A couple of years ago I told my buddy that DVD's are dead. He seemed a bit puzzled, but I think he, and everyone else, is starting to get the message.
There are stacks of cheap DVD's available everywhere from Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx to the gas station and the supermarket check out. Blu-Ray prices have tumbled as well. The question is why do you need physical media when you can stream on demand just about anything you want?
Tivo started the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) revolution. I tip my hat to this brilliant piece of technology that made it easy for all of us to shift time and scan past commercials. It also set the expectations for watching media when we want to watch it.
Netflix began as a DVD by mail operation, but has been extending their reach into streaming media. I cancelled my $80/ month cable and replaced it with a $17/ month subscription to Netflix that gives me unlimited Blu-Ray by mail (2 discs out at a time). Quite a savings over U-Verse. More valuable than the disc rental is the streaming catalog. I'm able to view this feature on my 50 inch screen using my PS3. The kids are able to watch all the Dora and Spongebob they want (and I can stand) commercial free. This week I added the Netflix app to my iPod that let's me stream shows at the same time. While the kids were watching Neverending Story (for the third time in a row) on the big screen, I was sitting in the chair next to them watching The Office on my iPod. Still just $17/ month.
If DVD's are dead then why is Redbox doing so well? Redbox has actually capitalized on the change in consumer sentiment toward physical media. People are no longer obsessed with owning physical copies as long as they can watch their media when they want it. Redbox is about renting you the movies you want to watch on demand. It's a slightly less convenient model than streaming, but it's also cheap. When streaming media prices fall in line Redbox may be in trouble.
Media Extenders and Other Dohickeys
I also use a service called Play-On to stream video through my PS3 to my TV. This is a little more complicated than Netflix. With Netflix I put a disc into the PS3 provided by them and it works brilliantly. With Play-On I had to install a media server program on my PC and have it networked with my PS3. It allows me to stream sites like Hulu to my big screen TV. There are also 3rd party plugins available to stream other media and websites. You need to make sure it is running on your PC when you want to watch media and that all of the software and plug-ins are up to date. If that sounds confusing and like a pain in the butt - it is. I have spent a lot of time setting this system up and while it does some cool things, I prefer to watch Netflix most of time because it is easy and it works.
Internet Media Sites
So far I have been discussing premium content, but there are a plethora of sites that offer video content for free. YouTube is the king, and Hulu is close behind. Both can be streamed with the 3rd party tools mentioned above, and they are both working on deals to provide premium content to viewers for a fee.
What it Means for Businesses
1. Be careful about putting all of your eggs in one basket - particularly if it is digital media.
2. Making your content easy to consume is the most important factor. Those platforms winning right now are the ones that are easy for people to get on their screens.
3. Customers will be streaming more niche and on demand content. If you create quality content, regardless of your size, the barriers to getting it to viewers are evaporating.
What it Means for Consumers
1. Media platforms change. Be careful about where you invest your money on storage and playback equipment.
2. Look for the deals. Some companies are offering killer deals to get you started - others are giving away old technology like DVD's that you can rip and store on your hard drive.
3. Think about the content you consume. If you are paying $60/ month so the kids can watch Dora, then check out Netflix that has every episode queued up for you at under $10/ month
4. Be smart about what you purchase. Do you still have a closet full of VHS tapes?
5. Don't forget the library. They have tons of DVD's you can watch for free. You can even reserve them online.
Hard to say for sure what the winner is going to be. Right now there are a lot of horses in the race competing for your hard earned dollar. There are more choices than ever when it comes to how you can consume your favorite shows and movies. If you want to read more, I recommend this Wired magazine article about some of your options and how to set up streaming media to your TV.
How do you watch TV and Movies? What do you think will be the next big thing? What companies do you think will be the leaders?
The day after I wrote this post Apple made a big announcement centered around their new streaming Apple TV device. It even has Netflix :)