The inspiration for this post comes from Dan with his great post on The Grim Future of Video Rental Stores. Check it out, it’s a great read!
But his post got me thinking: If people continually stop going “out to get a rental“, or even purchase the film outright, what will happen to all present and future media, especially when the time comes for a new format war? Dan further asked a damn good question which was “will there be a need for a new format ten years from now?“. My answer is yes, and as a film fan I will take a guess at what the future of Home Media will look like…or one I’d be comfortable with anyway.
Sorry “Champ”, your days might be numbered…
With any media, the ability to store content is one of the deciding factors in its acceptance and resulting mainstay. It is true that BRD’s (vastly superior to DVDs) can hold a staggering 50GB but the more and more content/special features seem to be attractive yet intimidating. While I love Gladiator, I don’t really have a day and a half to invest and take it all in. The drawback to the new winner of the format war is that not very many films will use all that space. Sure it’ll be necessary for films like the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Back to the Future trilogies, but how much extra content do you really need for a title like Sleepless in Seattle anyway? So there are a great many titles that are making the jump to Blu Ray but is really overkill.
Blu Ray is an amazing technological leap to the future of home media, there’s no two ways about that. Yet the way I see it is that it is more of an improvement to a familiar system rather than a revolution. A revolution would adapt and cater to the way people live and use media. Technology is so abundant and that causes people to be more and more impatient. Since streaming content has picked up so much steam and favorable opinion, it looks to be so much closer to leading the marketplace in the years ahead. However as streaming has its advantages, there are still plenty of people not content to simply go “one way” with their media. Media should be dynamic and diverse…even if there is championing and campaigning for one format.
Think of it this way: You walk up to any person who has a physical collection of media (DVD/BRD, CD, Video Games) and ask them would they trade their copies in for a purely digital version of their library. It can be accessed anytime anywhere and from any device (portable or not) and they have unlimited access. While this does sound incredibly intriguing (even to my self shockingly) I bet a higher than expected number would resist or flat out decline the offer. The reason there being “tangibility”. I am a HUGE fan of Netflix and their Instant feature but I would be hard pressed to giving up my physical (and tenaciously acquired) library for a digital one. I mean, whats the point of owning every title in the world if you can’t actually grasp it?
And in this corner, the online challenger…
So while a purely streaming content based media (to me anyway) seems to stand in the way of people’s historically prone desire to own and posses tangible products would keep it from solely winning any future format war. So I started brainstorming about the future, the only thing I’ve thought to replace Blu Rays might be smaller discs (as joked about in Men in Black) or possibly some sort of preloaded (or refillable) flash drive that can be filled from something like Redbox or your computer via Amazon. The rentals will basically erase themselves like iTunes rentals and the ones you purchase are the ones you get to keep. You can then use it on your computer, your home Blu Ray player or whatever device can take a USB drive, making it very versatile.
Possible replacements in the future???
However, as attractive as these ideas might be, I also realize the drawbacks. Not long ago UMD movies were on retail shelves, but the small discs have not had staying power as evidenced by poor sales of UMDs on the PSP. So I bet that no manufacturer will want to go down that road again. As far as preloaded flash drives go, they are convenient but their size would lean to a higher tendency for them to be either lost or stolen. Also, if they are preloaded and read only with one title (and their special features) are people really going to want a library of USBs? The would end up being no sexier than cartridges for the NES…plus how do you store them? line up like dominos or on a giant USB key ring?
On the other hand I kind of like the idea of loading them yourself through an online or physical retailer. If you can buy an Ipod at an airport vending machine, how much of a stretch is it to imagine you could rent (like iTunes) or buy a title electronically and load it to your USB flash drive? But like my argument above, with the abundance of streaming media, you can cut out the middle man completely and get content right to your device via the also abundant WiFi connections.
Gone the way of the Dinosaur…
Technology (as it has been in the past) needs to be slick, attractive and enviable. BRDs are the hot technology and as the current standard for personal entertainment I think that’s where they’ll stay (unless they come up with something like Super HD at 2160p). But with humans being such a mobile species, everything now is quicker, faster and portable and we want our stuff work everywhere. From cellphones, to Ipods to Instant streaming of various content to portable devices, immediate gratification is almost expected as we are getting increasingly impatient. Due to that mentality, a large majority of physical and tangible products may become outmoded and archaic relics, no matter how slick, attractive enviable (even affordable) it may become.
No matter how abundant streaming is now and will become in the future, I bet people will still want something they can put their hands on. I predict that no “one format” will solely prevail but the exact percentage of how both will saturate and divide the public marketplace remains to be seen. It’ll be interesting I can tell you that much.
How about you at home (or anyone reading this on the go)? What do you imagine will the media of the future? Is it portable and steam oriented or home-based? Also, does anyone think we’ve peaked at Blu Ray?