Say Goodbye to the DVD Player

DVD

I remember getting my first DVD player and the movie “The Waterboy”. I also remember streaming my first movie in “Hulk”. Years since, people have debated about losing the tangible disc and moving to streaming. Eventually we knew the DVD would become a thing of the past. As technology improved and new devices came out this year, we may have seen the last viable use for the DVD. Here is why:

Blockbuster

Blockbuster

Blockbuster Goes Bye-Bye, Streaming Video Grows

Blockbuster video rentals closed up in November. This was after a long run and competing with Netflix, followed by Red Box machines. When DISH network bought out Blockbuster, they gave it a home. Its apparent that DISH didn’t want to get into the physical video rental business. So the doors closed.

Netflix tried to close their DVD rental doors a couple years ago with the whole Qwikster debacle — a move that almost killed the company. Somehow they came back stronger than ever, pushing more streaming TV shows and introducing quality shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Add to that promotions — such as the launch of Chromecast: Netflix gave 3-month subscriptions to the first buyers.

I have to admit, I still have my Netflix subscription…

Since Netflix switch to TV show-based content over movies, newer movies take a lot longer to show up on the service. That is where Amazon is leading the pack. You can rent or own the home digital rights of a movie or TV show instead of going down to the store and picking up the box.

Well, at least, kinda…

This last week Disney made Amazon pull back owners rights of holiday movies. It brought up some issue about if you actually own a video. Will that stop millions from buying movies? Probably not.

ChromeCast

Streaming Getting Better

Google Chromecast did two things. They brought the streaming app device down to an affordable price (not that it wasn’t already with the Apple TV and Roku). Chromecast also extended the life of older LCD TVs.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on TV’s with apps inside, they could get a cheaper TV and a set top box to run their content. Sure, the TV is not 1080p 120 Hz, but how many homes care about that type of quality? Especially if the TV is in the bedroom or even since our generation spent years staring at a Cathode Ray Tubes with full satisfaction.

Ultimately, they just want to get Chromecast and Netflix, then possibly cut their cable.

Netflix_Web_Logo

Netflix and YouTube in 4K (2160p)

Time to move to bigger and better video quality. 4,000 pixels – or 2160p. At CES, we will definitely be bombarded with 4K television technology — and we will LOVE it.

Even though some home theater experts have adopted 4K, home Internet speeds don’t really take into account 4K streaming just yet. A 4K video will take 6-12 Mbps connection. DSL won’t be able to handle that, especially if you surf and watch at the same time.

Nonetheless, we move forward. Netflix announced earlier their popular “House of Cards” series will be shot and streamed in 4K. YouTube already has 4K video available, although if you try to stream via Roku or Chromecast, it will most likely try to push the 720p version first. 

iPad 2 Smart Cover

Tablets, Game Consoles, Computers Go DVD-less

Even the computer is losing the DVD drive. Current Mac models don’t come with any type of optical drive. Tablets and smartphones also are disc-free. As desktops lose ground to tablets, the DVD will join the floppy disk, Zip drive and tape backup.

The Pawn Shop Effect

The best way to watch the DVD market is to watch the resale of the DVD. Major chain Pawn America runs a special on Tuesdays for DVDs. In May, they started special events where DVD movies only cost $1.

While newer titles might fetch your more, if you pawn a DVD title, they will most likely buy it at .10 cents so they can make .90 cents.

With all these factors (along with others such as DVR technology and flash drives), 2014 looks to be the year we finally lay the DVD optical disc format to rest. Blu-Ray discs still have value, but the DVD player will definitely be placed with the old TV and VCR down in the basement or garage.

Wal-mart and Movies in the Cloud

Ultraviolet This past week Wal-Mart announced exclusive disk to digital service using Vudu. The way it works is the consumer would bring down his or her DVDs or Blu-ray discs to their local Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart would then create a digital copy of that disc on Vudu.  Vudu is a content delivery network which is available through over 300 devices including PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This is the first attempt to introduce the UltraViolet system to the public on a large-scale. The Ultraviolet system works like a locker in the cloud . It was created in 2008 by most major Hollywood studios and their partners . Consumers store the digital rights to the DVDs they own in this locker. They then can watch the movie on any device that carries Vudu. The UltraViolet system can handle a multiple number of DRM technologies, which Hollywood continues to support. However so far consumers have not looked favorably upon the UltraViolet system so this is the first really big test to see if this system can work or not.

I see several problems with this system the first is that you physically have to bring your DVDs or Blu-ray disc down to local Wal-Mart and stand in line, how many people are going to do this. The second is it does not work with all movies in fact any movie distributed by Disney cannot be added. Disney is not a part of the UltraViolet consortium. Third you can’t watch the movie on a iPad or iPhone,(except in the Safari browser) remember Steve Jobs was on the Disney board and iTunes is a competitor to Vudu.  Fourth you are putting it in a locker that someone else controls, Which means at any time they can change the combination or take away the key or close the whole system down and you have no say in it. Also you don’t get any of the extras and no subtitles on English films. Fifth most movies especially older ones are already available through other means such as Netflix or Amazon or iTunes often at a cheaper rate. Sixth if you want to watch the movie on your computer it will be in standard definition, not full HD. Finally most sophisticated users already have ways to rip their DVD’s without having to carry them down to the local Wal-Mart and stand in line. I will be surprise if this is successful, sophisticated tech users will not use it and normal will not understand or trust it. I wonder if Wal-Mart will offer this automatically when you purchase a new DVD or BLu Ray, that may help add to its popularity.  Will you use this system, will your parents, or is dead before it gets off the ground?

Pextor’s PlexEasy Burns Without The PC

Plextor LogoToday at CES International, Plextor announced the PlexEasy, a standalone external 8x DVD and CD burner that will burn discs from SD cards and USB-connected devices without the need for a PC. It can connect directly to a wide variety of devices including both mass storage devices and Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) devices such cameras, smartphones, tablets, and camcorders. Photos can be burnt directly from digital cameras and smartphones, regardless of OS, without copying the pictures onto a PC first or fiddling about with a disc-burning software.

With the Plextor PlexEasy, it’s now a three-step process:
1. connect the device,
2. insert a DVD or CD and
3. press a button to burn a backup.

The PlexEasy’s compatibility with mass storage devices allows almost any storage device to be connected – MP3 players, flash drives, external hard disks and even tablets. The PlexEasy can also copy from an inserted SD-card to the mass storage device for quick backups. Of course, the device can be connected to a PC and it then offers all the features of a high-end DVD burner with support for all types of CDs and DVDs.

Pictures, pricing and availability to follow.

Tesco and Blinkbox – Buy the DVD, Watch it Online

Tesco Blinkbox Online MovieSupermarket Tesco and on-line movie site Blinkbox have introduced a new innovation to the UK where the purchase of a physical DVD or Bluray at Tesco also buys an online copy at Blinkbox. At today’s launch there are only about 25 movies included in the offer but more will be added to the service over time. The big blockbusters available now are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II and Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.

Tesco customers tie their Clubcard account to their Blinkbox account and then qualifying purchases of DVDs in retail stores (or online) will automatically be added to Blinkbox. Once in Blinkbox, customers can watch the films through PCs, Mac, PS3 and certain smart TVs. For non-UK readers, Clubcard is Tesco’s customer loyalty programme and there are 16 million active Clubcard members.

Richard Brasher, CEO, Tesco UK said “Customers know that Tesco is a great retailer for new technology.  This innovation with blinkbox will help start a digital revolution, combining the physical with the digital for the first time.  Starting with the magic of Harry Potter, there will be many more great titles to follow for customers to enjoy online wherever and whenever they like.

Michael Comish, CEO, blinkbox said “To be able to bring this truly ground-breaking service to consumers is very exciting for blinkbox. Our customers already know that we are the number one choice for the latest new movie titles the day they released on DVD, so working with Tesco to give them access to both a physical and a digital version allows them choice and the best of both worlds.”

For those outside of the UK, this is probably all a bit “so what?”given the offerings from Amazon and others. However, here in the UK, the law still currently prohibits format-shifting, even if no-one pays attention, even if the law isn’t enforced. By effectively purchasing both copies at the same time (or buy one, get one free), this gets round any issues with the law. If this way of thinking takes off, other companies will follow with similar products in the UK, so it’s good news all round.

iCloud Becoming a Movie Cloud Service, Compete with Amazon, Google

iCloud

iCloud

24 hours after iCloud officially releases, talks are underway to fill your cloud drive with movies. In reports today, Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern will be the first of many movies you will be able to hold on your iCloud drive.

iCloud is a service available with iOS5 and at www.icloud.com. With iOS5, you can back up your phone to the cloud (what Apple is calling the PC-less setup and sync). So it only makes sense to also turn it into your all-in-one cloud device.

Hopefully, when Apple officially rolls out this service, that they will offer similar cloud options like Amazon. Things like free storage with any item purchased through Apple (so it doesn’t affect your personal storage limit). You get 5 GB free, then pricing starts at $20 for an additional 10 GB (15 GB total).

Is Apple’s Movie Service Too Late?

The real question is: Have you already committed to Amazon cloud service for movies? Would you switch back? Or would you want to skip the service and actually just get the physical DVD or Blu-Ray discs?

With iTunes still being a walled garden, it’s tough to commit to their services. At least with Amazon, one can get content to their iPhone, computer or Android. Apple really needs to look at this stumbling block, because we live in a cross-platform world.

The day of the DVD is numbered. Being able to access content without physical media is becoming reality. It’s just a question of where you get your content.

So will it be iCloud for you?

 

 

Netflix Kills Qwikster, DVD by Mail Still Netflix. Suffers $200 Dollar a Share Loss.

netflix logoMaybe it was the weird spelling, the fact it was too close to Qwikstar (the Amway rebrand) or the twitter is owned by the Pot Smoking Elmo. Nonetheless, Netflix announced today they will not be seperating the company into two. Netflix DVD rental will still be $8 (with an additional $8 for streaming).

How Netflix Screwed themselves in the last 3 Months.

In July, Netflix came to the realization their service was not priced efficiently for the company to make a profit. Therefore, they announced by Sept 1st, they would be changing price plans.

The service separated the streaming from the DVD rental. For $8, you could get one DVD at a time. Add another $8 and you could get Netflix streaming. It was a move that happened too fast, so people lashed back.

Last month, Netflix’ CEO Reed Hastings outlined plans to separate the DVD by mail business and give it’s own name – Qwikster. People started speculating Netflix was planning to sell the DVD mail side and focus more on streaming. Within 14 days, Netflix saw a major decline of customers (Some calling the idea “Qwikstupid”) .

Netflix stock dropped almost $100 a share from Septembers’ announcement, and over $200 a share from July. Netflix lost millions of dollars in the last 90 days with these changes. Needless to say, this is not a great business plan.

What Netflix Needs to Do to Recoup this Large Deficit.

First of all, it would be a VERY GOOD idea to offer at least 1 free month to current customers (although 3 months would be better). After all, these are the people that stuck through it all. Next – cut the service price for DVD rental and streaming. Meet in the middle – $12 a month for 1 DVD at a time and streaming.

Reed Hastings also needs to put together a very big public apology. I don’t think it’s time for him to pass the CEO reigns just yet, but maybe Netflix needs to shake up the board a bit. This was a horrible idea that was ultimately agreed upon by the directors.

Will You Go Back to Netflix?

This is the biggest question. After all these bad decisions, would you choose to go back to Netflix? They do have the most coverage in streaming options, being on most Over the top TV solutions and game consoles. Still, loosing 1/3 of their operating share makes you wonder if they can ever get back to the $300 / share peak they enjoyed back in July.

I personally use the Netflix streaming service – I abandoned DVD rentals simply because they sat on the coffee table for weeks at a time. With new additions in AMC’s Walking Dead and Discovery’s Mythbusters to streaming, I have a month’s worth of shows to watch. Tron Legacy also showed up this month, which gives me more of what I really crave – top movies that are only a year old.

Buffalo Portable DVD Recorder

While Bluray and USB3 are where it’s at, it’s easy to forget that there’s a solid market for inexpensive legacy optical drives. And it’s into this market that Buffalo have today released a stylish portable DVD recorder for those of us who have laptops or netbooks that don’t have a CD/DVD drive.

It’s pretty much run of the mill spec-wise, handling all the formats (-R,-RW,+R,+RW, -RAM) and it can also manage dual layer disks. It’s only USB2 but that’s not a problem given the expected data rates. It is bus powered, though, and has a warning light to indicate when there’s insufficient power coming through the port.The USB cable clips neatly into the drive itself, so with no additional power cable, it’s a smart unit that can slip easily into any bag.

Comes with a CyberLink software suite for movie playback and other features.

Available soon from all good retailers. Pricing not yet announced but I’d expect it to be in-line with the older model at an RRP of £60, though you can easily find the drive online for less that half the RRP.

(If you have the money, Buffalo do have a portable optical drive that supports Bluray as well – currently available from Amazon for £182. Your call).

 

Zediva Has A New Way To Stream Movies

Stories about Zediva have been kicking around the internet for the past few days.  It’s an interesting story and an even more interesting concept.  The company’s founder explained that concept to Rotten Tomatoes as this:

“We don’t rent digital copies of a movie,” he said. “Our users rent a physical DVD, along with a DVD player, from us for a fixed amount of time. They then control that DVD player remotely over the internet — and stream the movie privately to themselves.  Think of it as a really long cable and a really long remote control.”

That “actual DVD” loophole allows Zediva to bypass the streaming contracts that are the bane of such companies as Netflix.  This means they can show more recent releases than other services.  They also charge less for new releases than their competitors – $1.99 for a 14 day rental as opposed to $3.99 from places like Amazon.  They even offer a deal of 10 movies for $10.

They go so far with the physical DVD model that you may find some movies to be rented out and you’ll have to wait for the next available copy.  With that sort of limitation it may be enough for the model to succeed.  We’ll have to wait and see what the studios and the MPAA have to say.

Should You Pay For Content?

I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were chatting back and forth about the newly offered Hulu Plus, where for $10 dollars a month, you can get Hulu on a wide variety of devices including smart phones and over-the-top Internet TV boxes. Hulu is also offering a somewhat wider, but still incomplete back catalog archive of shows. One of the hosts was saying he wouldn’t pay for content, he wanted it “for free.”

Whether we realize it or not, we are all paying for content, either directly or indirectly. Even if we have only a TV antenna and watch only the local TV channels, we are still paying for content indirectly via advertising. When we buy consumer products of virtually any kind, part of what we pay goes for advertising, which pays for content creation.

If we are paying indirectly only, someone else is deciding for us as to the quality of the programming content. We can either consume that content or not, but we still pay as consumers buying products. We have very little indirect control over what gets put on the air. On the other hand, if we pay for content directly, then we have far greater control over the quality of the media we are consuming.

If Hulu can offer value for the money, then it will succeed What they have to do is figure out what people are willing to pay for. Perhaps that value revolves around putting highly-sought-after content on as many devices as possible. Perhaps it revolves around coming up with the absolute best back catalog of old TV shows. Imagine having instant streaming access to every TV show ever produced in every country in any language, and every movie ever produced anywhere in any language. Something like that would be well worth paying for. Imagine a site such as IMDB.Com that lists every movie and TV show ever made, except as a subscriber you could instantly stream it – now you’re talking. Hulu, anyone else out there – are you listening?

I personally would be willing to pay for a service such as Hulu, except for one small glitch. There are no back catalog shows on the site at the moment that really excite me. Network drama shows can sometimes be quite good, but my tastes are somewhat different.

When I had Dish Network, I was watching a few selected shows on only 3 channels – Discovery, TLC and History. I can get most of these shows if I really want them at some point via Netflix. To my way of thinking, Netflix is a much better value. Netflix has a far wider variety of content, plus they also offer the handy rental service of DVD’s and Blu-ray discs.

The verdict is currently out whether Hulu will be able to figure out what value it needs to best serve its customers. If people are paying Hulu money directly, then Hulu had better quickly figure out exactly what those customers want and do its best to deliver it to them.

Hey Hulu, here’s an idea to try. Offer first-run streaming movies, but do it the Hulu way. I would be willing to pay for a first run movie streaming for a nominal pay-per-view fee, say $5.99. Vudu is offering streaming first run movies, but you have to have a big fat Internet connection to be able to use Vudu. The Vudu service demands way more bandwidth than my Internet service can currently deliver.

Here’s yet another idea for Hulu – offer exclusive, Hulu-only content consisting of well-produced material revolving around the “Entertainment Tonight” type of concept. Do exclusive interviews of movie and TV stars. Do exclusive interviews of directors. Give people real value for their money. Make your customers want to not only see you succeed, but motivate them to help you succeed.

Choosing Influences

So now that I’ve cut the cord with Dish Network, I’ve started digging deeper into the instant streaming material available on Netflix. It seems that most of the programs I would have watched on Discovery, TLC or History – the three channels I watched 99% of the time — are available as season DVD sets streaming via Netflix.

There are also plenty of season DVD’s of television programs available for streaming that I don’t have any interest in. Now that I’ve cut my Dish Network subscription, I realize that I was paying dearly for their presence even though I had no interest in watching them.

The bottom line is that I can only watch one show at a time. Having 200 plus channels available simultaneously seemed exciting, but the reality is that at least 97% of whatever was on at any given point didn’t appeal to me in any way. It’s crap looking to influence whoever it can reach out and grab.

With audio podcast listening, it allows me to choose my own influences. The IPTV revolution brings that powerful ability to choose my influences to television.

This revelation shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve been here before. Back in late 2004 when I discovered podcasting, it was exactly what I’d been looking for. I was suddenly able to pick and choose audio content and consume it on my own terms. I could listen to exactly what I wanted, when I wanted to listen to it. Suddenly, instead of being at the mercy of having to listen to what was mostly crap programming on radio stations I happened to be driving by, I was able to turn that huge amount of listening time I had while driving into a tremendous benefit.

Broadcast television has been traditionally viewed as mindless entertainment. Like audio programming, television programming can easily be used in the same beneficial ways. Now that I’m forced to choose what to watch, I realize that what I choose to spend time watching will be much more personally beneficial.

Broadcast television is potentially detrimental and there’s no question in my mind that much of it is hypnotic. If a TV screen is present and turned on most people can’t help but periodically stare at it, even if the sound is turned down.

It has only been a bit over 24 hours since I cancelled my Dish Network subscription, and I’m already over the emotional separation. Who needs all of those less-than-useless channels?