Shipping costs are up and heading even higher in '14...for everyone...everywhere. Here in Canada, we can no longer get any insurance on small packets going Internationally unless we upgrade to International Tracked Packet, which ranges from $16+ to the U.S. and a whopping $50+ to those handful of countries overseas where this service is even offered. On incoming orders (technically over $20, but practically about $100 depending on your luck with border agents) Canucks also face our 5% GST plus other brokerage fees. The U.K. is an even worse case because on top of their higher carrier hit, the British government levies a 20% VAT on the combined cost of the item plus those already higher shipping costs. Apparently, not much better scenario for goods entering Germany or France these days either.
In the arena of global shipping and import taxes, the routine ease of 'Net search and acquisition continues to collide with real world carrier and import costs, with no signs of abate...and for many, clearly already past the tipping point as expressed via frustration here and elsewhere. And yet, with this expanding product awareness globally, consumer expectations seem to be heading in the dead opposite direction - many fans and collectors coming to believe that their ability to order anything they want from anywhere it happens to be available should be their charter right simply by virtue of having an IP address...divorced from their country's specific policies regarding import taxation. Of course this isn't fair - it never was fair - but that's certainly not the fault of the International labels and distributors just trying to make a go of it in their domestic market. But until punitive local import policies change, logically coming from within those countries, cheap and easy mail order from afar will always favour those who live in countries with more lenient import policies. For American and even Aussie customers (who I believe both have a fairly generous $200 ceiling before taxes and duties kick in) this will be much less expensive and troublesome than for British, French or German consumers with a $20 limit (last I heard) before they face an outrageous tax hit upon arrival...in some cases almost doubling their original purchase price.
So in this brave new world of open global buying coupled with increasing local penalties over doing so, I think TT's Nick Redman had the right idea in his comments (IIRC about The Fury) when he suggested greater communication and collaboration among cottage catalogue producers worldwide so that these individual players can share the best quality transfers and perhaps even some features, while spreading around the acquisition/production costs. His comments read like an admission that the increasing high cost of importing goods will continue to dog the relatively small home video labels (although collectively more formidable), who, unlike the major studios, do not have local manufacturing and distribution points around the world which they can leverage for reduction of overall product cost.
If I understand Redman's meta-point correctly, forging more alliances and co-productions for delivery of the best quality product and highest value to consumers - wherever they happen to live - seems like the way of the future for catalogue Blu-ray. Current tribal chants of "our transfer is better than your transfer, Nyah, Nyah." simply do nothing in the larger picture for the sustainable health of the Blu-ray catalogue market worldwide. Limited, niche runs by multiple local labels in different countries, all sharing the best possible extant HD elements and workflow just seems more logical to me. At least I think that's what Mr. Redman was suggesting; I certainly hope that's what he meant.
I mean, what's that old adage about the 'Net..."Think globally, but act locally"? There are some hard realities making that truer than ever for the niche Blu-ray catalogue market worldwide. Given the numbers, we're just naturally stronger together.