Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Streaming is the future of home video

Every now and then, I like to take stock of the home video landscape. The first time I wrote such a column, I was firmly on the side of buying DVDs and Blu-ray over streaming movies. The superior audio/video quality, coupled with the plethora of extra features, made discs the clear winner against the upstart, I wrote.

Much has changed since then -- plus, not much of note is coming out on video this week -- so now’s a good time to reassess.

In 2007, Netflix shipped its 1 billionth DVD. But not long after, the video rental giant fell on hard times. They’re riding back high now -- to the point they’ve recently announced their intention to boost subscription prices for new members. (Existing members will enjoy an undetermined grandfathering period.)

The vast majority of new Netflix subscribers are streaming-only. Indeed, it has been estimated that one-third of all data usage on the web consists of people streaming Netflix shows!

Like competitors such as Hulu, Vudu, Amazon and others, they offer a large library of films and television shows available 24/7. On a home network with high-speed Internet access, video quality can be on par with DVD. Though one of the prime benefits of streaming is the ability to watch anywhere on a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer.

Personally, I still subscribe to both the streaming and DVD arms of Netflix, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Large portions of their film library -- especially older and less popular titles favored by cine-nerds -- aren’t available for streaming.

Plus, Netflix has become a major player in producing their own content, with shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” racking up viewers and Emmy Award nominations (and wins).
But with a small child and a baby coming up, right now probably 90 percent of my Netflix viewing is streaming. (And if I have to sit through one more episode of “LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu,” I’m liable to barf.)

The point is, convenience and versatility have come to trump presentation quality and diversity of choices. You may not be able to watch as many different things via streaming, and it may not look/sound as good as sitting in your home theater with a big flatscreen and Dolby 7.1 sound blasting out at you.

But with our hectic, on-the-go lifestyles, that’s simply not how most people are watching movies these days. For better and for worse, streaming is the future of home video.

1 comment:

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