Does anyone else out there love Netflix? It’s amazing. When I first got the subscription DVD rental service, I was sending out DVDs almost daily. You couldn’t sate my appetite for movies, mostly old or indie films you couldn’t get anywhere else.
But then something changed. My DVDs started sitting on the shelf longer and longer, and today, I barely ever exchange my discs. What happened? Netflix introduced their “Watch Instantly” feature.
I gobbled up the bad horror movies left and right. I found old gems and older TV shows. It became a game for me…try to find something cool to watch available online. And as my appetite grew, so did the online offering. By the time they partnered with Stars, I was hooked. And now that I get all kinds of first-run and A-list movies, I barely rent a DVD.
True, there are films I can’t get on Netflix, but that’s why God made the iTunes store. Or, when I get really desperate, bit torrent sites (only for public domain films, of course).
This phenomena is not unique to me. All across the country, college students are ditching their TVs in favor of online content. Hulu and X-Box Live and ESPN 360…these are our favorite stations. And if you need a music video, YouTube is a click away. You see, there is a shift occurring quietly amongst us young’ns. We don’t want to wait for our shows to come on television. We don’t want to have to go out and rent a movie or buy one at the store. We want it now, downloaded to our computer. And since we are tech savvy enough to hook up our TVs and projectors to our computers and Playstation 3′s, there is no real difference between this streaming/downloaded content and the hard reality of a DVD or a Blu-Ray disc.
Which brings me (finally) to the true aim of this article. I am not planning to buy a Blu-Ray player.
When I announced this to my friends, they all gasped. My life is built around high-fidelity video. My living room is a shrine to movie watching complete with a 115 inch screen and high-definition projector. I always whined about the quality of VHS and was one of the first kids to bug his parents for one of those newfangled $350 DVD players. I love quality video.
But I can read the writing on the wall. How long did DVD last? Ten years? Fifteen? And now all those discs I bought are quickly becoming relics. Luckily I have a solution to this: I’m going to digitize them all to a single bigass harddrive. It will be easier to sort through the movies, and they will already be hooked up to my computer and projector, ready to watch.
That same concept is how I hope to save myself a lot of grief and money by skipping Blu-Ray. As the consumer appetite for HD movies grows, so will the distribution platform. YouTube is HD now, and I guarantee that Netflix and Hulu and every other video distribution platform or device you can name will follow suit. And the coolest thing? The same codec that makes Blu-Ray possible also make file sizes tiny and streamable.
It’s called H.264, and it is hands-down the greatest codec ever. High-def video is compressed to obscenely small file sizes with a minimal loss in quality. Then they burn it to a disc and put it in a package and sell it to you for $35.
I’ll skip the middleman. H.264 is what YouTube uses for its HD content, and it is the way that everything is moving. All of a sudden, I can stream or download movies on my wifi network in near real-time. I’m ready…the content developers are struggling to catch up.
But I think I can wait, because there is a lag. DVD is still a viable format and will be for another two to three years at least. Digital distribution will most likely be in place by then, and I can move decidedly away from the flawed idea of physical media storage.
The content creators better get on it, though. Blu-Ray is near impossible to crack for piracy purposes…right now. Give it a few months and some smart hacker will figure it out, even if the solution is just using a program like Snapz to do a real-time capture of a Blu-Ray movie in HD H.264 and then offering it on torrent sites for download. There will be a loss in quality, but saving $35 is worth it for some pirates.
How can you keep this kind of piracy from happening? You can’t. It’s a new world. Deal with it. What you can do is give people a viable and lower-cost alternative to illegal piracy and Blu-Ray alike. Provide high-quality digital delivery the way Apple does with its iTunes store. Do it across the board, and do it for significantly cheaper than you ever have before. The days of paying $30 for a movie are over. Anything over ten, and my generation laughs at the situation and downloads it off the magical internets.
Not saying I do, but I’ve heard stories.
This is the way the world is moving. Blu-Ray is just a stop-gap format to provide HD content to those seeking it before digital delivery takes over. At least, that’s what I’m seeing. Because if content creators fight against digital delivery of HD movies, we’ll get a repeat of the ridiculous MPAA fight against Napster, and everyone will laugh at every major studio attempting to plug up the hole in the dike.
Take a lesson from history and grow with the changing technology, not against it. Change your business models accordingly. I’m betting you do.