It's done. Blu-ray has lost the war for the American living room.
According to Bloomberg News market research firm IHS Screen Digest says legal streaming viewings will more than double this year to 3.4 billion this year from 1.4 billion last year.
This is despite Blu-ray player prices tumbling from their nose-bleed levels 5 years ago to as low as $49. And hundreds of Blu-ray movies costing less than $10.
Convenience rules the American home
I moved late to CDs in the '90s because I bought albums, taped them, and listened to the cassette. Audio quality never declined, so I didn't think CDs had anything to offer.
But once I bought one it wasn't the sound quality that blew me away - it was the convenience. The small discs didn't need cleaning or protection from fingerprints. And no hand/eye coordination was needed to find a track.
DVDs killed VHS for convenience and picture quality. But Blu-ray added nothing except slightly better picture quality - if the remastering was done well.
Hollywood's traditional formula
Movies have been battling lower-cost and more convenient media every since TV reared its beady eye 60 years ago. TV used the 4:3 format, so movies went wide. TV was black and white, so movies went Technicolor. TV had monaural sound, so movies went stereo and then surround sound.
But now what? Consumers like me - 10' screen, surround sound - can have a very nice home theater experience for a couple of grand. With streaming from Netflix, Hulu and Vudu, I can sit in my leather recliner, fiddle with my remote and have a wide choice of great movies.
The other night: The Graduate. And I own the DVD!
The Storage Bits take
Picture quality just isn't the win that Hollywood hoped would drive Blu-ray sales. Effects heavy pictures benefit the most, but how many people re-watch those?
4k video is coming on faster than I expected, and that might be Hollywood's - and Blu-ray's - next opportunity to win back home theaters. America's sclerotic networks can't handle the higher bit rates, making optical media relevant again.
But they shouldn't bet on it, because resolution is simply not that important once you get to close to HD quality. Contrast, saturation and color accuracy are more important - and current technology is pretty good.
Hollywood CFOs went for short-term profits over long-term business development. The result: a nation now trained to stream lower-quality video over buying higher quality Blu-ray video. Cue violins.
Comments welcome, of course. Anyone want to buy 50 linear feet of shelving?