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BLOG Why Blu-rays Days Are Numbered

SFX Blogger Laura McConnell wonders why everybody is taking sides in the DVD versus Blu-ray debate when there’s a much better third option

Recently, my fellow blogger Steven Ellis wrote about being forced to switch to Blu-ray in order to get the extras that historically were put on DVD releases. I completely understand his point, and that trend irks me too on principle, but I noticed that several commenters on his blog have feelings similar to my own.

The fact is, I don’t care about extras. I rarely listen to commentary ( Dr Horrible ’s singing commentary is, of course, an exception) and I generally find deleted scenes only mildly interesting. I don’t even care about extended versions of my favorite films. I buy movies for home use to watch the movie I loved at the cinema. That’s it. Yes, I own the first Lord of the Rings movie in all its extended glory, but only the first. I didn’t bother with that version for the second and third because it’s just not my thing to spend hours delving into the movie-making process. I enjoy the finished product, not the “how it’s made” aspect of films.

So I simply don’t care where Hollywood puts its extras. It doesn’t affect me. It certainly wouldn’t sway me to buy a Blu-ray over a DVD. For now, I’m still rocking DVDs, and I don’t think I’ll upgrade to Blu-ray anytime soon. The extras thing is only one reason why, though. My other reason is that, quite frankly, I’m not confident Blu-ray will be around for very long. Sure, technology is changing so fast that that can be said of just about anything, but with movies? Dude. If it’s not streaming, I’m likely not watching.

I own every episode of both Stagate SG-1 and Atlantis on DVD. But how do I watch them 99% of the time? Online. Being Stateside and having Netflix for less than the cost of a decent lunch per month, I have instant access to my Stargate s at any time. I don’t have to dig out the DVD and wrest control of a television away from a family member to watch them. Why would I bother with that when I can load up an episode in ten seconds from my desk? And use headphones to watch it in peace? (Both mine and everyone else’s.)

The DVD Dies Streaming

Frankly, even if I’m at the TV, which is very rare, I’ll still load up a streaming episode before digging out a DVD. It’s just the way it is for me now. My TV, which is HD, doesn’t need any sort of special equipment to play streaming media, so while it’s still a broken computer in many ways, it’s getting closer to being real tech all the time, and I truly think physical media is going away fast. Not overnight, but fast. Why would I devote shelves upon shelves of space in my home to discs when I can keep every movie I own in a hard drive? Yes, I know there are inherent risks with that, but that’s what back-up is for. And having had many discs of many kinds die from scratches and the like through the years, I know that nothing is completely safe, so digital movies are looking better all the time. And I don’t just mean on screen.

When you add the convenience of mobile viewing to this argument, well, there is no argument. Not for me. When I truly love a movie, I want to watch it whenever and wherever I want. I don’t want to be bothered with having to have a disc, a player, and a big clunky screen. So, for now, streaming is what I reach for first. Then I reach for a DVD. When digital media becomes cheaper and more readily available, I think I will be going that way, rather than to the next generation of plastic discs. I already find myself buying fewer DVDs, but like Steven, I don’t see them going away for a while. When they do, I honestly think it won’t be Blu-ray that kills them. It will be digital media that pushes them out of the market, and Blu-ray will go with them. Smartphones killed Kodak and e-books put away Border’s. I see the same thing happening to films and television shows on little plastic discs, regardless of type. It’ll take a while, but I think my DVDs should tide me over just fine until then.

There will always be a market for physical media, but for folks like me, who don’t care about extras and just want the movie in the cheapest, easiest format to use on every device we own, well, forgive me for doubting Blu-ray’s staying power. I might be wrong, but for now I’m just not seeing it, and unless something changes for me, I don’t see the point in bothering with Blu-ray.