Tuesday, December 8, 2009

End of blu-ray?

DVD was the most successful format ever created for storing and distributing video content. The number of discs sold, the number of players sold, and the number of titles available - all have broken previous records. DVD still continues to enjoy a large portion of market share.

The new format which emerged in 2006 to replaces DVDs - the blu-ray disc – had a rocky start. First, it had to fight with a competing format, HDDVD. Even though blu-ray won the battle, it still had a low acceptance rate among users. The players were expensive. (Can you believe that the first generation players were costing as much as $800 and was still primitive compared to today’s players). Discs were expensive and few titles were available. Many users were happy with DVD and did not feel the need to upgrade to the new format. Blu-ray discs are still expensive compared to DVDs. But the price for the players has come down. Today you can get a player for less than $100. Thousands of titles are available now. All new movie releases appear in both DVD and blu-ray formats. Sale of players and discs has increased significantly in the past year.

In spite of these successes, it is unlikely that blu-ray will achieve the same level of success DVD has enjoyed.

This is mainly due to the fact that the way video content is stored and consumed is changing fast. Online video services help you do away with storage medium. You can stream movies from Netflix today without ever having the physical disc. There are several other companies providing on-demand video through internet. Your satellite TV or cable TV provider lets you stream the movies from their servers through pay-per-view service.

Streaming video will be the direction in future for distribution of video. The content will be streamed to the customer’s display on demand. This completely eliminates the need for a physical medium on which the movie is recorded and distributed to the customer.

Digital media players I have discussed in an earlier blog will play an important role in this transformation. They provide the bridge between the content source and your high definition display. There are currently more than 65 models form different manufacturers available in this category. Quality and features of these products keep improving steadily. Surprisingly, they are very affordable today (most units between $100 and $300) and the prices will drop further when demand picks up. On the other hand, several manufacturers a are including basic capabilities for playing online digital content on their TVs and blu-ray players.

Video and audio standard used by blu-ray discs may continue to live as standards for storing high definition material. But the physical disc may become obsolete when internet becomes the main source for what you watch on your TV.


  1. During the standard defintion DVD days, we relied on dedicated hareware i.e., DVD players...
    Due to the intrusion of internet and home computers to digital media, we are moving away from dvd players and merging to home computers. Now, it will be hard for any dedicated hardware or format to sustain for long.
    I believe optical disks will go away eventually and blockbuster may be replaced by a file server?

  2. Is there any possibility that future movies are stored on solid state drives and distributed.

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  4. Royn,

    I think distribution using a physical medium will become a thing of the past.

    This is already happening in the music industry. CD sales are declining every year while sale of iTunes is skyrocketing.

    For high definition video, it will be a different story. 1080P video content with up to 40 Mbps data rate (used in blu-ray) cann not be streamed in real time today even with the highest connection speeds available to US households.

    There are two solutions for this. You can compromise for a compressed version (lower bit rate) and start watching the movie immedaitely.

    The second option is to order the movie online and wait for a while before you can start watching it. Unlike waiting for the physical disc from Netflix which can take 1-2 days, this wait may be only for a few hours. Once your device announces that your movie has arrived, you can start watching it. How long you have to wait will depend on you internet connection speed. Those who live in rural areas with lowere connections speeds will natuarally have to wait longer.

    Another interesting aspect is how the internet service providers will tackle the tremendous increase in traffic caused by HD video streaming.

    Countries like Japan and South Korea are already geared for this with up to 80Mbps connection speed for end-users.