The Accelerating Death of the DVD

Deadline reports the latest Rentrak data about DVD rentals:

Consumers spent $5.65B renting DVDs and Blu-ray discs in 2011, Rentrak says this morning citing data from its Home Video Essentials tracking service. That’s down 3.4% from 2010. But consumer defections from disc rentals appear to be accelerating. In the last three months of the year, rentals were -21.3% from the same period in 2010, as business at kiosks — including Redbox, which charges $1.20 a night — grew by 28%.

I’m not sure if this data includes Netflix rentals, but in any case, the same trend is roughly true for that company as well: now that subscriptions to Netflix DVD and streaming services are separate, subscriptions to the DVD-by-mail service are down. And we don’t have data yet about whether the end of Netflix’s streaming deal with Starz, which means that a bunch of content that was previously available streaming is now only available by mail, is driving consumers back to the DVD service.

My guess is that ultimately DVDs will become a luxury-item business. People will still want to buy fancy box sets with extra features that come all wrapped up in gorgeous packaging for their very favorite things. But most of us, they’ll become an inconvenience: the discs and the cases will take up space, and even a several day wait to get them will seem so irritatingly slow as to not be worth it for all but the most desirable content. And making both video and books impulse purchases that are instantly available may increase how much we use them. Netflix streaming’s grown to be a huge proportion of internet use, and while the numbers are self-reported, there’s some data to suggest that e-reader owners buy and read more books. It’ll just be interesting to see at which point television and music creating companies accept that they’re in the same position book publishers are, and offer dual formats rather than pushing DVDs over downloads. Ultraviolet is a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure getting cloud storage space with a disk is as attractive as getting cloud storage space with a download: the whole point of cloud storage is not having to deal with those pesky discs and format transfers.