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Why Physical Media Will Never Die

While Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other video-streaming services have grown exponentially in popularity throughout the last decade, they have failed to kill the DVD and Blu-ray markets. Despite their ease of access, they fail in ways which physical media have not and never will. I would like to take a moment and discuss the reasons why physical media will never die, even in the face of digital content streaming.

Audio/Visual Quality

When it comes to digital content streaming, there is typically some loss in terms of quality. This is based upon the service used, the amount one pays, and internet connection quality. While you certainly can stream HD content, it is less reliable than what one will receive from a Blu-ray disc. This is even more true when it comes to 4K content, as it requires phenomenal download speeds to acquire beautiful, seamless 4K video over the internet. Physical media, on the other hand, is capable of pulling off incredible visuals with little effort; the advent of 4K and 3D movies has proven that, as they are limited almost entirely to Blu-ray discs outside of few exceptions.

Streaming is notoriously harsh when it comes to audio quality. Even dedicated music-streaming services such as Spotify struggle with this problem, and while some services have found ways to get around some limitations, the general rule is this: digital audio quality is lower than that of physical, and streaming audio quality is lower than that seen on, say, a CD or vinyl. A part of this is the 'bitrate' of an audio track, or the amount of data stored in a single second of its file. The higher this number is, the better audio quality one will receive; in most digital audio files, the bitrate is 256 kbps (kilobits per second), while Dolby TrueHD has a maximum possible bitrate of 18 mbps (megabytes per second). While most audio tracks will never reach that lofty of a goal, the audio bitrate from Blu-ray discs has the potential to be a whopping seventy times higher than that seen through most streaming services.

 

Building a Collection

Collectors will also never fully move to digital content, much less that seen on streaming services. Companies often sell 'collector's editions', which might include special boxes, bonus merchandise for fans, special features, or other unique bonuses that are pertinent to fans. These are quite popular, particularly for television shows and films with dedicated fan-bases. As an example, the "Middle-Earth Collector's Edition" contains 30 Blu-ray discs which contain the entire Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, dozens of hours of bonus content, extended, and cut scenes. This collection also contains digital downloads of each film, a unique box which presents the discs in the form of books, an art book containing sketches and concept art for the film, and more. While pricey, this is a must-have for fans of The Lord of the Rings and as such will continue to sell; streaming might be convenient, but it will never replace the sorts of bonuses seen in this example.

 

Ownership

Finally, it is crucial to note what is perhaps the largest advantage of physical media over streaming services: not everything is available through streaming. There is a massive amount of content in the world which has not, and likely never will, be present on a major streaming platform. Even worse, the shows that you enjoy today might be removed at any time! On their website, Netflix writes:

"Netflix licenses TV shows and movies from studios and content providers around the world, and those licenses can expire if we don't renew them."

Netflix asserts that they check to see if the rights are still available, analyze a show's popularity and cost, then discern any seasonal or localized factors which might be relevant. These explain how Netflix, among other streaming services, lose content that you might be a fan of. Popular content is not safe from this either, as their removal of Doctor Who in 2018 will show that even significant shows might end up nonrenewable. This is where Blu-rays and DVDs can come into play; fans of TV shows and movies will always want to have a permanent way through which to watch their favorites, and streaming is an unreliable means through which to do so. When using a streaming service, you naturally do not *own* that video; even purchased digital versions of films have this issue. What would happen if you lost hundreds of dollars worth of films due to Vudu going out of business? This is an extreme example, of course, but serves to illustrate the shortfalls of digital content. Plus, Blu-rays typically contain digital copies of their content in question- this is normally free and serves as an additional bonus to purchasing a physical copy.

 

Physical Media Will Never Die

Digital media downloads and content streaming are obviously not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, and they do serve as wonderful supplemental forms of entertainment. Having a wealth of content at your fingertips, ready to stream at any time, is a uniquely contemporary idea and will continue to grow in coming years. Physical media will never be left behind, despite this new technology. Collectors and fans will always want to purchase their favorite films and shows, whether it be for the unique bonuses, security, consistency, or quality found only in physical media. I, for one, am excited to see what the future holds for physical media.

Shop for region free Blu-ray and DVD players today, and recall just how amazing it can be to own your own movies and television shows!

-The 220 Electronics Team