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The Battle between On-Demand, Cinema and Blu-ray

blu-ray-logoWith all the new video and movie viewing options provided by the Internet, many people are wondering and predicting which one will “win”. For example, there’s the British Film Institute report reporting that on-demand viewing was up 50% last year (as of June 2013). This has led to many theorizing that people will no longer be going to the cinema. And others are claiming it means the death of DVD’s or Blu-ray discs.

But what are the chances of one format winning out over the other? If you look at the big picture industry data on our entertainment choices (when it comes to movies in particular) it’s fairly clear that we like to have our choices.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, at-home and on-the-go viewing is up 21 percent. But the cinema market grew by three percent over the same time period. The rate of growth is different, but both are still increasing.

And what about DVD and Blu-ray? Many experts agree that cinema can survive alongside digital delivery of movies. But they also agree that physical media, DVD and Blu-ray, will decline and eventually be phased out like VHS.

Again, if we look at the overall landscape of where the Internet is going, the increases in mobile accessibility, and changes to technology … it isn’t a foregone conclusion that physical media is on its way out.

Here’s our assessment of why all three will continue to thrive.

Video streaming at home and to mobile devices will continue to grow because:

  • Both Broadband and mobile coverage is increasing. Government and private initiatives around the world are ensuring populated areas will have access.
  • Bandwidth is increasing as well. Samsung has already tested the 5G network it plans to launch in 2020. It claims to support download speeds of 10 Gbps – that means you can download one of today’s HD movies in less than one second.
  • As technology advances and the consumer base grows, prices for devices will drop meaning more consumers using the devices for viewing. More customers means more offerings from more companies.

Cinema will continue to grow (assuming the movies are worth seeing!):

  • Cinemas offer experiences you can’t get at home. 3D viewing on the big screen, immersive experiences, and of course first runs at movies. As long as popular movies are released first at the cinema then people will flock to see them.

DVD’s, Blu-ray, and beyond

  • DVD’s may indeed phase out but that is because Blu-ray has finally caught on.
  • But Blu-ray appears here to stay. “Despite the dire predictions about internet distribution making physical media obsolete, Blu-ray has thrived,” says Andy Parsons, BDA president in an article on TechHive. Sales are up over 21 percent this year. This reflects the fact people just like to own their own stuff. With a streaming service the content comes and goes. Your favorite movie today may disappear tomorrow.
  • There will always be rural, remote areas that are just not cost effective for private industry to provide coverage. Governments may still mandate the coverage, but how long that will take no one knows. In the meantime, people in those areas may rely on Blu-ray.
  • Blu-ray gets better. At the 2013 consumer electronics show (CES) in the U.S. manufacturers were showing off their 4k (or Ultra HD) TV sets. The new standard offers a resolution 4 times better than today’s HD. Looking ahead, some TV shows and movies are already being filmed in 8k (16 times higher resolution than standard HD). The Blu-ray standard is investigating how to evolve to meet the new standard – and there’s no reason to think that it can’t. But the file size of a 4k is much larger too. No one knows exactly, but the bitrate needed to stream a 4k movie is estimated to be around 20-30 Mbps. One two hour movie will likely be tens of gigabytes – easily exceeding most data plans today. So until there’s a way to efficiently stream that much data to limited Internet connections or mobile devices, the physical media will stick around.

So it’s likely that all forms will be used for a long time. But when it comes to anything based on technology, the one thing we can say for sure is that anything can happen. One new invention or application can change everything. Do you have any predictions for the future of films and how we’ll watch?

Oliver Burt

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