Blog Post

Do You Need to Buy DVDs This Year?

Popcorn Home Entertainment launched a service today that lets Cablevision subscribers watch new movies on VOD the same day they are released on DVD (generally, it takes at least a month for movies to migrate from DVD to VOD). The catch? You have to order a physical copy of the DVD.

Let’s set aside the question of why you would want a DVD days after you already watched the movie and ask the bigger question. With movie rentals through Apple TV, downloads through Amazon, streaming through Netflix or Hulu, and even plain old VOD services, do you even need to buy DVDs any more?

Sure, the DVD format has some lingering appeal. The picture’s pretty good, you’ve already got the equipment, and when you pop in a DVD, 9.999999 times out of 10, it works. Plus, we aren’t living in a download utopia yet. The video libraries at Apple and Amazon aren’t exactly overflowing. Comcast and the pay networks rotate a limp lineup of films and TV shows through VOD services. And watching a movie on a laptop computer screen just won’t cut it sometimes.

This isn’t to say you won’t still rent DVDs. I’m strictly talking about purchases. DVDs feel like they cost too much to buy, they take up room, they scratch, and how often do you really go back and watch a movie again? The cost to buy the standard def Live Free or Die Hard on Amazon is $16.99 (not including shipping and tax). The cost to rent the standard def Live Free or Die hard on Apple will be $3.99. You’d have to rent the movie more than four times for the DVD to be economical — how often do you need to see Bruce Willis’ bald pate?

DVD sales are already softening, will this be the year they die off?

15 Responses to “Do You Need to Buy DVDs This Year?”

  1. For me there’s just something about owning a DVD in the box, with the shiny DVD inside…the special features, I dunno, it’s just nice. So I’ll always be buying DVD, HD or otherwise :)

  2. My personal view is that buying DVD’s is a waste of money. There are a few offerings , over the past several years , that I have considered buying , as they are the only shows or movies that have been worth my coin , but still , watching cable is expensive enough . For kids , yes , DVD purchase makes sense . They can watch it over and over , and could care less about this format war crap. Downloads from Unbox and the like , are , at best , a few years from coming into favor , as the price of larger screens will be too out of reach for the average consumer for awhile , and watching on my laptop is not the cinematic escape it’s hyped up to be.
    If movie studios wanna climb back to the top of the entertainment heap , they should start back at square one …content , quality content.

  3. I’m still going to buy DVDs, either because I plan to watch multiple times, or because it’s cheap: if I’m at a Best Buy and see something I want out of the $10 or less sections, I’m absolutely going to pick it up.

    Also, being outside of the states somewhat changes the math, doesn’t it? I can do here in Canada (it’s a Netflix equivalent), but we don’t have the Movie rentals here, nor even the ability to buy movies — we have about nine tv shows to choose from, which we only got access to in December — and most of the online offerings are US-specific.

    A last point: people reading this blog are ahead of the curve: most people in the rest of the world are happy to buy a DVD if they want to, and aren’t savvy enough to know or care about the other options. Frankly, keeping yourselves informed about the numerous options is a very time-intensive affair, and most people would say they have better things to do, and that buying a disc, rather than working out the math on how much a rental would cost long-term, is quick enough and easy enough for them.

  4. Lex Harrison

    People, you’re killing me.

    Other than providing a diversion for the kiddies rasing the stature of regular DVD buyers to “collectors” is sad. Okay, maybe you want to have the Two-Disc Special Edition of ‘300’ for sentimental reasons but the fact that movie studios have convinced consumers that buying DVDs is a Good Thing, when you can rent them endlessly for pennys on the dollar from The Library (aka Netflix), ranks up there with bottled water and magnetic braclets.

    And if history tells us anything about format wars it’s that any wins are short lived. Betamax begat VHS begat LaserDics begat DVDs begat HD-DVD/Blue-ray — and I’m leaving some out — and all these “collections” end up in embarrasing heaps at the corner garage sale because something “better” comes along.

    I’ve seen the future and it’s not The Keanu Reeves Retrospective 3-Disc Box in [insert soon to obsolete physical video format here].

  5. Stacey Higginbotham

    Chris, like Eric, I will still buy DVDs once this format was is over. I think Disney could have swayed the market on HD and Blu-Ray if they released Disney movies from the vault on one format or the other (Blu-ray, please). As the parent of an obsessive toddler those DVDs get played at least once a week, so it makes sense. Also, we’ve managed to run our DVD player through our sound system, but not the TV, so getting VOD doesn’t sound good, and watching a full movie on my PC is a last resort, convenience option. Maybe I’m outdated, but I think I’m just normal.

  6. Yuvamani

    For renting. Long Live Netflix. For a netflix 2 at a time subscription plan through which I can reasonably see 8 dvds a month, I get roughly 3.5 movie rentals from Amazons Unbox and Unboxs rates are normal for most VOD/rentals. All for the “privilege” of instant gratification. While they have thier place. I am sticking to Netflix and good ol DVD for most of my rentals.

    For buying, you forgot another format war. Most movies are sold DRM full. Which means I choose my allegiance to the Apple DRM alliance or the Microsoft DRM alliance. If I was buying a movie, I would again stick to DVD Or BluRay (now that the war is almost over and a winner has almost been anointed). Good ol discs are a lot more universal than the solutions from Apple or Microsoft. Whats the point of getting a movie for a discount for a movie I buy from Apple when the truth is that It may or may not work when I want it to work …

    The rumors of the DVD’s death have been greatly exaggerated if you ask me.

  7. All of our DVD purchases are for our children, primarily in portable players while traveling. At home the kids are fine with VOD.

    We’ll likely replace the portable DVD players with video capable iPods once the kids get a bit older

  8. Chris Albrecht


    You’re right, since I’m not a parent, I didn’t appreciate the value of popping in the Wiggles On Tour DVD to distract the young ‘uns.

    But I think you kind of proved my point with the waiting for Blu-Ray. Why go through this all again? Blu-Ray will be outdated soon enough, and collectors will be stuck with another library of films that won’t work on whatever is next.

  9. Your survey doesn’t have the most obvious option.

    We’ve been limiting our DVD purchases here for about two years now. We’ll start buying again when the corporate bickering over BluRay v. HD-DVD is over. (…soon I hope.) Then we’ll buy Blu-Ray discs :-) There’s no sense buying a DVD now for something you may want in HD (which is essentially everything now, even TV shows.)

    Also… I think there will still be a real desire for people to own DVDs even after downloads become more ubiquitous. Collectors like to collect. Parents buy movies for their children because they watch them over and over… and over and over. You can take a DVD over to your friend’s house and watch it without any hassle. DVD’s have extras. There’s no commercials or lower third overlay promos. (Showtime and Universal HD take note.) And finally, it’s good to have the complete box set of Buffy on hand when there’s a writers’ strike. There’s lots of reasons to want to own a DVD.

    Will I want to own everything I watch on DVD? No, of course not. It depends what it is. Offer me a well mastered Blu-Ray set of Babylon 5 and I’ll buy it right now.