DVDs are becoming less and less common, and big video rental stores are dying out. Is streaming really the better option?
Do you remember the days of visiting a video rental store on a weekend? How long would you spend browsing the huge range of titles, guessing how good the movie would be based on the cover?
With the demise of Blockbuster in 2013, the film rental culture looked as though it might die out. People continued to buy DVDs and Blu-ray discs, though the sales of physical media fell by 17% in the UK in 2016, compared to a 23% boost for digital streaming revenue.
With improving internet speeds and better streaming devices, will streaming overtake DVDs as the platform of choice for film viewing?
Let’s look at the battle between DVDs and streaming.
DVDs – The Pros and Cons
The DVD format is so easy to use. Unlike VHS tapes which could become tangled, or snap, the DVD is a durable “pop in and play” way to enjoy media.
And while it’s true that MP3s largely replaced CDs, the huge size of film files means people rarely store digital versions of them on their computers – so DVDs still have their place as a storage medium.
DVDs often boast a range of special features including “making of” featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary, outtakes, and exclusive interviews. Companies like Criterion and the Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series go a step further and include collectible artwork and other physical, tangible bonuses like booklets to turn the DVD into a whole package.
Blu-ray discs offer much better quality than streamed content, even content streamed in HD mode. DVDs offer lower picture and sound quality over the more modern Blu-ray, but they’re cheap and accessible for consumers. The affordability of the format means specialist distributors can make tiny releases available. Perhaps a niche film didn’t get a cinema release, but it still warrants a DVD release for interested fans.
If you’ve ever browsed the titles available on streaming sites, you’ll know physical DVDs offer a huge volume of titles in comparison. Once you buy the DVD, it’s yours, giving physical media a more reliable shelf-life. But you soon run into the problem of storage. Streaming eliminates the need to find space for all those DVDs.
Streaming Movies and TV – The Pros and Cons
Netflix seems to be a more recent phenomenon. But the company dates back to 1997. It started life as a DVD-by-mail service – much like LOVEFiLM, later bought by Amazon. Netflix only introduced streaming in 2008. By 2009, viewers could watch content through their XBox or Roku. Now, consumers can watch content through a range of smart devices, all controlled by a single app, like the SURE Universal remote.
The advantages of streaming are obvious. It’s easy to use, and the films don’t take up space on your hard drive. They also don’t take up space on your shelves or around your home.
Streaming is the perfect solution for a modern household, a traveler or college student, or someone who watches a movie once and moves on. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon now invest in creating original content of their own, and most of this content is surprisingly good – often with popular actors and actresses involved.
The downsides are equally, and sometimes painfully, obvious. Streaming requires a strong and stable internet connection. For those who have bandwidth caps, you may need to carefully monitor how much streaming you are doing each month.
You also don’t own the film as you do on DVD, and as some films come and go on streaming sites, you can’t always guarantee that a film will be available when you want to watch it.
That said, only diehard fans will be interested in the box art, booklets, and film extras that come with more expensive DVDs or Blu-ray discs. Streaming is still the cheaper option – if your internet connection is up to the task. For a small monthly subscription fee you get access to as many films as you can watch. Compare that to the finite number of films you get on DVD for a certain cost, and the financial value of streaming becomes clear.
Who Will Win the Battle?
It comes down to personal preference and available technology. In rural areas with poor internet speeds, DVDs are the logical choice. But as streaming services expand into new territories, and build their catalogue of available titles, urban consumers have a more difficult decision.
But don’t write off DVDs or Blu-rays just yet. Digital downloads killed off the CD market but vinyl still made a surprising comeback. Who knows what will happen in the film market?
Over to you – do you prefer DVDs or streaming?