The Eminent Demise of DVDs

By John Francis - Z’scoop

“OK, class, show of hands. When did you last rent a DVD movie?”

No hands.

“OK, when did you last buy a DVD movie?”

Still no hands.

“Uh, what’s a DVD? Are you kidding me?”

That scenario may play out sooner than you think, but don’t toss your DVD player and DVD copies of “Titanic” and “Toy Story” into the garage sale box just yet.

While it’s true that DVD sales and rentals have declined in the past few years, it’s not as precipitous a drop as some observers have predicted. DVD sales dropped by 28% in 2015 with $12.2 billion and is expected to drop to $8.7 billion in 2018. By next year, streaming and digital downloads will be the biggest moneymakers in the film industry. In fact, according to Price Waterhouse Cooper, by 2018, digital video will make more profit than movies’ theatrical box office.

Maybe we should be talking about the demise of movie theaters? Well, that’s a discussion for another article, which we’ve covered in Z’Scoop earlier this year. But even Price Waterhouse doesn’t think movie theaters will become obsolete, as new innovations, trends and viewing habits keep it viable.

So, DVD sales are declining and DVD rentals are making a slow slide, again, not as drastically as you would imagine (Redbox has 52% of the rental market with more than 1 billion movies and games rented each year, Netflix DVD rentals owns most of the other share), so despite the competition, DVDs are doing relatively well and here’s why.

DVDs are still better than streaming for picture quality, especially if you don’t have speedy WiFi or even WiFi at all (hard to believe, but many parts of the country have less-then-acceptable levels of WiFi). You’ll never get that annoying “buffering” wheel with DVDs.

DVDs are packed with special features, such as deleted scenes, bloopers, alternative endings, making-of shorts, and even running commentary by stars and directors. Some streaming services offer that, but not for all titles.

DVDs are cheaper than Video-on-Demand offered by cable companies and such services as Amazon Prime, often up to $3-$4 per title. Sure, you either have to wait for them in the mail (Netflix, which has about 5 million DVD subscribers) or run down to your nearest Redbox to get them. But most Redbox kiosks are located in supermarkets, convenience stores and other locations where people shop.

You own a DVD and can keep it, give it as a gift, lend it to a friend, show it to your kids over and over, watch it when your Internet or WiFi goes down and more. You don’t technically own a movie you’ve downloaded, you’re basically leasing it. For example, iTunes has the right to terminate an account and negate ownership when a person dies.

Older, more obscure, indie or quirkier films are still available on DVD, whether you get them from Netflix or buy them from Amazon, eBay or other sellers. Streaming services have to get rid of older, not-as-popular films to make room for the hundreds of new ones that come online every week. Do you want to take the chance that your favorite, so-weird-that-nobody-else-watched it film will no longer be available to you on streaming?

Digital film preservation, preserving a film in perpetuity for future generations, is not an exact science. Digital files can be corrupted and hard drives, discs and chips can degrade faster than actual film. And do you really trust “The Cloud?” Most people couldn’t even tell you what that is!

Remember when you used to have friends over to see your DVD collection? How can you show them a digital file of your movie collection? OK, that’s not a very good reason to stay with DVDs. By that just shows what is lacking in digital movies, the social interaction. Going down to your local Blockbuster store, perusing the titles, asking questions of other customers or the geeky clerk with all the answers. Seems awful quaint now doesn’t it?

The bottom line is this: price and convenience will win out when it comes to consumers. It’s just easier now to sit at home, click on your remote and get a movie on your big-screen TV. But we still go out to movie theaters, we still buy DVDs (not as many, but still) and it’s still much cheaper to rent at Redbox than VOD. And there’s just something comfortable and nostalgic about playing DVDs.

And, just like VHS tapes, answering machines and pagers, DVDs will probably become obsolete. When is the big question. Remember, albums and turntables made a comeback after being pronounced dead.

“It’s a certainty that at some point consumers will no longer be renting movies out of Redbox kiosks,” Piper Jaffray investment bank analyst Michael Olson told Variety magazine. “It could be five years from now or 15 years from now. But at this point, it’s about managing the decline. I don’t think it will hit a wall and people will stop using Redbox all of a sudden, but the war they’re waging is one they will lose in the longer term.”

By John Francis