Media thrives on conflict. Hard to write a good story without the old push-pull. So when the video industry entered into its second civil war — HD DVD vs. Blu-ray — the consumer press and the trades had plenty of drama and metaphors to work with. Until last week, when Blu-ray accepted HD DVD’s surrender at Toshiba headquarters in Japan.
The media and tech bloggers wasted no time in bringing on the next threat to Blu-ray: downloading and streaming of movies and TV shows via the Internet. Perhaps the Blu-ray victory was hollow, some speculated.
Good story line, but way premature. Anyone with experience in watching movies and shows over the Net knows this remains early adopter territory.
A lot of progress in terms of consumer convenience has been made in the year since this blog launched, but we’re still (mostly) a forgiving core audience of teens, college students and tech hounds.
Two voices of reason popped up:
David Pogue, the talented home tech writer for the New York Times, tackled the subject of digital downloads on Thursday: “The Internet movie download era is more distant than pundits think, for four colossal reasons.” — limited broadband penetration; lack of extra features such as director’s commentaries, deleted scenes; audio and video quality; and the cluelessness of Hollywood.
“Today’s movie-download services bear the greasy policy fingerprints of the movie studio executives — and when it comes to the new age of digital movies, these people are not, ahem, known for their vision.
“For example, no matter which movie-download service you choose, you’ll find yourself facing the same confusing, ridiculous time limits for viewing. You have to start watching the movie you’ve rented within 30 days, and once you start, you have to finish it within 24 hours.
“Where’s the logic? They’ve got your money, so why should they care if you start watching on the 30th day or the 31st?”
He goes on to review the leading download/streaming services, such as Apple TV and Vudu.
The conclusion: “When competing with the humble DVD, Internet movie boxes do poorly on price, selection and viewing flexibility (that is, how much time you have to watch). Their sole DVD-smashing feature is the convenience; you get the movie right now.”
Duncan Riley of TechCrunch listed his reasons online video downloads are not about to kill Blu-ray:
- “Substantial generations have grown up with physical media, and this isn’t about to change tomorrow. … Like music, that is going to take at least 5-10 years.”
- “There are still people who prefer consuming video on their TV sets. … Until such time that Net or network-enabled devices become mainstream, TV and physical media will retain the upper hand.”
- “The days of cheap unlimited internet access in the United States may well be coming to an end as more and more download video and use P2P services. The low cost of bandwidth itself was a historical quirk that came about due to the first dot com bubble.”
I think Blu-rays should have a good decade of life left in them, with increasing consumer acceptance — unless the various compatibility issues between player makers and disc makers don’t get sorted out. (HD DVD had its issues, but it was clearly more “market ready” than Blu-ray.)
Watching movies on computers will always be a secondary pastime, so the providers of online video content had best use that decade to figure out how to get the Internet directly plugged into those TVs — with minimal hassle and maximum A/V quality.
Yeah, that’s one reason I own Apple stock.