With the availability of iTunes and other digital video services, I hear a lot of people talk about how they don’t buy DVDs any longer. I hear things like “I don’t want to take up space with all of those cases” or “my kids destroy DVDs” – which make sense, but at the same time I can’t bring myself to give up my physical media.
For me, though, digital video distribution (DVD?) plays a supporting role rather than the primary role in building my video collection. I don’t purchase movies digitally – I buy the discs. Almost always Blu-ray discs, actually, since normally when I watch movies they’re being projected on a 100” screen, and DVD can fall apart at that size. So do streaming services, to some degree, as well, but this isn’t the reason I choose not to invest in digital. It’s more basic than that.
The main reason is that I don’t trust that these services are going to be around in ten years. And I don’t want my investment to be lost.
History already tells us that we can’t rely on these services, no matter who is backing them. Several big players have already tried and failed, including Wal-Mart and Target. And when they fail, you lose what you’ve bought.
I know what you’re thinking… that Apple’s iTunes isn’t going to go away. Maybe not. At least not now. But can you actually believe that Apple, if they’re still around in 20 years, is still going to be supporting a service that old? They don’t support any services more than a few years old now. There’s just no way that they’ll actually still make your movies available to you that far in the future. Technology changes too fast. Twenty years in the technology world is an eternity. Very few tech companies make it that long.
Owning the discs ensures that I’ll be able to watch them 10, 15, or more years in the future. Even if (when) manufacturers stop making Blu-ray players in the future, the players I own today will still play those discs moving forward. Yes, we’ll see improvements in picture quality with new tech like 4K and HDR moving forward, but Blu-ray is pretty good – it’s virtually the same level of quality currently projected in your local theater – and many movies have actually been shot in HD-like resolution, so in those cases a higher quality version usually doesn’t even exist. And unless you’re sitting really close to very large screen, newer technologies won’t even provide any additional discernable picture detail. (Though HDR, if it catches on, has the potential to improve things considerably.)
The other big reason I still buy discs is convenience. I don’t want to be without a way to watch a movie if my Internet goes down, I’m travelling somewhere where I don’t have Internet access, or it isn’t fast enough to stream a movie reliably. Maybe in 5-10 years our Internet access will be more reliable and high speed will be more ubiquitous, but I just can’t count on it. And will the streaming service you’ve invested n still be around at that time? There’s no way to know.
That said, it isn’t like I don’t use digital video services, because I do. They’re just my backup. Most movies I buy come with a code to unlock digital versions. And if they don’t, I’ve really found Vudu’s Disc-to-Digital program to be very handy. (Tip: If you use the service, do the conversions at home on your own computer, and convert more than 10 discs at a time for a 50% discount.) I can’t convert all of my movies to digital, but I can certainly convert enough of them that I’m generally not left wanting when I want to stream a movie. I’ve got 241 on Vudu right now, so I’ve got plenty to choose from.
In any case, I know that everyone’s situation is different. But I would encourage you to think about the future when making your video purchases. Would you care if your selected service shut down in 5 years? Would it bother you if you lost your investment because they’ve gone belly-up, or choose not to support it any longer? It’s something to consider.