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Is DVD dead? or dying?

Your Humble Blogger is curious to know Gentle Readers’ gut reaction to whether DVDs are dying. Would you say, again, just looking to your gut, that they will be through in five years?

Netflix announced their new pricing recently, saying Netflix members are already watching more TV episodes and movies streamed instantly over the Internet than on DVDs. They would know, presumably. I remember, oh, it must have been more than ten years ago, say, oh, 1999 or 2000, a friend (and Gentle Reader) handing me a DVD he had carried in his luggage on a cross-country flight and making a comment about how impressive the bandwidth was, taking only a few hours to download transfer all those bytes from the West Coast to the East Coast. NetFlix made that obvious to everyone a few years later. And now it’s different, evidently.

Now, I’m not saying that there is no reason to prefer DVDs to downloads or streams or any other source of data. It’s that—there are reasons to prefer VHS tapes to DVDs, aren’t there? But if you do prefer VHS tapes these days, you need a reason to do so. If, f’r’ex, somebody were to want to give you a copy of a recent film, they would assume that it would be OK to give you a DVD. In 1990, you could assume that people who watched movies at home could watch a VHS tape. There were people in 1990 who didn’t like VHS, who preferred something else for some reason or another, but you needed a reason. In 2010, if you prefer something other than DVD, you kinda need a reason. But in 2015, maybe not so much.

Or not. In 2002 (I think it was) video stores were dumping VHS tapes and I bought a bunch of movies at two or three bucks a pop. We’re certainly not there yet for DVDs. But will we be there by 2015? Because I finally bought The Nightmare Before Christmas on DVD, like some sort of wild animal in the wilderness.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


lots of computers now come w/o optical drives, your television can now join your LAN, the direction is clear, but is DVD leaving? possibly. ripping is easy, inventory & distribution are a bitch, people don't always see the quality difference.

but we do get into that issue of how do i file this, do libraries switch from 'fiction' & 'non-fiction' to 'amazon' & 'borders' -- the channels are taking this opportunity to grab grab grab again while the grabbing is good.

digital media portability issues makes me think the VHS/betamax thing was a nice walk on the beach.

Well, the "last video place in the neighborhood after Blockbuster closed", Hollywood Video, seems to have also just closed (and their website looks sad, so we may have no choice but to stream video when we want to watch it. For me the main appeal of movie rental places was the combination of browsing physical media and immediate gratification. Browsing online is kind of like that, but loses the social aspect.

I think there's bit of a bifurcation here. For rentals, yes it's dying and switching over to downloads, although maybe not quite as fast as some people might think. For those who buy in order to have long-term, if it's being killed off it's going to be killed by Blu-Ray, not downloads. Issues with DRM, differing file formats, poorer image quality, lack of extras, etc make downloads not that attractive for that market.

I bought 2 CDs on Saturday, and 6 DVDs yesterday. I'm doing my best to keep the physical media viable.

I propose a new political party dedicated to the preservation of antiquated physical media: The Curmudegon Party. I bet we could split as large a chunk off the Republican vote as the Tea Party has without hurting the Democratic Party near as much. Plus, it would be funny to rally 'round the 8-track!


Dying? Sure.
Dead in five years? No chance. Technological death rarely happens that quickly without a safety-driven government ban. I'm saying this as someone who makes his living selling CDs, which eight years ago were where CDs are now.

argh typo! That antepenultimate word should have been "DVDs".

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say "antepenultimate", though

My futurology stinks, but I'd be willing to gamble they will be a marginalized technology in five years. I mean, sure, you can still get record players for those old records, but it's not mainstream. In places without good internet connections (they *do* still exist around the world), streaming won't be an option. But those places are marginalized already...

Just happened across this old entry and wanted to add a belated comment:

I agree with commenters who said DVDs will still be around in late 2015. Also with Jeff's comment about Blu-ray; I wasn't sure whether in your original post you were specifically talking about DVDs per se, or about physical media for movies in general, but I think Blu-ray has several years left in it.

But the other thing I don't think anyone in this discussion mentioned is that Apple is doing its best to hasten the death of physical media. When Macs stopped having built-in floppy drives, everyone thought Apple was being ridiculous, but they turned out to be the vanguard. Now the MacBook Air has no insertable-media drive at all (well, unless you count the SD card slot or the USB outlets), and most Apple software is sold in downloadable form. And no Mac (that I know of) has a built-in Blu-ray drive. Other Macs do still have DVD read/write drives built in, but I predict that that'll no longer be true by, say, 2016.

I still like Blu-ray and DVD because (a) they have a bunch of extras, like deleted scenes; (b) they more reliably have subtitles/captions, which I often need; and (c) they have less DRM than downloads; for example, they're easily loanable to friends. But I'm hoping that by ten years from now, all of those disparities will have gone away, by which point I'll embrace the end of physical media for movies. Even now, a bunch of the Blu-rays I buy come with extra electronic versions of the movies, so you don't even have to rip them to get a copy you can play without having the physical media present.

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