Analysis of IT news

Monday, February 25, 2008

The future of Blu-Ray

With Toshiba droping the HD-DVD format, pretty much everybody agrees on the following:
  • Now that consumers don't run the risk of choosing the Betamax of the 21st century, Blu-Ray sales should pick up now.
  • It might be an empty victory as digital movie download might spoil the party.
And indeed, DVD sales are slowly declining. There is however some hope for the DVD industry. I don't mean the medium's future is wonderful, I mean that the industry can do something about it.

For a start, movie download offers aren't perfect yet, whereas you can already receive Blu-Rays from Netflix.

But the key advantage that a physical media like Blu-Ray can have is "PHYSICAL". It's something users can hold. Granted, if will not matter for movie rentals. But for movies you want to buy it might. Now, some will argue that consumers don't care anymore about physically holding what they bought, and offer as a proof the fact that they have forsaken the CD for the immaterial but more convenient MP3.

There is however one big difference between music and movies: when one plays music, the CD is an inconvenience. You need to change discs often unless you want to hear the same songs over and over again. And you need to bring them with you if you want to listen to music on the road. A DVD doesn't have that problem. Apart from DVD players inside cars (a tiny percentage of the market) people watch movies in the comfort of their homes. And they generally watch one movie per night so switching DVDs is not the pain it is for music.

But there is one aspect the DVD industry has mostly forgotten: the package. Aside from the content there's not much exciting about DVD boxes. They come in dull plastic boxes and the only available goodies are exclusive footage and other bonuses, something digital download can replicate. But no physical goodies such as posters. Even the disc itself looks like a regular CD - the magic is long gone. To that regard the 12" Laserdisc (DVD's ancestor) was much sexier. You really had the impression to hold something valuable. Such a DVD wouldn't be practical for a computer or a PlayStation 3, but that's something Sony execs should keep in mind.

Because at the end of the day, whether people will choose to buy movies online or a Blu-Ray will highly depend on the latter's competitive edge. When the content is exactly the same, what other feelings can a Blu-Ray provide that digital download won't?

The DVD industry wants people to buy more DVDs and Blu-Rays? They should think about selling something consumers are excited about holding and opening. Something worth putting on their shelves.


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