD player at the same time to get a good Blue-Ray experience which is more $$$, plus the extra expense of getting the Blu-Ray movies add up to no point in upgrading at least at this point in time.

  10. Member [Join Now]
    Casey4147 [casey4147]

    Technology has also caught up and surpassed in some ways. Any disc I purchase I’ll rip to my Media Center – preserve the disc and make it easy for the kids to watch, by picking a title out of a list. They already do it with the Dish Network receiver, anything PVR’ed is just in a list to be chosen from. No more searching shelves for the movie I want to watch, I know exactly where it is. Also gets around the Mac (my preferred platform) not having Blu-Ray playback capability (but it will take an external USB Blu-Ray drive and has ripping software that works). Gray area? Hell yes, but unlike others above I’m not copying everything I rent, I purchase my discs. Used to be I’d take a gamble and purchase a new movie – not any more, though. Unless I KNOW it’s a multiple viewer, it’s a rental first. And 95% of the time, it turns out the movie isn’t worth watching again or wasn’t worth watching the first time.

  11. Visitor [Join Now]
    Bill [visitor]

    DVD is dead like VHS. I agree with the article in that Blue Ray will never be what DVD was. I now watch 70% of my movies streaming for free on the internet. If I want something special I can get a torrent to download for free. I may use Redbox once a month when a friend really wants to see something. This is the reality and cable and movie people do not get it. Cable is overpriced with a ot of stuff you never care to watch. Why put up with commercials when you can watch commercial free any program you wish for free on the internet? I dropped Cable six months ago and have not missed it a bit and more importantly the extra $60 a month it was costing. I believe the future is flash drive and streaming. Soon there will be a 2 tb flashdrive that will hold all the movies you can comprehend and fit in your pocket. You plug it into any USB and you have all the movies you want. Remember ‘video killed the radio star’?
    Well internet killed the cable and movie business.

    They are dead man walking and just do not know it yet.

  12. Member [Join Now]

    Blu-Ray will never have the enormous following that DVD-and formerly VHS-enjoys/enjoyed. I see the Blu-Ray format falling somewhere below DVD/VHS but above LaserDisc/Betamax.
    Right now my main TV is a 20 inch Sharp; I also bought a used Sharp Hi-Fi VHS VCR earlier this year via eBay to enjoy my huge VHS library, and I have had an excellent Pioneer DVD player for eight years now…all of these things are in good working order, so why fix what isn’t broken? I also have Netflix streaming on the Wii if I want to stream a Movie or a TV show. I have no desire for a Blu-Ray player whatsoever. I also dropped cable four years ago and haven’t looked back…my rabbit ears and set-top converter give me my local news and weather, and the major network shows. I’m willing to bet that a lot of folks on this site share my position as well. I have plenty of entertainment options…why waste money upgrading to Blu-Ray in this bad economy when I don’t have much disposable income to start with?

  13. Member [Join Now]

    I totally agree with your article. I only purchased a blu-ray player a year ago and only after my DVD player died. I only own about a dozen blu-rays discs. Now, I only purchase my favorites, usually older movies that have been given a superior picture when remastered. I think people have realized with bunches of VHS tapes & DVD’s just sitting around gathering dust, why do we need them. The low price of rentals & the availability of the expanding cable & satellite stations now offering more and more HD stations are inexpensive alternatives. Plus, right now in my opinion the TV industry is superior in quality programming to what is being released at the box office. I think many people also aren’t buying DVD & blu-ray because they didn’t see the movie in a theater & know it will only be out for rental in a few months, and will rent the movie before deciding to put down the cash for a purchase.

  14. Visitor [Join Now]
    D. Baker [visitor]

    I’ve found that Fry’s Electronics has cut down there sales on the DVD format. They used to fill a whole back page of Friday’s Ad. I still really like the DVD format. Blu-ray will never cover-up a bad story-line…

  15. Visitor [Join Now]
    Rod [visitor]

    Of interest.
    I rented Robin Hood from Block busters kisk and the rental said rental on it.
    On playing it it said if I wanted any extras I would have to purchase a disk. A rental disk of the future?

  16. Visitor [Join Now]
    tractor toy [visitor]

    Great post. I realize this is not exactly on subject, but I would like to add that this site theme here is pretty neat. Is there a name or something? I do not know where to look.