In Defense Of…Physical Media

Not everyone sees eye-to-eye. You might love something that’s reviled by most others. When we at PoP! feel like that, we make an argument In Defense of…

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Like most children of the Eighties, I have seen nearly every dominant home video medium come and go, from VHS to DVD to the current era of Blu-Rays and streaming online video. Many have speculated that the convenience and instant gratification provided by digital online content providers like Netflix and Hulu Plus will soon make all physical, disc-based video players obsolete, and many consumers have already abandoned DVDs and Blu-Rays in favor of streaming video. While Netflix and the like are without a doubt the dominant way in which we watch movies and back episodes of TV at home, I believe that there will always be at least some demand for physical media in the eyes of consumers.

While streaming video services offer a wide variety of viewing choices, there is still no site that offers everything that is currently available on disc. The amount of content offered by Netflix’s streaming service has grown considerably since its initial launch in 2007, and it currently offers a wide variety of films and programs for every age and taste range, but there are still a ton of films and TV shows that Netflix is not licensed to stream. These unavailable titles can still be seen via Netflix’s mail-order disc service, which thankfully they have not abandoned like some feared they would a few years ago. As the popularity of streaming has grown, countless rival services such as Hulu Plus, Fandor, HBOGo, and the Warner Archive have launched, each with their own exclusive content that they are licensed to stream, making the streaming market just as stratified and competitive as the heydey of pay-cable. With exclusive deals being signed with certain studios among these different streaming sites, those who want access to the highest amount of content possible will have to pay more and more in the coming years just to maintain the level of access that they already enjoy. Meanwhile, Netflix’s mail-order disc service remains a very affordable eight dollars a month and offers nearly every title that is readily available on disc.

The loss of DVDs and Blu-Rays may signal the loss of extra features such as the "Marvel One-Shot" shorts featured on the Blu-Ray editions of Marvel Studios films.

The loss of DVDs and Blu-Rays may signal the loss of extra features such as the “Marvel One-Shot” shorts featured on Blu-Ray editions of Marvel Studios films.

Another disadvantage to going all-streaming is the lack of permanence it provides. The massive catalog of films and TV shows available on Netflix Instant is constantly changing, with several titles being added and taken away on a regular basis. This could potentially put a lot of stress on a subscriber who has a large number of titles in their queue and make them wonder what they should watch next for fear that a title may be taken off the service before they have a chance to watch it, sometimes without warning. For those who want to actually possess copies of their favorite films that they can watch any time they want to, discs are still the best way to go, even though we now have the option of purchasing and downloading digital copies to our digital player of choice. Physical discs are simply a better value than downloading, especially when you factor in all the extra features included on the disc that supplement the feature. These added extras may not be of interest to everyone, but there are many film buffs that love having these extra features that enable them to learn more about the making of the movies they love. These features would potentially be lost forever if streaming completely eclipses physical media.

Physical media isn’t in any danger of going away any time soon, mostly due to the limitations that still exist with streaming. Even if the sales of DVDs and Blu-Rays have gone down recently, disc rental services like Redbox are still largely prevalent, while quality home video distributors like Criterion and Shout Factory continue to provide unique and highly sought after home video editions of countless movies and TV shows. Perhaps DVDs and Blu-Rays may one day leave the big box stores and will thereafter be sold in direct market specialty stores like comics currently are, but as long as there are people who want to actually possess copies of the movies and TV shows that they love, there will always be a demand for physical media, whatever the format.

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Who ARE these people!?

Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

Comments (2)

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  1. Let’s also not forget that streaming/digital just doesn’t look as good as blu-ray. Even the HD Netflix options can’t hold up against true 1080p HD. Physical media for life, homie.

  2. Matt H says:

    Also, having a friend or family member buy you a physical copy of a movie you really enjoy (or the first movie you saw as a couple, etc) means so much more than having them give you a code for a digital download.

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