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.

Cawgijoe's picture

I agree completely with this. I keep hearing how downloads are the way to go and that all other formats are obsolete including Blu-Ray and that BD has a life of maybe five years or less. There are several deterrents to this theory including that many people like having the physical media in their library. In order for super high quality downloading to be the norm, the Internet will need to be revamped and become much more robust and reliable. I don't see that happenning anytime soon.

Shane's picture

Want to talk about what's expensive- high speed Internet in this country is slow and costs $40 and up per month. I wanted to pay more money and turbo-charge my Internet. That costs more and isn't even available here.Then your Vudu box is $299 and you pay $3.99 to $5.99 per month. And unlike music downloads, you don't own it. Start watching and it's gone in 24 hours.

MJR's picture

Being that no one wants to invest any money improving the infra-structure of the internet the streaming and downloading advocates may find they are the ones hitting a brick wall soon. The days of declining internet access prices are going to come to an end. Not to mention for many people any thing more complicated than pushing play after putting a disc in a player they will not do.

The Flap's picture

I would agree that Blu-ray will be around for a while longer, more like 10-15 years. DVD sales will drop off in favor of just as cheap Blu-ray Players. However media will now be a deciding factor in which format to buy. P2P of illegal copies will need to be stopped (note that P2P is not always for pirating, but a lot of people do it) for Blu-ray to take off better. DRM will need to be eliminated or improved to be transparent over a given media, as most consumers will not care. One caveat I do notice a trend though a lot of consumers are not amassing great libraries of movies, since such different formats have come out, they don't want to re-purchase a library of films. Consumers are more and more going to softcopies of films. This I feel is the way things will go in a few years with the more PC centric consumers, a infrastructure that needs improvement anyway, and a more sedentary culture permeating the masses. BTW, monthly costs are not seen by most consumers, they can't do the math.

Josh D's picture

I fail to understand why people always gravitate towards convenience, rather than quality. People out there are assuming the movie sector is similar to the music industry, well, its not. The infrastructure is just not there for HD downloads and it seems as if they don’t even know it. Also, so even if you download content, you have to store it somewhere, right? The answer you get each and every time is, “hard drives are inexpensive”. True, but who the heck wants to become a System Administrator, not me. The “upfront” convenience of downloading is only masking the truth. Physical media is only shunned because of its archaic appearance and downloading is glorified, because of the hype. If archaic is, “so last year”, I guess I’ll be stuck in the past with 1080p and lossless 7.1 audio. The past never looked and sounded so good.“Quality and quantity are not equals, that’s why one is about numbers and the other about characteristics”, Josh DeBoer

Don Grabski's picture

If Blu-Ray is dead then how come retailers are selling the few $299 and $399 Sony and Panasonic players left above MSRP.Most retailers are SOLD OUT!!!

Ron W's picture

Josh D is right on the money when he states that many people STILL want physical media in their hands to play at "their" convenience and we aren't even talking about the "special edition" discs with the multitude of features available only on Blu-Ray. I find it kind of ironic that despite the sales decline in CDs over the last few years along with the massive increase in downloading, it seems vinyl is making somewhat of a comeback. When it comes to HD and considering the current state of the internet, we are still many years away from even comprehending quick and "reliable" movie downloads for home use. Give me the hard copy with the great picture and soundtrack which downloading, for the foreseeable future, could NEVER provide.

Bruce in CO's picture

One of the reasons that CD sales have dropped is that it become easy to not have to buy bad music. In pre-download days, how many songs on a CD or album did anyone really listen to? 1? 2? 5? Very rarely was the entire CD listened to on a regular basis. Downloads allow one to skip the undesirable songs. With a movie, it's all or nothing. Different buying model. Also, many bandwidth providers are starting to either limit total bandwidth used or squeezing down the pipe once a threshold is hit. Not good if one watches a lot of HD movies.

Dcryption's picture

I have to admit that i don't have much experience with Bluray other than what I've seen in the store but I do use an HD player at home along with a DVD upconverter. From what I've heard and read about streaming it is unreliable and it is rent for 24 hours or buy for the price a dvd would cost anyway. I have to say I don't see the apeal. Who wants a movie stopping to buffer in the middle while their trying to watch and why rent a movie for 24 hours and then have to pay again and again whenever you want to watch it? I can say that what I've seen of Bluray, I am very impressed by the picture quality and sound and the same is true about my HD player and DVD upconverter, why mess with something thats so good. I have streamed media clips on Youtube and if thats the quality we're talking about here then I'll pass on streaming! The picture was grainy and choppy and had to buffer constantly. Whats so hard about sliding in a Bluray and enjoying a truely superior experience?

AddyTechGal's picture

Why does nobody talk about the audio. I'm a 30 something and I work in the AV world. I love streaming, but without 5.1 (netflix) it shouldn't fly. I say shouldn't because we all know that people are willing to sacrifice good quality for accessibility. Doesn't anyone want their surround sound anymore???

xman's picture

Welcome to into, in here, you can find all kinds of fashion replica Gucci handbags, we do design gucci handbags business, it is the Well-known luxury brands, can make you satisfaction. such as Well-known luxury brands Handbag has gucci classic wallets and just have a Little famous brand we also have, for example,Gucci handbag,except the replica Handbag ,we also sells gucci messanger handbags, please look our website carefully.