The studios have been baffled, or disillusioned, with the new format technologies that have come out since the decline of DVD sales. They kept thinking that things would be like when DVD came out, a format shift that drove a massive change in consumer behavior from mostly renting movies to mostly buying them, producing a huge revenue and margin windfall for the studios.
The first time that changed was with the format wars. With studios taking sides on what format they were going to side with, consumers were confused during the most important shift of SDTV to HDTV. By the time HD discs hit the market, they faced a much flatter adoption curve that they might have. Though technically impressive, Blu-ray has done little to slow the shift toward low-priced rentals and non-disc streaming.
After that came UV, which in itself was a great idea, but after two years of infighting with conflicting political, financial and technical agendas consumers have largely passed it by. Consumers largely stopped buy optical disc and instead moved to the open arms of RedBox, NetFlix, Amazon Prime and others for rental and now largely streaming. If you don't buy the Blu-ray to begin with, what good is UV?
Now the studios are hoping that 4K will change the story. The hope is that a new upgrade cycle of HDTV's to UHD's will bring about a resurgence of revenue for the studios. At the Consumer Electronics Assn. Industry Forum in Los Angeles this week, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Worldwide president Mike Dunn said the coming transition represented another opportunity to get people interested in purchasing movies again. He is proposing another set of BD players that would accommodate 4K discs, but would also include HDD's to accommodate digital downloads and disc-to-digial format shifting. “Consumers would have the ability to copy their physical discs and store and manage their entire digital library in one centralized location — managed in the living room, where most content is viewed on the big screen,” Dunn said.
Hmmmm... "have the ability to copy their physical discs and store and manage their ENTIRE collection in ONE centralized location"??!!! Let's think about this. On my WMC, I have a 16TB HDD drive array that is made up of 8 2TB HDD's. It's a fairly large box and consumes alot of energy and puts out a fair amount of heat (outside of producing noise from the fans to cool the HDD's). I have about 1500 movies on them from HBO, Showtime, etc. and they take up 7TB of space. As everyone knows, the quality of HD content from HBO, etc. is sub-par to what you get on Blu-ray. Figure that a typical BD disc is 30GB. The files on my share are about 4GB in size. Now, even with advanced codec's you have 4X more pixels than the HD 1920x1080. Let's figure that H26.5 has 2X more compression than what is on Blu-ray today using H.264.... I think you are getting to the same conclusion that I am. No one is going to have this type of storage capacity to do this, at least not the typical consumer that is used to paying $199 for their Blu-ray player!
However, let's play along with this as that type of device would truly be impressive. The big problem with this is that it is built on a premise that consumers are going to purchase this with an adoption rate of DVD! Are consumers going to buy a new player and new optical disc media AND get a UHD TV?!
There were three reasons people bought DVD:
1) Convenience -- not having to rewind the tape and the ability to move to different chapters
2) Longevity - VHS wore out, DVD didn't, at least not at the same rate as VHS
3) Improved picture and audio quality
Look at SACD/DVD Audio -- both had superior sound. Who won? MP3 with less quality but higher convenience and longevity.
Look what is surging today --- convenience -- streaming media content. Forget waiting for the Blu-Ray in the mail or going to that RedBox kiosk... Get what you want, where you want it -- NOW. Once again consumers are sacrificing quality for convenience.
It can be argued that the days of DVD are over because the key criteria to have such a huge consumer shift isn't about quality, it's about convenience. Are consumers going to put each 4K blu-ray disc into their player so it can be stored on a HDD? Are they going to wait for it to download and incur potential provider fees for exceeding download limits?
Don't get me wrong. I'm all about quality, and I want it over convenience. Unfortunately, I am not in the majority.
In Dunn's speech he said “There are 101 million households in America already with a DVD or Blu-ray player under their TVs, giving it virtually 100% penetration,” It is one of the most important pieces of real estate there is.”
Unfortunately there is the tablet, which is arguable getting more usage than the either DVD or Blu-ray players. At the end of Q3 2102 Apple had sold 83.95M iPads. In their quarterly report today, they sold another 14.6M. I'm missing the data between the two, but if you assume 15M a quarter, then add another 60M to the 83M and you have substantially more iPads than the combined total of DVD and Blu-ray players. Now what is the most important piece of real estate?
I think the studios are going to have to focus on something other than 4K optical disc or digital media if they want a repeat of the DVD days. 3D sure didn't move the needle, why will 4K? Is there a convenience factor in it that is better than what is available today?
I will still buy 4K material that comes from the studios, it would be the driver for me to buy a UHD TV. It certainly wouldn't be the other way around.
What's your take on all of this?