Saturday, February 23, 2008

Does VOD Suck? I Think Not

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A number of writers have suggested that Blu-Ray won't be made obsolete by VOD and downloads, for several reasons:

  • Only a few thousand movies are available electronically, while Netflix is said to have some 90,000 titles on DVD
  • It's too hard for most consumers to view VOD movies or downloads
  • Consumers want the commentaries and special features found on discs

While all of these arguments are true today, none of them will stand up for very long. Let's take them in order:

  • It's true that there are only a few thousand titles available on VOD today, but almost all of the major studios' releases are made available electronically. In addidion, only a small fraction of the total output of DVD titles will ever be released in Blu-Ray. The post-production, mastering and manufacturing costs are simply too high when compared with the available audience.
  • The user interfaces for some VOD and download systems are awful, but user interfaces can be fixed.
  • How many viewers really want commentaries and special features? Yesterday, I was at Target, looking at the DVD of "Michael Clayton." It had a commentary by the director/writer and two documentaries. Price: $16.99. I ended up watching "Michael Clayton" on Comcast VOD, in HD, for $5.99. It simply wasn't worth $11 more for special features that I most likely would never watch.

I have shelves full of DVDs that I've watched once, and will likely never watch again. Rather than make the same mistake with Blu-Ray, I'm perfectly happy to watch on VOD, and to perhaps buy the few films that I know that I'll want to watch over and over. Parents will undoubtedly want to buy movies for their kids to watch again and again, but why buy them in Blu-Ray when the kids will be perfectly happy with DVD?

In short. Blu-Ray is simply too late for the marketplace, and in my opinion, it will never be more than a niche product for the top end of the audience.

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