ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Is Physical Media Doomed?

Updated on November 17, 2017

In April of 2015 FOX announced that they would no longer be releasing season sets of The Simpsons on DVD or Blu-ray. On the surface, this was FOX's way of saying that sales were down for home media, and Simpsons DVDs were no longer making enough money to justify their continued release. In reality, FOX was using The Simpsons as a test to see if the fan base that previously had purchased the DVDs would begin buying digital copies instead. If there was no significant spike in digital sales for Simpson seasons, then FOX could always go back to releasing the seasons on DVD.

Digital media is the latest version of a long time goal for studios. For the home video market to be rental only. Ever since the first movie theaters, motion pictures had always been a rental based business. Studios made their profits by leasing their movies to theaters, and later for television broadcasts. When VCRs were introduced, movie studios were dragged kicking and screaming into the home video market. If they themselves did not release their own movies on VHS, then some bootlegger would. Video rental shops emerged, but the studios did not share in those profits.

The studios invested in the development of be a video cassette that would erase the movie after five viewings. Unable to work the bugs out, the cassette was never put on the market. An erasable cassette would have meant coustomers would only have the movie for a short period of time, and need to purchase a new tape once the old one self erased. In the 90s the studios were at its again with a format called DivX. Movies would only cost $5, about a quarter that was being charged for the same movie on DVD. The catch, the DivX disk would not play without the access code, which meant the DviX player needed to be hooked up by modern to the internet so the studio could send the code. You got two to three free plays, after which from that point on the studio would charge you $5 for every additional viewing. A disc you owned, but needed to pay to watch. The service never caught on, thanks to stiff competition from DVD which allowed you to watch your movies as many times as you wanted.

With digital download, studios hope to replace physical media for good. Instead of owning a film, it would be rented. This time around the idea has caught on. An evolution from the video rental shops, via Blockbuster and Netflix, where rental today is over an internet connection instead of a treck to the local video store. Physical media owners see this as an acceptable alternative. They watched as their Betamax, VHS and/or laserdisc collections ended up cluttering their shelves, only for those formats to become obsolete, and once the players broke, the discs and cassettes become useless junk. And the occasional disc or cassette that oxidized or demagnetized on the shelf. Not mention the realization that most of the movies they bought over the years they only watched once.

But for many collectors of physical media, switching to rental is not an option. Rental has been an option since shops began renting video cassettes in the 80s. The reason why they all went through the extra expense of buying a movie was it was the only way to insure they could watch it whenever they wanted to. With rental shops, the tape could be out for rent by someone else, or had been lost or damage or sold by the shop. And how many rental shops we're opened 24 hours?

And before you can say "Digital and streaming is available 24 hours, and the movies are always available." let me remind you that the studio or anyone who owns any copyright for that movie can have it pulled. Much the same way Taylor Swift had her music removed from Spotify. It is quite possible the day you go to rent your favorite movie, it will no longer be available. Physical media insures that your favorite movie will be available for as long as your player continues to work, or until you are careless enough to damage the disc.

There is one thing that is undeniable. Sales for movies on DVD and Blu-ray are down, way down. Because of this, many stores have stopped selling movies altogether. But does this mean that Americans are turning to digital downloads? No really. A good chunk of sales have gone to eBay. Americans are still buying physical media, they are just buying it used. Studios only see money from media sold in stores, and not a cent from used media that is resold.

Also hitting sales are unscrupulous sellers who shrink wrap used discs and sell them as factory new. Not just on eBay, but Amazon has been accused of occasional delivering a used copy when a new copy was ordered. Even brick and mortar stores have been guilty of this. I have seen used box sets sold as new everywhere from Target to Barnes and Noble. Only a fraction of these are caught by consumers, as only some packaging is vulnerable to the wear and tear that gives away the box has been opened and handled. Much like the used DVDs sold on eBay, studios see no money from used discs sold as new. Who knows how many billions are lost to this fraud.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)