Will the Blu-ray format be threatened by internet downloads?

There’s been a lot of discussion that the winner of the Hi-def optical disc format wars (namely Blu-ray vs. HD DVD) was irrelevant because video stream downloads online or through cable/satellite will make either version obsolete in the near future. Personally, I think the optical disc and more specifically the Hi-def format will have a long and prosperous life.

By now it’s clear that Blu-ray Disc (BD) has won the Hi-def battle and is poised to be the format of choice. With this clarity in the field, it should help the sales of BD players, titles, and peripheries which will encourage manufacturers to develop more content and hardware for this format. At the same time, there are two major reasons why the BD format will continue to thrive even amid heavy speculation (mostly from Microsoft & Apple) that BD days are numbered; 1) Ease of use, 2) Price.

Most people who read blogs and surf the internet may assume that because everyone they know is fairly computer savvy, that everyone must be. But that is far from the truth. Even though I haven’t conducted an official survey, I’m willing to bet a majority of the people around the world find it far easier to simply pop a disc into a player and press play than downloading a file from the internet and playing it through a capable video program on their computer. Not to mention the time it takes to download a HD file is ridiculously long, especially if you’re ready to watch a program immediately. Plus the BD format now ranges from 25GB ~ 100GB capacity. At that size, how many movies can one download before they fill up their hard drives, especially as it competes with HDD space with incumbent software, picture files, music files, etc? In order to conserve space, one would have to back-up those BD movies onto BD-R discs. Again, showing the necessity for the BD format, writers and players. In the end it’s just easier to purchase a movie on disc than make life complicated by trying to download a movie.

The second issue is price. BD players and discs have been reduced to very reasonable pricing, (as low as $400 for a player and about $20 for a BD movie) which will only continue to decrease as competition increases and the format matures. Considering the higher degree of difficulty and experience required to download titles, the price of existing BD products is reasonable enough to encourage customers to simply purchase them. In fact I truly believe the initial slow adoption of the format had far more to do with the consumer’s nervousness over choosing the wrong format rather than price alone. Now that BD is the clear winner, I think the sales will more accurately depict the market size for this product. Plus with the cost of ownership decreasing and the superior quality and increased capability in the format, the run on Blu-ray titles should be similar to the market for DVD when it was first introduced.

There are many other reasons that can be used in the debate as to why BD will not have a shortened lifespan, but ease of use and price some up the two major points in any argument. So if you’re holding out on getting a BD player because you think video stream is the solution, I hope you have plenty of time and patience. I will be enjoying the incredible picture and sound of my physical media in the time it takes you just to log-on to your computer and I’ll most likely be finished before your movies even finishes downloading. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live in the moment than wait for eternity.

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