Are we near the end of optical media?

I often ask myself this question.  I should note that I am by no means a forecast analyst but I do have some pretty strong opinions so hear me out.

As far as standard def DVDs go there isn’t really anything new we can do.  We have reached the limits in terms of storage and have stretched the ability of our current authoring software and the DVD spec as far as it can go.  In terms of sales, they have peaked and have started to decline.  This is in large part due to services such as Blockbuster Online and Netflix.  I myself have a Blockbuster Online account and have certainly found myself renting more DVDS than I purchase.   The sales numbers are certainly going to decline.  There are some newer markets overseas where they are still strong, but I suspect that over time those to will become saturated and fall off.  This is ok, it’s natural, it’s progress and I am all for progress.

Next we have the new High Def optical media formats.  Now, it just seems to me that since the beginning they have been, in a sense, shoved down consumer’s throats.  What I mean by this, is that I am not so sure that people are finished as a whole with standard def DVD.  Face it, in our busy lifestyle it’s sometimes just easier to pop in a DVD, watch the movie and be done with it.  Sure, college kids and younger kids will probably eat up the extra content, but will they really?  Do they really want to pop in Die Hard for instance and play a little video game that is basically just an ad for the franchise?  Why should they?  With XBox 360, WII, DS, PS3 is this really the best place to try and capture their attention with a video game?  I say no.

We have had presentations at work dealing with the new connected features of HD-DVD and BluRay.  They say things like “You can put your DVD in on Christmas and all of a sudden the character on the main menu has a santa hat on, or you get new trailers and commercials.”  Wait.  What?  Trailers and commercials.  Santa hats.  Come on.  I wish you could actually see me rolling my eyes.  I just don’t think this is going to impress anyone beyond the initial “Thats cool” factor wears off.

What is cool and long lasting about these formats is the quality of the audio and video.  I have seen it first hand and it’s spectacular.  But, and this is a huge BUT, optical media is not going to be needed for long to distribute this quality.  Actually, in my house it isn’t needed at all.  I can fire up my XBox 360 right now and download 300.  Sure I don’t own it.  Sure it takes a bit before I can start watching.  But these are minor issues.  I don’t need all the extra content to feel satisfied.  I don’t even need to “own” the movie.  I will get to see it, in great quality and move on to another great movie.  I am sure not going to drop money on a player to get the extras.  It’s not worth it.  Trust me, eventually you are going to be seeing these extras delivered digitally to your home.  It might not be soon, but I am willing to bet it will start to show up before the dust settles on the format war.

One argument I have heard is that digital distribution isn’t available to everyone.  You could read that as older members of society and the less technologically inclined.  That doesn’t hold water to me.  These people aren’t going to be playing around with BluRay or any high def for that matter.  They are also probably happy with DVD and maybe even VHS.  You can take this market out of the equation since nothing is going to really blow them away.

I actually think that over time, digital distribution will just become natural.  People will say, remember when we used to use these crazy silver discs….madness.  Maybe this blog will be called the Digital Distribution Shrink 😉  Who knows?  I don’t.  Like I said, I am just spitting out ideas.  I am sure there are people that will say I am crazy.  I am by no means stating this as fact.  Rather, I am just voicing some legitimate concerns I have with the current state of the entertainment industry.  Like I said, if you follow everything, it just seems like that is the way things are flowing.  Think of the current high def optical media formats as a bridge to the next logical step.  Just holding us over until we are ready to embrace it.