Saturday, January 5, 2008

Downloads and Blu-Ray

This was first posted on the film ick Fightback on January 5th, 2008. Since film ick itself is currently offline and The Fightback only has three posts -- all by me -- I'm going to repost it here for the sake of preservation.

This is something I posted on another website in response to a) the suggestion that Blu-Ray will never be more than a niche format and b) the suggestion that digital downloads are the forseeable future.
You say that laserdisc didn't catch on, well, not only was technology, that exponential mover and shaker, exponentially more expensive back in the mid-'90s, but as we invent more gadgets and doo-dads your average Joe ends up with more technology in his house (computer, HDTV, DVR, DVD player, surround sound, iPod, digital camera, game system, projection screen, hi-def DVD, Sirius/XM/satellite, On Demand, whatever) than he did 15 years ago. Not to mention the fact that a laserdisc was the size of a vinyl -- time has shown that people like their technology conveniently sized.

With the digital signal change in February 2008 I think people are just looking to upgrade. Neighbor Bob goes over to Neighbor Dan's house and sees his brand new 50" crystal-clear LCD or plasma screen hooked up to DTS 6.1 and he runs out and gets one. Plus, both Joe and Bob's 20-something kids are twice as techno-savvy and they don't even need to see their neighbor's display to know they want an HDTV. Even if you don't have waves of people snapping these up yet, people know what they are, and if a TV breaks these days, why go for the diminishing selection of $200 25" tube TVs when you could drop $200 more and get something much nicer?

And if HDTV is the way of the future, then Blu-Ray is the next step. People buy an HDTV and they grab the TiVo and start watching the HD channels and then, lucky them, it turns out the game system the kids want is also an hi-def DVD player, and that's all it takes.

Now, sure, I don't see Blu-Ray stomping or even thumping on the SD-DVD behemoth. But to think that this format couldn't easily be ten times as big as it is now by the end of 2009, much less 2015, is ridiculous.

The thing about downloading is that the majority of the people who currently download movies just watch them once and delete them, not to mention the fact that they're probably pirates and want stuff for free. Sure, digital downloads could easily erase, say, the video-rental market in the forseeable future, but try to imagine a world where the Best Buys and Circuit Citys of the world don't carry physical media -- it just doesn't seem possible, and until we're in flying cars I don't think it's a real risk. If Blu-Ray, an easy-to-understand next-gen format that's basically like what we have and love but better, is not going to top SD-DVD, then how can we possibly suggest that digital downloading, a somewhat foreign non-format that easily alienates or disinterests potential users will somehow dwarf both SD-DVD and Blu-Ray, not to mention material media in general?