The year is 2022 and we still have DVDs. On the face of it, that’s pretty surprising. You might be asking, when will DVDs be discontinued? Probably soon, but definitely not right away, and that’s because there are a lot of factors to consider for the entertainment companies that have continued to produce DVDs and BluRays.
We’d like to talk about the situation in more detail, with info as well as our own takes on how things are gonna play out.
If that sounds fun to you, then come along for the ride. It’s free.
Heavy hitters dropping out
One of the biggest factors contributing to the fall of DVDs is that companies are starting to seriously question whether it’s still worth it to make the darn things.
According to reports from 2021, Warner planned to discontinue DVD and BluRay releases of their new TV shows and movies.
Is it possible this decision was re-assessed following the Warner/Discovery merger? Yes, it’s possible, but it’s also unlikely that anyone would speak up in favor of keeping physical releases in a corporate environment that clearly seems to be prioritizing cost cutting, by any means necessary.
Just recently, the new conglomerate canceled several major projects, apparently to claim the money spent on these projects as write-offs.
And we’re confident that other major media companies are also at least considering a complete transition away from the production and sale of physical versions of their releases.
For territories where streaming entertainment is dominant, physical media doesn’t present itself as a worthwhile investment.
But as we’ll talk about later, there are still plenty of customers who prefer DVDs, for a number of reasons.
The next major factor at play in the death of physical media is customer indifference, and this isn’t something that’s only affecting DVD sales but other physical media as well.
The transition away from physical music media came first. Early pirate sites like Napster made it possible in the early 2000s to simply download all the music you could find, which was a feasible option until the authorities started to take action.
But streaming music wasn’t far behind, giving users the ability to access massive libraries of music in exchange for a monthly fee.
There was blowback to the transition, specifically from audiophiles (a relatively small group when compared to all listeners) and artists/labels themselves, who pointed out that streaming revenue was vastly smaller than their previous cuts from physical sales.
But the transition went ahead just the same, and now streaming music is the norm.
We also can’t ignore the physical limitations of physical media. It’s right in the name. These products degrade over time, even if they’re very well taken care of.
That’s not something manufacturers can avoid.
If enough customers completely move on from DVDs and BluRays, large-scale production of these products will definitely be all but dead.
The Case for Physical Media in the Streaming Age
But hold on. It seems obvious to just about everyone that DVDs and BluRays can and probably should die out, sooner rather than later.
But we might be looking at this from too narrow a viewpoint.
There’s no doubt that, for most people, streaming their movies and TV shows is much more convenient than purchasing copies of each or catching them on live TV.
But that convenience relies heavily on strong, reliable internet service. And while plenty of us have more than enough internet to watch whatever we want, albeit with occasional buffering, not everyone does.
Especially outside of the US and Europe, internet connections might be subpar. And if you can’t stream your entertainment, then physical media makes perfect sense.
Then there’s the quality argument. The big advantage BluRay offers over DVDs is superior sound and picture quality. This might be surprising to some folks, but BluRays also offer better sound and picture quality than plenty of streaming services.
Even with an excellent internet connection, not every streaming service is capable of giving you UHD picture quality, and/or multi-channel sound.
Similar to the audiophiles who have stuck with physical music for the sake of quality, there are quite a few film buffs who collect BluRays specifically so they can enjoy their favorite movies in a high-quality format.
But probably one of the most “noble” reasons for wanting physical media to stick around is media preservation.
This isn’t something that most people tend to think about too much. From a modern perspective, we have access to all media from ever, but that’s not actually the case.
We’ve lost many movies and pieces of music over the years, as well as quite a few video games.
If there are no original source materials preserved or no reliable digital backups, then specific pieces of media could literally be lost forever.
It’s unthinkable to imagine a new release becoming unavailable someday, but the Warner cuts we were talking about earlier have raised the possibility in the minds of many.
In addition to canceling projects, Warner Discovery has also removed quite a few shows from HBO Max, and many of these shows don’t have physical releases.
So all of a sudden, for all practical intents and purposes, these shows just don’t exist. Many were exclusive to the platform, and now they can’t be accessed through that platform or any other.
If other streaming services follow suit and simply remove entertainment produced for the streaming era, we could end up losing a whole lot of media, not because film prints have been lost, but because big companies just won’t see the value in keeping them around.
DVDs aren’t perfect, and neither are BluRays, records, VHS tapes, or CDs. But these products are yours to own, and as long as they’re still in acceptable condition, you can access the media on them.
The End Part
So DVDs aren’t gone quite yet, but they’re darn close, and that’s both good and bad news for all of us.
There are benefits to physical media, and streaming entertainment isn’t a solution for everyone.
Even if DVDs and other physical media are discontinued on a wide scale, there will most likely still be specialty producers catering to niche audiences.
But for the moment, that’s our take on the matter. Thanks for coming along.