The evolution to the next generation of storage media may have come too soon. DVDs were to video what CDs were to audio -- the seemingly perfect technology to store movies and television shows in high quality, with plenty of room left over for bonus features like deleted scenes, supplementary soundtracks, and hidden "easter eggs." The quick development of a new storage medium to hold more data for the high-definition market led to a format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, with the latter emerging victorious. Blu-Ray sales are definitely biting into the DVD marketplace. Just as some Laser-Disc collectors hated to see DVDs emerge as the new format of choice, I feel a bit remorseful to see DVDs so quickly usurped.
Home video viewers are renting or streaming from Netflix rather than buying DVDs. Disney is one of the Hollywood powerhouses that views Netflix, the on-demand and mail-order flat-fee rental service, as a threat to its ancillary sales business. The House That Walt Built is trying to play hardball defense by increasing its licensing fees to Netflix and lowering its own DVD prices. Just as consumers quickly abandoned their VHS renting habits and embraced buying and owning their favorite movies and television shows on the new digital video discs, now many of those same consumers have changed their habits yet again and are signing up for the affordable Netflix service, which conveniently delivers video directly to their homes. Why buy DVDs when you can just queue an unlimited amount of your favorite titles for a great low price and watch them anytime you want?
Thieves are definitely hurting the bottom-line. Yes, video piracy is still rampant, and it's hurting legitimate business. Here in New York, you can find people selling bootleg copies of big-name movies in subway stations, diners, or broad-daylight street corners as soon as those movies hit theaters (and sometimes even before). Most movie lovers with a conscience refuse to engage in such illegal practices, but enough people still do, making the pirated DVD blackmarket a thriving and lucrative subculture. It's no joke that it is seriously cutting into the entertainment industry's profits. It is keeping bodies out of movie theaters and it is hurting sales of the real, studio-branded DVDs that are released legally for sale at higher prices at later dates.
Consumers have a wide amount of other entertainment choices. People are spending their leisure time playing videogames, surfing the Internet, spending hours on social networks, catching up on shows recorded on their DVRs, downloading content from wireless technology such as tablet computers and smart phones. Many DVD collectors now seem to have even less and less time to actually watch the few movies they purchase. Why spend money on a DVD if it's just going to gather dust on a shelf?
The available content on television seems to be getting better and better. Even though some critics still like to blast the "boob tube," we are still arguably living through a new golden age of quality programming on broadcast and cable television. Given the choice of watching new episodes of True Blood, Fringe, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, and countless other acclaimed TV shows, or purchasing a DVD of a previously produced movie or program, I usually choose the new stuff, which will be the topic of conversation the next day by my like-minded friends and colleagues.
When all excuses fail, maybe the fault lies in the DVD content itself. If a movie is great, people will buy it and add it to their collection. Titanic broke records, Avatar sold well. Studio executives always seem to look at all the other reasons why a film fails at the box-office or in the post-release DVD sales, except for what might sometimes be the obvious explanation -- maybe the product just isn't that good in the first place, or the marketing team hasn't found a way to make the public want to spend their hard-earned money on the DVD they're selling. With so many options out there and with the economy still shaky, it's understandable that consumers will be more selective about on what they spend their money.
I would hate to see DVDs die. I've invested enough in the format not to want to replace my collection with another storage and playback medium. If the entertainment business wishes to reverse the current downward spiral of DVD sales, they will have to address many factors, all of which contribute to the challenges they are facing. There unfortunately does not seem to be only one simple solution.