Physical media has been on a slow downward spiral for several years. Most pundits agree that Blu-ray and DVD is dropping to the collector space with the mainstream settling for lower quality video and audio, and paying a never ending rental fee for convenience. Physical media collectors have argued that if you own a 4k television, the only way to fully take advantage of the TV’s capabilities is via physical media, and they are right. They also argue that by relying exclusively on streaming or digital options a viewer never actually owns the films and television shows they love, even if they purchase the media through something like Voodoo or iTunes. Again, the collectors are correct but the mainstream don’t mind overpaying for media in exchange for immediacy and for convenience. Fair enough, but along came the pandemic.
This article by no means is meant to make light of the tragedy impacting the globe that is Covid-19. As of this writing I hope that everyone is keeping safe and staying at home, just as I am.
Recent news out of Europe reports that Netflix and other streaming entities were asked to drop the resolution of media subscribers were streaming due to the weight on the internet of so many people staying at home and streaming. This created some fears in the United States that the same could happen here. This means if you are paying for 4k content from Netflix and Disney Plus (which with the compression streaming looks about as good as a 1080p Blu-ray) you wouldn’t get that level of image and sound. As of this writing I am unaware that the streaming services have made any resolution adjustments domestically but the fear is already in place. Multiple Youtubers have been sharing videos of DVD’s and blu-rays sold out are near sold out in both Wal-Mart and Target. Those same Youtubers are now sitting back and admiring their physical copies with no worry of anything to watch in full HD or 4k, and they are happy to brag about it too.
I am a collector, and while I typically work very hard to maintain objectivity in news and reviews I am inclined to agree with all of these Youtubers. You own nothing when you buy digital media and in the long term you overpay for films and TV via streaming. Anything digital, whether you bought it or you stream it, can be re-edited by the studio at any time. Disney has done that a lot with their animated films and, well we know the story with the Star Wars franchise. The current version of Star Wars on Disney Plus offers the worst editing in the film’s history. This is the perfect time to take a look at digital versus physical and consider if convenience is worth maybe not having access to something that could give you that all important mental break when you need it the most. Having films and television to watch has been my most important way to deal with the anxiety associated with the pandemic we are now suffering through. Does that mean everyone needs to own a thousand movies on Blu-ray stock piled beside their hundred rolls of toilet paper? No, but a reasonable library of favorites, just like books, can really help with hard times. Now everyone is stuck buying the ten-dollar direct to video schlock at Wal-Mart just to get that mental break because they are learning that Netflix has a subpar movie selection outside of their own original content, which is also mostly not good.
Buy the films, music, and books you love and you’ll never have to wonder if they will be there for you when you need them the most.