The Death of the DVD

If you came of age in the days when you might have had 8 or 9 channels that you received on your television, before cable and VHS, you remember that if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to see it in a cinema or wait for it to be rebroadcast. Sometimes, the rebroadcast of a film would be a major television event, as always seemed to be the case in the early 70’s when The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind were shown.

In the 1980’s, VHS tapes became commonplace. No longer were we limited by the whim of television programmers. We could purchase movies for a reasonable price and watch them whenever we wished. We could even rent movies for an even cheaper price, watch them and return them. We could control our own programming.

Fast forward ahead to the mid-1990’s when DVD technology began to bring digital film to our homes. DVDs could hold even more content that VHS tapes and the quality was significantly better. We were soon able to purchase entire television seasons and control when and where we watched our favorite TV shows. It was suddenly possible to watch television shows without commercials.

Not surprisingly, Americans and people the world over quickly adopted and embraced DVD technology. Millions and millions of DVDs have been sold over the past decade-plus. DVD players are now almost standard features in many models of automobile that are currently being sold.

Now we are approaching Christmas, Chanukah, and other yearend holidays. Gifts will be purchased and many DVDs will be among them. Unfortunately, the day of the DVD is drawing to a close and DVD recipients will soon find themselves with DVDs that they probably will not be using.

I have been tracking the demise of the DVD for the past several years. In 1984, I began my conversion from the long playing record (LP) to compact disc. Over the ensuing decade, I eventually found ways to eliminate several thousand LPs from my collection, only to add a thousand CDs. As I wrote in Five Legal Music Sites that can Save Money, I began the conversion from CD to digital download about a year ago.

All of these conversions, both those in my past and those that I anticipated, caused me several years ago to stop buying most DVDs. I knew that my DVD viewing days were numbered. I just did not know when the end would come. Now I know that the end is coming.

I have watched my local video store (a prominent national chain) change its layout several times over the past few years. My video store now carries video games – a logical synergy with DVDs. About 20% of my local video store is given over to video games.

My local video store is also reorganizing its display racks because it is significantly increasing its sale of electronics. Moreover, by this time next year, the store’s clerks anticipate that they will have an equal number of Blue Ray discs as they do DVDs. My neighborhood video store clerks also told me that Video store is planning to eventually role out download stations in each of its stores.

This all spells the end of DVD to me. By Christmas of 2009, my local video store will be carrying DVDs in only 25 to 30% of its store. The rest will be Blue Ray, video games, electronics and maybe even download stations. Over time, I think it is inevitable that the space allocated to DVD will get smaller and smaller. Whether it is 2011 or 2012 or a bit later, I know that all of my DVDs will be nothing but useless clutter because I will have moved on to digitally downloaded movies. Or maybe I will finally get some sense, and stop buying or even renting movies in any format. With about 200 satellite TV channels, there must be something that I can find to watch on TV…

What do you think? Is it foolish to buy DVDs this holiday season? Are we about to see the end of DVD as a dominant entertainment media? Given the rapidity of technological change, is it ever a good idea to invest in a library of movies in any medium?

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22 Responses to The Death of the DVD

  1. shraz says:

    Blu-ray won’t last too long either. Next step is HD download online or maybe stores will sell movies on a SD 😀

  2. Jay Gatsby says:

    I agree with Shraz. Eventually everything will be available by download, and after that, things will be stored “in the cloud” for subsequent viewing. Despite the resistance of the cable and satellite companies, you will eventually have “a la carte” programming that you can purchase and pay a fee for a set amount of storage space every month (probably in the 1-2 terabyte range as storage becomes cheaper).

  3. disneysteve says:

    I agree that downloading the where things are heading, but I don’t think DVDs are dead yet. Even after a format all but dies, everyone who has it still gets to use what they have. We still play VHS tapes. We still play CDs. If we had a working turntable, we would still play our LP records (I plan to buy a turntable one of these days).

    Also, DVDs tend to come packed full of bonus features that you don’t get when you stream the movie from Netflix or download it from some other source or view it on cable.

  4. Monkey Mama says:

    My husband has a large DVD collection and is working on the Blu Ray but it just isn’t something he spends a lot on. So, eh. He waits for sales, he asks for them as gifts.

    & of course, will still use our DVDs for a long while anyway. (as we do our CDs).

    VHS? Eh. The jump from VHS to DVD was AMAZING. I don’t think Blu Ray is on that same scale. IT’s not such a giant leap that everyone will leave their DVDs behind. (I can’t remember the last time we watched a VHS, on the other hand. My dh boycotted VHS around 1995. He doesn’t have that same disdain for DVD – yes he is quite the video snob).

    & yes, of course, there will be something else tomorrow.

  5. ThiNg says:

    I think you guys got suckered by the ‘hype’. This is advertising and marketing at it’s best. The DVD is just one item in a long list of never ending ‘must have’ technologies. You do not need a DVD to enjoy a movie, you don’t need a Super Audio DVD to enjoy music. Soon your Blue Rays and HD downloads will be nothing compared to holographic movies or Organic LED screens that can ‘wrap’ around you to place you right in the movie.

    The key is to buy something and then use it for it’s full value. The $400 James Bond Steel case collectors edition box set, which you watch each movie once (if at all), is a giant waste of money. You got ripped off. But, if you buy a $8.99 used copy of ‘Sernity’ and watch it 200 times, then you got more than your money’s worth.

    I use this simple calculation, take the cost of the item you are buying and calculate the amount of time you have to work to earn that amount. Make $10 an hour? Then the $20 DVD is worth about 2 1/2 hours of work. Now double the amount of time, because doing the work is harder (you have to get to work, you have to suffer with your boss,etc.). So 5 hours of value needed for the DVD you just bought. Watch the DVD once and add it to your collection (I know people who don’t even watch the movies they buy – just to add it to their collections) and you LOSE. You wasted 5 hours of value on 1 hour and 38 minutes of ‘entertainment’.

    Don’t convert your existing items into the next new technology. Buy a couple of extra DVD players while they are cheap and store them in the box ready to go. Then watch your DVD collection for the next 20 years. Makes all the money you spent on the DVDs worthwhile! Now excuse me while I change the CD in my portable CD player…

  6. ~Dawn says:

    I’m with disneysteve … DVD’s have atleast another 5-10 years left –
    When thrift stores start carrying dvd’s only and not hiding them behind the glass, then I will know that dvds are dead.

  7. Andrew says:

    ThiNg, if you really want to find the cost, then doubling your “working time” required to pay off the DVD reflects your working for the pre-tax money, but spending the after-tax money. For every 2 dollars you earn, you only take about 1 dollar after taxes. Add extra for the greivances/suffering you mentioned, and you have to really really like that movie to spring for the DVD…

  8. Max says:

    With a few notable exceptions, I’ve always thought it was a dumb idea to collect movies on VHS, DVD, HDDVD, Blu-Ray … Those exceptions being kids’ movies/cartoons and timeless movies like “The Godfather”, “Gladiator”, etc. Even back in the early days of VHS I’ve noticed that my Dad would spend all this time copying movies from borrowed tapes only to neatly organize those tapes on the shelf and never watch those movies again … maybe let a friend borrow the tape only to never see that tape again.

    Movies, unlike music or books, is disposable entertainment … you watch ’em once, you move on. With the exception of half a dozen movies, I believe that if you find yourself re-watching your DVD collection, you need to seriously re-examine how you’re spending your time.

  9. An Old Feller says:

    “If you came of age in the days when you might have had 8 or 9 channels that you received on your television…”

    Geez, you make me feel old. I remember when you got 2 channels and possibly a 3rd one if Dad got up on the porch roof and turned the attenna pole while one of us kids hollered through an open window whether the picture was clearing up or not. And that was strictly in black and white, also!

  10. NtrV says:

    Ok, allow me to preface my reply with this: I am the sole supporter for my family of four (myself, my wife, and my two sons, who are one and two years old).

    I work for the local cable company, and I don’t even have cable TV. I have internet, yes, but it’s only a free wi-fi connection, because I live in an HOA area that broadcasts to their members. My wife and I have cell phones, no land lines for us. My wife loves music and most TV programs and movies bore the heck out of her. Music bores me these days, TV and movies keep me going, but I watch them all late night as I am trying to unwind after the family is asleep.

    My two sons watch TV most of their day — believe it or not, PBS and all sorts of other educational programming. My two year old, before he was two, could say his alphabet in it’s entirety, now he just brings you the foam letters in any order and tells you what they are. He then proceeds to count to 23 unassisted. I got a smart one here…then there is my one year old, who speaks with perfect clarity — when he is asleep. When he is awake, it is Sesame Street and Elmo and Blues Clues, and a host of other great child friendly shows.

    I know exactly what the last VHS cassette I watched was: Sesame Street — Alphabet Jungle, Sing Along Silly Songs volumes one and two, Learning about letters, Elmocise, Elmo says BOO, and a slew of others…lol…

    Like so many others who grew up in the 80’s, I collected quite the sizable VHS and audio cassette (tape) collection.

    Then I blinked.

    CDs were in, tapes were out, cassette singles that costed one dollar were now three, and the albums went from ten dollars to fifteen, the electronic age was fast approaching, and truth be told, it wasn’t until near the end of 1997 that I finally broke down and bought my first CD player.

    Ok, the quality of the music was better, but the stability of the product was almost non-existent. I stuck to tapes for the car, and CDs for source audio to record from…until vehicular cassette players also became so obsolete that they became leprous in their very nature just by being…

    My VHS collection started turning into a DVD collection around the year 2000. I used to buy every movie that I ever liked or saw on DVD, and I had a collection of ruffly 600 DVDs.

    Then people would visit my home and I would not notice movies were missing until much later when I went to look for them.

    I began to recall one of my favorite lines from the movie FIGHT CLUB: “The things you own end up owning you…”

    I began selling my DVDs off and just giving them away after I started thinking about that.

    I am not a fan of blue ray or HD, and could care less if I ever have an HD or blue ray disc player.

    I have begun digitizing my DVD collection for my viewing pleasure on my laptop when ever I so choose to view them, and I feel that I need to get rid of the physical DVDs and stop concerning myself with what ifs and idle time.

    I try to learn something new every day, today was a good day, I learned many things.

    So my point in this madness of a post is that ages come and ages go, it’s just what you do with your time that matters. Strive to learn something new every day, and when you learn many things all in the same day, then it is a good day. If you fail to learn something new today, then tomorrow is just ahead, try again tomorrow…

  11. disneysteve says:

    NtrV mentions digitizing his DVD collection. As computer memory has gotten cheaper and cheaper, that is a great option now. Best Buy sold a 1 TERAbyte external drive this week for $149.99. You can store quite a few movies on a drive that size. Rather than buying DVDs, just download movies or rent and copy them to view whenever you’d like.

  12. David G. Mitchell says:

    DisneySteve — Copying a rented or borrowed DVD is piracy (copyright infringement). That steals from the owner of the copyright to the film that is copied. None of us should be doing that, just as we should not be copying music CDs that are borrowed.

  13. disneysteve says:

    You’re correct, David. Copying is out. Sorry for suggesting that. Downloading through legal means and storing electronically, though, is fine. That way the movies don’t take up a ton of space and you can watch them whenever (and wherever if you have a laptop) you wish.

    I think that’s where things will go in the not too distant future. Pay for the download through Netflix or Amazon and have the digital file rather than the physical disc.

  14. Ann says:

    I’ve been called a luddite and I’m basically proud of it. LOL

    I don’t run out to get the latest electronics — to me it’s a waste of money. I have an old fashioned tv with a digital converter box ’cause I’m not interested in being able to get 500 channels. Built into my tv are slots for playing both dvd’s and vhs tapes and I have quite a few of both.

    I like old movies and kids movies and certain current movies. I stick one in and sit in my most comfortable chair, work on something with my hands and glance at the screen periodically. Let’s face it, there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of good shows out there anywhere these days and this works for me.

    I’m seeing that things are changing, but I’m in no rush to run out to buy something to play Blu Ray or get into downloading a bunch of stuff. I’m happy to sit back and see where things lead. When the dust settles and I want to replace what I have, I will but I see no advantage and a lot of unnecessary expense in jumping on the latest bandwagon.

    I’ve lived long enough to see a LOT of technical changes. Even the ones that last tend to be up to 10 times as expensive when they first come out as they are 2-3 years later. I was raised to respect money. If something is going to save me time, which I find precious, it’s worth the high cost, but for entertainment? I don’t think so.

  15. Pat MaGroine says:

    I think all of you have waaaaaay too much time on your hands!
    Why are you worrying about things that don’t even really matter at all?

    There are so many other things such as the homeless, corrupt government, rising prices, forclosures, real estate, crime, and so many other things that REALLY matter where you should be devoting your time and energy!

    Me thinks there are yuppies in this place….(shiver!)

  16. Cindy M says:

    I agree with #15. I do have a small collection of VHS tapes and DVD’s that are years old. Right now I could care less about any of them, how many times can you watch a movie, yikes, how depressing. No cable TV for years, don’t even care about collecting or buying any more of this junk, music included. Too many good freebies you can catch on the net, why pay for any of it or clutter your space with collections? Guess it’s my age. My thing these days is catching a newer free movie on the internet in what spare time I have, and most of those are frankly not worth watching. is wonderful for this purpose and will save ya lots of bucks. Folks with kids ought to check out free entertainment in your communities and quit blowing your hard-earned bucks on stuff not worth watching. When I babysit with the nephews, we’re up off our butts doing something. They love the attention.

  17. Jen says:

    I agree that Blu-Ray won’t last too long and that DVDs are on their way out. I agree that you don’t have to buy every movie you like.

    But I do like to watch some movies and TV shows over and over again. These purchases have saved me money over time. (I used to rent Absolutely Fabulous so many times before I bought it!)

    And they have given me joy. When I’m feeling blue, I enjoy popping in a Friends or Gilmore Girls DVD to lighten my mood. On the holidays, I enjoy watching my favorite holiday movies with my family, at the time we choose and without commericals. (Home for the Holidays is a Thanksgiving favorite, and Elf is my Christmas obsession.)

    Finally, these DVDs that I enjoy so much are something I can share with my future children, much as I would share a beloved book.

    That is worth the $5-$20 price tag to me. Your mileage may vary.

  18. disneysteve says:

    Cindy, as noted earlier, we really shouldn’t be touting illegal activities. I mentioned copying DVDs which is technically illegal. The site you mention is also an illegal downloading site. I’m sure plenty use it but it isn’t legal. A few years ago they cracked down on illegal music downloading. I’m sure the next crackdown will be on illegal movie downloading from sites like that.

  19. NtrV says:

    I don’t illegally copy movies, music, or download anything that I shouldn’t. What I was referring to was copying my own store bought movies and watching the copies instead of the originals, so that the originals stay in mint condition.

    Further, I have little interest in music these days, I listen to the news and talk radio when I am driving. My wife listens to the radio when she drives, and while she is home cleaning. Otherwise, the radio is not a big deal to us.

    As for the VHS collection, I think I can legally copy my VHS cassettes to my hard drive and then create chapters and such, so that I can skip around through the DVD or choose the scene selections.

    I just do not want to get rid of my VHS cassettes because I have so many good ones that I could never find on DVD, be it at Amazon or Best Buy. I had to have some specially ordered by Block Buster years ago, because they were so old that they had to be found in a warehouse some where…

    Like I said, I do not feel like getting rid of those, but I would not mind digitizing them, just so that they could still be watched, and would take up considerably less space.

  20. Lisa says:

    I don’t buy or rent anymore. I use the library. I have bought at yard sales a few $1 dvd’s I think I will watch over and over. And, I buy movies at yard sales to send to soldiers overseas. My library now allows you to download movies from home from the library’s internet site. The selection grows weekly. Those options are enough for me.

  21. Gail says:

    Amazing, I must live in the stone age. Until I saw this post I had never heard of Blu Ray. no I don’t want to know. My hubby works at home and enjoys having a movie playing in the background for company while working. When his video player bit the dust, we thought it would be an easy thing to replace. Not so, they only make VHE palyers with DVD players now and they cost more than just a video player would. I think we will be scrounging at yard sales for one. We have a vast supply of videos and DVDs that we received as presents, picked up super cheap at yard sales, or the discount bin at stores. My hubby has poor vision so when he can’t read at night like he would like to he listens to movies (while I generally read). We have no cable or antennea so the only thing we watch is what we own. Lousy movies get trashed or sent on to the thrift store. We have a life and part of that is watching movies together at home and as he has watched (listened to) some of his movies several 100 times, he gets his monies worth. I am at the point now of trying to find copies of his favorite tapes as some of them are obviously worn out.

    Sounds like as long as we can find another couple VHS/DVD players to set aside for when they don’t make them any more, we should be set for entertainment until our golden years. It is always so much fun to pick up a brand new tape at a yard sale for a dime and think of the bloke who probably spend $10-15 on it and never saw it once, and knowing hubby will use it at least 100 times. What is that 1/10th a cent per view plus electric? Very frugal.

    I prefer books and this weekend I should be starting to read a brand new copy of Dean Koontz’s latest book, then sometime next week I will take it back to the library. Free beats paying any time!

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