With all the available options for downloading and streaming digital movies and TV shows, one might wonder why we even need physical discs anymore. Blu-ray Discs have been around for almost 8 years now, and still offer the highest video quality in a consumer disc format. What’s more, Blu-ray Disc sales have helped maintain sales of physical media as DVD sales have declined. But digital files are available from several distributors in 1080p, such as Vudu’s HDX format and Apple’s iTunes high quality HD format. And, Netflix recently launched Super HD, a 1080p video stream that’s available with select titles. Think about that for a second. Netflix is streaming better quality than television broadcasts that are still maxing out at 720p and 1080i (and may be there for a while). Given the high quality video options in digital format, why are consumers still buying Blu-ray Discs?
In our own user poll we asked HD Report readers why they purchase Blu-ray Discs. Is it for the high quality? Is it for the extra bonus included on some discs? Or, is it because many BD releases contain Digital or UltraViolet copies? Here are the results.
Why do you still buy Blu-ray Discs?
1. Because of the high quality (84%)
84% of those who took the poll said they purchase Blu-ray Discs because of the high quality. That’s understandable. You can pretty much count on most BDs to deliver a high quality image, especially when comparing to its predecessor DVD and most television broadcasts. But take a look at a Netflix Super HD title and you might have trouble seeing any difference.
2. Because of Digital/UltraViolet copies (24%)
Digital copies are pretty much a bonus when you purchase a physical Blu-ray Disc. Some editions include up to four ways to view a film: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, and UltraViolet copy; but digital copies are actually available outside of packaged media, from video distributors such as Amazon, VUDU, iTunes, and UltraViolet partners. If you want to bypass purchasing a disc just to get the digital copy, there are certainly ways to do it.
3. Because of the extra bonus material (18%)
It’s hard to believe this came in third, because bonus material at times seems like the only reason to purchase a disc edition. It’s easy enough (and cheap enough) to watch any of the Star Trek franchise films on Netflix or through Amazon Prime. So why would anyone need the discs? Because for diehard fans of a film the extra bonus content is critical. We love our deleted scenes, alternate endings, audio commentaries and other behind-the-scenes content that can’t be seen anywhere else. If/when Blu-ray Discs go away, studios will need to find a way to offer bonus material. Some distributors already are offering extras in digital formats, for example iTunes Extras. The thing we’ll miss, though, are the physical objects included with packaged media: the booklets, figurines, mini-posters and other collectible media.
4. Because I like physical/packaged media. (14%)
There’s still something special about opening up a disc case and finding out what’s inside, even if it’s just an insert. But these days studios are offering some collectible packaging that has gone way beyond the simple boxed set. Take for instance The Walking Dead: Season 3 Limited Edition that comes packaged in an aquarium with floatable heads. The AMC collaboration with McFarlane Toys makes this not only a set of Blu-ray Discs, but collectible memorabilia. And, hitting shelves next month The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition Amazon Exclusive includes a statue of Bilbo Baggins and Gollum. For a look at more limited releases, read this article about upcoming Blu-ray Collectible Editions.
5. Because Digital Movies are too big to store (10%)
If you’ve ever downloaded an HD movie on iTunes you may have noticed your hard drive space diminished. That’s because the average 2-hour movie in HD quality takes up about 4GB of memory. Download 4 or 5 of those on your 32GB iPad and you won’t have much room for music, apps, and Infinity Blade III. If your store movies on your PC, you can certainly purchase an external hard drive or two to store all your digital movies, but hard drives cost money and aren’t exactly practical to carry around. Cloud storage, however, seems to have solved the storage issue. With UltraViolet digital copies you can store your purchased items and download on demand. And, with iTunes and Amazon you can download previously purchased movies and TV titles.
Why do we love digital movies rather than discs?
Because the ease of accessing a library of digital files rather than a closet full of discs seems to be winning out over physical discs, even though grabbing a disc and popping it into a player isn’t that hard to do. Digital movies and TV shows are also portable, and can be watched on laptops, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. Digital movies don’t get scratched (although they can be deleted), and can be rented if you don’t want to pay the full purchase price. Finally, digital movies and TV shows can be streamed over Wi-Fi or cellular connection, providing entertainment wherever you have access. One distinct advantage goes to Blu-ray Discs though: discs won’t charge overages on your wireless plan!