Blu-ray: death by streaming

Blu-ray: death by streaming

Summary: The studios - and Sony - have lost their Blu-ray bet: streaming has won the war for consumer's hearts and minds.

TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware

The Blu-ray gamble has failed: streaming has won the war for consumer's hearts and minds. Blu-ray will limp along, but the action is in streaming.

The news this week: DVD/Blu-ray sales down 20% from the year ago quarter. Yes, Blu-ray sales were up 10%, but the larger dynamic is that people prefer to stream video rather than buy - or rent - optical media.

In the meantime, Netflix has seen its business soar, and become the largest single consumer of Internet bandwidth in the US. According to Sandvine:

In North America, Netflix is now 29.7% of peak downstream traffic and has become the largest source of Internet traffic overall. Currently, Real-Time Entertainment applications consume 49.2% of peak aggregate traffic, up from 29.5% in 2009 – a 60% increase. Sandvine forecasts that the Real-Time Entertainment category will represent 55-60% of peak aggregate traffic by the end of 2011.

Translation: consumers want what they want and they want it NOW! Note that streaming is growing fast even as Blu-ray player penetration is still creeping up.

But streaming quality sucks! Compared to Blu-ray streaming video looks terrible. But if you like what you are watching, who cares?

As Philip Kortum, psych prof at Rice and co-author of the study "The Effect of Content Desirability on Subjective Video Quality Ratings" put it:

If you're at home watching and enjoying a movie, we found that you're probably not going to notice or even concern yourself with how many pixels the video is or if the data is being compressed. This strong relationship holds across a wide range of encoding levels and movie content when that content is viewed under longer and more naturalistic viewing conditions.

Blu-ray's window of opportunity has slammed shut.

The Storage Bits take As I warned almost 3 years ago:

The question the studios need to ask is: “do we want to be selling disks in 5 years?” No? Then keep it up. Turn distribution over to your very good friends at Comcast, Apple and Time Warner.

Oh, and Netflix.

I love movies and have collected over 1,200 DVD and Blu-ray disks to watch on a 10 foot screen with 5.1 DTS - when I can get it - audio. But even I am often seduced by the convenience and selection of Netflix online.

I still prefer physical media if it doesn't cost too much, because then I can watch movies on my notebook, iPad or iPhone. So I don't expect or want disks to disappear.

But Hollywood and Sony brought this on themselves. They overestimated the importance of video quality and the price people were willing to pay. And underestimated how popular streaming video would become.

My larger concern is whether Blu-ray will succeed as a writeable data storage medium for home and business use. Prices are coming down - I'm planning to buy a burner when prices drop below $100 and media below $1 - so I'm hopeful.

Comments welcome, of course. "Remember Betamax? SACD? Minidisk? Laser Disk? DVD-Audio? There are more losers than winners in consumer storage formats."

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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  • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

    it depends on the content. to just watch any old movie on Netflix, streaming is fine and we watch a lot of Netflix streaming. But for a great movie I really want to see, it's gotta be BluRay. But give it time and streamign quality will match and then pass BluRay.
    • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

      @pauln@... Most people don't care including myself. The hi-def streams are good enough to make the convenience more important than the quality. Yeah I can occasionally see compression artifact, but it doesn't bother me. This should have been an obvious outcome. Just look at the audio situation as a corollary. Most people are happy enough with mp3s. DVD-A died on the vine.
      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        So basically you like taking a step back to the 70's in a way when Cable wasn't in 99.9% of the market and we used directional antennas to recieve OTA broadcasts. Or when you go to a swap meet and find copy of Star Wars on VHS that has been played 1000 times, do you get the Zenith down from the attic to watch it?

        Most people are idiots then would be the key factor in your first sentence. Now I may agree with that, but don't put me into the group that doesn't care about what my 2,000 dollar worth of HDTV Satellite PS3... displays.

        The only time I don't care about the quaility is when it is FREE or cheap enough to use the "You get what you pay for." phrase. Reason why netflix is 8 bucks a month for streamin is probably due to the lack of enough idiots that would pay 9.

        I do see that by 2020 this quality difference will be a moot point but you will still have bandwidth caps, download limits and 15 things not yet invented clogging up the works.
      • Remember how bloggers always moaned how Macintoshes were "lacking" without

        @pdskep: ... BlueRay support?

        As it <b>systematically</b> turns out, Steven Jobs was right, and bloggers were wrong.
      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        @dbisse@...<br>No what I'm saying is there is a cost/benefit ratio to the decision. The picture quality is good enough for most people. BTW, your hyperbolic comments are ridiculous if not entertaining. Just because some people are not desperate for the highest quality picture doesn't make them idiots. My HD streaming quality is very good. Better than upscaling DVD and only slightly worse than Blu-Ray. So yes, for me it's worth it. If it's a movie I do care about, I will buy the disc.
      • I guess MS was right too

        since they decide not to nativelly support Blu-Ray in Windows, either
        Will Pharaoh
      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        @ Will Pharaoh: Windows Vista SP2 supports blu-ray out of the box. I imagine Windows 7 does too.
      • bradavon, is doesn't

        That was pulled from Win7 due to licensing costs (Sony wanted too much for something who's future wasn't garanteed).

        When you buy a Blu-Ray drive you need to purchase software to go along with it to watch blu-ray disks, as the drive comes with te minimum free software to do so in most cases.
        Will Pharaoh
      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        @pdskep: Yes, indeed. But the phenomenon is older than our digital age. In the early 70's my sister toted her teeny and very tinny sounding AM radio around to listen to music and utterly refused to use my larger, but vastly superior sound quality FM radio because "It's too big". The same attitude applied to her tiny 45 RPM record player in a lunch box compared to my cassette playing (not quite a) boom box. Whenever I dwell on my Quest for Quality, I am reminded of her convenience-and-style-over-quality attitude. My gransmother related to me similar stories from her childhood along similar lines and that was years before FM radio was even conceived of.
      • People are stupid.

        We have very high-quality image- and sound-reproduction equipment available at relatively low cost. But NOTHING TO PLAY ON IT.<br><br>People are literally cheering the return to VHS quality, and railing AGAINST movie theaters. With physical media dying and being replaced by garbage-quality compressed hash, there is no way to see high-quality images anymore.<br><br>How does anyone not understand what a monumental loss this is? The comments about "I don't need to see rom-coms in high def" are stupid. Do you think anyone is going to maintain high-quality projection systems and venues for 10% of the movies that are issued? Do you think a giant building is just going to be mothballed until a movie comes out that YOU deem worthy of high quality?<br><br>No. That theater will be torn down, and there will be NO place to see a "spectacular" movie. And why would a director or cinematographer continue to pursue his craft when there's no way to properly display it?<br><br>THINK IT THROUGH.
      • Message has been deleted.

      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        @dgurney<br><br>i have a screen and projector in my home that rivals the theater, with much less crowding and much more comfortable seating, and i put it together 3 years ago for under $2000... if i see a movie come out that i feel warrants the hi quality experience, i'll buy the disc. (did for the LotR trilogy).<br><br>while i can't say i have a 25 meter screen, i also don't need to be 35 meters away from it to see the entire screen either. <br><br>i did the various calculations for size vs range to get the same viewing experience i would in a theater in my home, the only "downside" i have found to doing this is that i can't host nearly as many people as the theater hosts. i can only comfortably seat 15-20 people without having people out of the "optimum viewing area". on the up side, i have a much better selection of snacks, much more control over when the film starts and ends, more comfortable accommodations, etc...<br><br>with the price of the equipment continuing to fall, i expect this will become more the norm. streaming is fine for more people, and the quality of the streams will continue to improve, but said quality is not a factor for most people and never has been.<br><br>on average, the human eye is not capable of telling the difference between DVD quality and BluRay quality under "normal" (for the test results i read, also a few years ago) viewing experiences. streaming quality was ranked above VHS quality, but below DVD/BluRay quality.<br><br>yes you can get equipment that can display the difference, and have bragging rights for it, but that doesn't mean your eyes can actually perceive the difference. i know for a fact mine can't. (color-blind, astigmatism, and nearsighted). however, i've also played back a DVD and a BluRay of the same movie, both with 5.1 sound enabled, and asked which had better video and audio quality. shuffling the order of the clips i played back, neither BluRay nor DVD was reliably selected as "higher quality". now, if i had the 25 meter screen and had people examine a very small section of the projection up close for compression artifacting (DVD and BluRay both use compression) i'm sure under that analysis, BluRay would win. but that isn't normal viewing of movies.

        perhaps the conventional movie theaters are dying... they would not be the first "casualty" of progress. now it is almost impossible to find good quality hand made furniture for general availability... building furniture was once a widespread trade. i have no doubt that streaming quality will eventually surpass even BluRay's quality as research into better compression algorithms continues. this is a growing pain of the industry, not a funeral for quality
      • Message has been deleted.

      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        to erik.soderquist:

        what projector are you using? did you really say "i have a screen and projector in my home that rivals the theater" and also say "i've played back a DVD and a BluRay of the same movie, and shuffling the order of the clips i played back, neither BluRay nor DVD was reliably selected as higher quality"? because if the second statement is true, the first most definitely is not.

        Blue Laine-Beveridge
      • Excuse me?

        Someone makes a <i>preposterous</i> claim that the failure of Blu-Ray will lead to the death of movie theatres, and I respond "don't be ridiculous".

        <i>How on Earth is that grounds for deletion?</i>

        Consider that movies can be captured from 35mm film and scanned at either 2048x1556 or 4096x2160 resolution for digital projection, and then compare that to Blu-Ray's 1920x1080 resolution, and you'll realize that Blu-Ray is already obsolete as far as "ultra high quality" images go. And it hasn't even caught up with 35mm film quality!

        Movie theatres are <b>not</b> going to disappear.
      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        @pdskep I tend to agree with this.. Most people don't care enough to make the switch. I know I fall into that category.
        <a href="">barska scopes</a>
      • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

        This was very insightful and I really enjoyed reading it.
        <H1><a href="">Pittsburgh Chiropractor</a></H1>
    • I just buy HD content online, skip the need for a Blu-Ray player

      which is also hitting sales of players, not just streaming alone.
      Will Pharaoh
      • That's not HD.

        Anyone can slap the "HD" label on anything. It's meaningless. Just look at the compressed garbage being touted as HD.
    • RE: Blu-ray: death by streaming

      Agree: '50s film noir looks great streaming, but Hollywood blockbusters with quality special effects - think Avatar or Inception - deserve Blu-ray. But they are the exception, not the rule. Rom-coms in Blu-ray? Not worth a premium.

      Robin Harris