Saturday, December 01, 2007

Thanksgiving trip reveals why DVD sales are down

The Hollywood Reporter has an article about declining DVD sales this year and my trip last week to visit my folks offers an explanation I think.

Selling a home in Los Angeles and moving pretty much anywhere else (in their case an island near Tacoma, WA) means you move up one income class -- middle class becomes upper middle class.

That means they had a nice hi-def big screen TV to go with their house. Being the Pacific Northwest, we had plenty of excuse to sit inside and watch television. And hi-def does look sweet. I just couldn't bring myself to watch any of the non-hi-def programs on those lesser cable stations while I was there.

We also wanted to rent a few movies -- but they didn't have a hi-def DVD player yet, so we stuck mostly to the hi-def movies-on-demand offered by the cable company. It cost a bit more than a rental, but the panoramic views of mountains and rivers looked sparkling.

They were also just about to purchase Live Free or Die Hard -- because that's the kind of movie you'd like to test your nifty new hi-def TV on.

But here's why DVD sales are down. They'd need to get a new DVD player for that -- and they were more than willing to pay for one -- but which one? I was suggesting HD since it seemed that the big Wal-Mart $99 sale might mark a turning point -- but that's a bit of a gamble. And later, it occured to me that Live Free or Die Hard might not even be on HD (which I think it isn't -- only Blu-ray). That would really suck, buying a hi-def DVD player and having about half the new releases not even be available for it -- then having maybe a 50% chance two years from now of having bet wrong, and there being no new releases for it.

So, unless you want to throw away cash on two high-end DVD players, you don't buy any. And even people who can afford to do so won't simply out of principle.

Then you think of buying the plain old DVD and watching Bruce kick ass. But you've seen the promised land; you're ruined for the old stuff. So you catch a rental of hi-def on-demand when it comes around -

- and don't buy any DVDs at all, since you know you're just going to want the HD version when there's finally a standard. I don't even have an HD TV and I'm not going to buy any more DVDs because I too have seen the promised land.

Thus, DVD rentals doing well, maybe even up, and DVD sales tanking.

And Wal-Mart knows this. They're seeing this vast sum of HD DVD money being left on the table this holiday season because there's no standard -- that's why they're trying to force a standard by selling HD players at cost.


Jaime_sama said...

Interesting, Steve.

I'm not planning to buy many DVDs these days either, but not because of HD... I have yet to see the promised land apparently. My religious conversion was to Netflix. There are still a few things I would like to own rather than rent, but Netflix gets most anything to us within two days. Some things (like some classic Doctor Who serials) you can watch online.

After our move, and unpacking our DVD collection, and wondering if we'd have to buy more shelves for DVD storage, and contemplating how long it would be before we pack up and move again... renting looks good to me...

Steve Peterson said...

Have you had a chance to watch HD through a full movie or at a friend's place? I wasn't so convinced watching a little while walking through a store, but now...

And Netflix is great. Since the comment section is probably a safe place to say this -- we're just leaving as much stuff in boxes as possible now. I think it might be easier to get interviews once you've got a tenure track job.

Jaime_sama said...

No, I haven't seen a whole movie in HD, so maybe I will be converted when I do.

Best of luck ending up in a place that works for both of you!!

I think we are in Ellensburg for a few years, but possibly moving within town.