The tangibility of a physical disc brings more lasting joy than any streaming platform ever could. For now.
The one person in this world who will pretty much watch any film or TV show with me so long as I ask is my grandmother. Now, I’m sure she agrees to these viewing parties because she loves me, and not so much because she is particularly interested in what I am actually asking her to watch, nor even because she trusts my taste. But nonetheless, when I get all excited about a new show or movie and want to share it with someone, she always provides an audience. The thing is however when I go over to her house to watch something with her, I must always be sure to have a DVD in hand. When we sit down to watch, I enter a world where there is no Netflix or Hulu, simply because she does not have a Roku, Apple TV, or Smart TV on which to stream anything.
In this day and age, with streaming platforms becoming increasingly popular, and more people cutting their cable cords each day, it seems easy to say that DVDs are a thing of the past. DVDs in this case meaning DVDs and Blu-Rays. But by the way things are looking in the world of streaming now, it feels as if the streaming universe is going to get a lot more complicated before it becomes simple again. Whereas we once looked to Netflix to provide much of what we wanted and used it to aid our cable/DVD viewing experience, we are now stuck between turning off our cable completely, stopping our DVD purchases altogether and transitioning to digital; or keeping our cable along with a couple streaming subscriptions in order to keep up with all of our shows and films without having 20 different accounts to manage. This is not to mention those channels that have yet to even put any of their content on any streaming platform anywhere.
Disney recently pulled out from Netflix with the announcement that they will be creating their own streaming platform in the near future. We have also seen media entities like Comedy Central remove some of their programs, like The Daily Show, from Hulu and strictly run them on the actual cable channel as well as their website. There are also various other shows and films that don’t run on these streaming hubs but can be found on their own separate Apple TV/Roku/Amazon Fire apps, so long as you have a cable login or app subscription to watch them.
So now that companies like CBS, FX, etc., are creating their own platforms, with their own monthly subscriptions and cable access, our focuses are split. The battle between streaming services to provide the most attractive content is definitely getting tenser. For viewers, keeping Netflix and Hulu seems like an essential since they are both so central to everything and provide a wide library of content. However, with this new landscape of streaming choices, and the temptation of other shows and films from other channels that cannot be found on Netflix or Hulu, the choice of what to subscribe to and what to cut can be a little more difficult. Granted, the viewer ultimately gets to choose which of these, if any, they want to subscribe to, but it really is an inconvenience at times to add another subscription for the sake of a show or two. It is even more of an inconvenience to just waiting for a show or film to eventually come to Netflix.
DVDs therefore really do provide something tangible that digital has yet to match. For those who have strictly gone digital and do all of their purchases through iTunes or Amazon, their media libraries solely depend on their accounts and their accessibility to their accounts. Hoping to show someone something with no computer around? Out of luck. Going to a friend’s house and trying to log into your iTunes account on their system can also be a pain as well. And for those who don’t do this, and just use their streaming subscriptions, once the platform has removed the content, it is gone for the foreseeable future. Our choices are limited to what the services provide and add each month.
And sure, DVDs cost anywhere from $5-30 a disc, but once you buy them, they are always accessible and that is just a one time cost. They will always be with you even after the film or TV show has had its run on a streaming network. The average streaming subscription costs anywhere from $8-15 a month, which when calculated costs at least $100 a year, per subscription. Less than cable? For sure. Less than an entire DVD library? Possibly. But the compromise that is made between your favorite shows and films makes the overall cost feel like a lot more. On a side note, DVDs also make for nice gifts that just don’t ring the same when giving someone a gift card to their particular digital service of choice. A physical DVD in a way represents a sort of commitment to the content you love and are willing to keep with you forever. Giving someone a DVD of their favorite film is a friendly act that shows some kind of bond that is shared between two people. But I don’t know, perhaps this is just my nostalgia for my childhood DVD library kicking in.
In recognizing this, we can also acknowledge the strides streaming services like Netflix have made toward perfecting the “bingeing” process and making lots of lesser known films more attainable. It is a pain to have to switch discs when watching the entirety of a TV show, and it is nice to have an entire movie library at your fingertips. At the same time, however, it can also be acknowledged that DVDs are not completely useless and that the transition to a totally digital world is not such a simple process.
So, until streaming platforms can finalize themselves, work together, combine their content, and finally convince at least 90% of viewers to go completely digital (meaning everyone has some kind of smart-viewing device in their homes), the world of discs will remain. Until then, this in-between business will prolong the life of DVDs a little longer before they enter an eternal shelf life with their ancestors: VHS tapes.