BD Vs. Streaming, Etc.
A number of things have dovetailed into this Blog in the last week and a half. A NY Times article landed downplaying the success Blu-ray is having thus far and its future prospects, and, IMO, vastly overrating the current and future prospects of movie streaming and downloads. A massive wave of CE products launched at CES that connect to Internet-driven content, adding some fuel to this fire, and well, NPR called me in the middle of the show to get my take on this, which you can read and listen to here.
Many pundits are already declaring Blu-ray stillborn and pronouncing streaming and downloads as the winners of this war (such as it is), much as MP3 won the “war” between SACD and DVD-Audio years ago. But I’ve got some questions for those making this prediction.
If Blu-ray has low consumer awareness, has anyone asked Joe and Jane Six Pack if they know Hulu from Vudu? Do they know “streaming” isn’t just what that running river across town does? If Blu-ray's sales numbers don't impress can someone tell me what numbers show momentum in movie downloads? Apple loves throwing numbers around, but the AppleTV box hasn't taken off at all and even His Steveness has referred to movie downloads as being in the "hobby" stage.
The conventional wisdom is drawing parallels to music and saying convenience will trump quality again. Will it? First, is the convenience factor even there where movies are concerned? Having a player in your rack that can stream Netflix doesn't mean you're not tethered to your PC- you still manage your queue from your PC. And most people don’t have broadband pipes big enough to get streaming quality that’s equivalent to DVD. Wimpy 2Mbps speeds (which is the best I can get at home no matter what I'm willing to pay) won’t do it. With large 1080p flat screen prices at $999 and below is sub-DVD quality good enough? The streaming crowd better hope so because the conveneince factor really drops once you give up on streaming and go to download. Vudu’s HDX high-def download titles look great, but those are downloads that take 4-6 hours over my cable connection. And that brings us to one of many fundamental differences between movies and music.
Movies are not portable. They’re not meant to be. 112kbps music downloads take seconds and then the user owns them and can carry them around on an iPod. High-def movie downloads take several hours and are rentals. And looking at a movie on a portable device screen isn’t nearly as compelling as music over the earbuds can be. I think people will put up with some inconvenience and artifacts to catch up on a sitcom, but I just can't see people being that satisfied with experiencing movies that are riddled with more artifacts than their broadcast high-def and stutter and buffer throughout.