Archive for the ‘DVD’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (February 24, 2019)

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Only a couple of days left in the shortest month of the year, which is just as well, as summer here in Australia has become unbearable. With March comes possibly one of the best seasons ever, and it is also my favourite month as it will be my birthday again. Yes, I’m quite vain and I definitely think this song, and the entire month of March, is all about me.

A little ’70s music trivia aside, we have a few news stories to go through, so let’s get started.

High Definition

Well, it may not be the actual end of an era, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it definitely feels like the beginning of the end. Samsung has confirmed that it will stop launching new Blu-ray player models in the US. Initially, it was thought that only 1080p Blu-ray players were affected, but it soon became clear that Samsung plans to stop launching even new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players!

Samsung's UBD-M9500
Samsung’s UBD-M9500 4K Blu-ray player, the last the company plans to release in the US

Those following Samsung won’t be too surprised by the move, as the company hasn’t brought out a new Blu-ray/4K player since 2017. Samsung’s denial of support for Dolby Vision also meant that their players just weren’t what people wanted, considering how popular Dolby Vision is compared to the rival HDR10+ format. The unpopular nature of Samsung’s players, and the fact that the marketplace for Blu-ray players is quite crowded may partly explain Samsung’s decision, but it is still quite a blow for physical media.

That a major CE firm is ending support for such a major disc format, and so soon in the format’s lifespan, does not bode well for the format, or physical media in general.

The decision is also a weird one because Samsung’s TV business is doing quite well, and it’s weird that Samsung would then force its TV owners to seek out a rival brand’s Blu-ray player. With that said, it’s not as if Samsung will stop selling Blu-ray players, but merely not planning on releasing any new models in the future – they will simply continue to sell their last released players, the UBD-M9500 (in fact, the 2016 model, the UBD-K8500, is still for sale too). The fact that there’s not a lot of upgrade potential for Blu-ray and 4K players, probably also contributed to Samsung’s decision.

But buyers not satisfied with a 2017 model will definitely have to look elsewhere.

And part of the reason why Samsung is defocusing from its physical media business is the existence of streaming, and in particular, Netflix. But just because Netflix is dominant, it doesn’t mean there aren’t things that the streaming giant is worried about. Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, appears to be one of those things.

Netflix and Disney have previously worked together well as the Hollywood studio used the streaming platform to offer its movies and shows to a wider audience. While this generates some revenue for Disney, it also loses them some in terms of physical and digital sell-through for the same content, but with a wider audience now caught up to the happenings of the Marvel Universe, for example, it has led to higher box office receipts for the studio. There are many terms you can use to describe Disney, but stupid is not one of them.

Still photo from The Punisher
Marvel’s The Punisher cancelled by Netflix, who no longer wishes to help Disney now that the studio is launching its own streaming platform

But this past partnership is now proving to be a problem now that Disney, whether they think so or not, is directly threatening the dominance of Netflix with Disney+. Disney+ will now host much of the same content that has drawn subscribers to Netflix, and will create new content based on franchises that Netflix wish they had.

So Netflix’s steely move to cancel all remaining Marvel co-productions, including ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Jessica Jones’, is a quite understandable one. Better to lose a finger now, than a hand, later.

And the ominous statement following the move from Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb shows the frenemy side of Netflix and Disney’s relationship, as well as a hint on how Disney will take it to Netflix via its Marvel (and other) franchises. Loeb wrote in response to the cancellations: “Our network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters … but you know Marvel better than that.”

Wow!

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So while we await the Avengers like epic battle between Netflix and Disney+, we have come to the end of another WNR. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (December 16, 2018)

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I finished bingeing (or is that binging – nope, doesn’t look right) Narcos: Mexico. It was great. I mean, I wouldn’t put it anywhere near shows like The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s a high quality production featuring some great acting and an amazing but true (well, mostly) storyline. It’s also reminded me that I should go watch Scarface again, which is exactly what I’m doing just before I started writing this WNR.

Also watched Alpha, suspected animal abuse aside, loved it for the beautiful cinematography and simple story.

And yes, there was still time for some news …

Discs sales are on the decline, that’s clear as day. Blu-ray sales peaked in 2013, it appears, while DVD sales peaked long ago. While Ultra HD Blu-ray has lifted Blu-ray’s numbers a bit, the general trend is still down, especially for DVDs.

Walmart Blu-ray and DVD Sales Rack
Blu-ray and DVD sales still doing well in certain locations, says Walmart

The very first Black Friday sales figures I tracked for DVDs had the revenue for the week at $386.35 million (this was in 2008). This Black Friday, that figure has dwindled down to $116.45 million.

Sure, Blu-ray revenue rose from $27.68 million in 2008 to $104.37 million in 2018, but that doesn’t come anywhere near plugging in the hole left by declining DVD sales.

But according to an EVP at Lionsgate, the decline in discs sales isn’t happening everywhere, and in rural USA, sales are still going strong

And the recent Black Friday sales also show one important thing – people still do buy discs in great numbers, but only if the price is right. The discounting of UHD titles from their usual $25 to $9 on Amazon really helped, and that’s because the perceived value of discs have dropped in a day and age where $11 per month gets you thousands of titles, including many exclusives, like Narcos: Mexico, that you would have paid good money to watch and own previously.

Scene from The Kissing Booth
Netflix’s most re-watched Original film in 2018 was The Kissing Booth

Speaking of Netflix Originals, the streaming giant has put together a review of 2018 in terms the most “popular” shows and movies that have premiered in 2018. Netflix is notoriously shy about releasing actual watch figures, so they’ve used some interesting metrics to measure the popularity of shows, movies and even the fastest rising stars. The Kissing Booth was the most popular Netflix original film because it was the most re-watched; On My Block just beat out Making a Murderer: Part 2 as the most popular original series because it had the higher average watch time per viewing session (I think that’s what you would normally call binge-factor), and The Fab Five from Queer Eye were the most popular stars because their Instagram follower count increased the most. 

And you know what, hardly any of the movies and shows listed by Netflix will ever make it to Blu-ray or DVD. And this, perhaps more than pricing, is the biggest obstacle facing physical media.

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Alright then, that’s all for the week. There won’t be a WNR next week as I’ll be away for the weekend at a wedding. Might not be one after that as well, considering it’s so near to Christmas and all that, but will try to pop on and say hello. And now, back to Scarface.

Weekly News Roundup (August 5, 2018)

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

And we’re back. Sorry for the brief hiatus, various reasons were responsible for it and it’s pointless to go through it now, but suffice to say, normal service resumes this week.

Not really a huge news week to begin with though, but a couple of pieces of interesting niff-naff is what brings me, and you I guess, here. So let’s get started.

High Definition

I have an odd habit of needing to having something on the in background while I work. Recently, it’s been Harry Potter movies for no other reason than the fact that there are lots of them. After going through the first four movies which are on Netflix, I ran into a stumbling block, in that none of the streaming services that I subscribe to seems to have the rest. The solution, other than piracy, was to dig out my old disc copy of ‘The Order of the Phoenix’, but for some reason, I couldn’t find my Blu-ray copy, but I did find the HDDVD copy, which was a combo version that also had the DVD edition on the other side. Not wanting to dig out my external HDDVD drive from its semi-permanent retirement home (in the closet), the DVD version had to do, and it is playing in Media Player Classic right now as I type.

HD DVD combo copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix saves the day

So the moral of the story? Discs are a pain in the neck, to store and then to locate, and if you’re one of the unlucky few to have invested in an obsolete format, then things can get very tricky, very fast. And this, along with the fact that you save a lot of money every year by not buying discs and simply relying on subscription streaming, is why subscription streaming is so popular these days.

How popular? Well, in the U.S., 17% of consumers now rely solely on SVOD services for their movie and TV needs, abandoning the rental and purchase of DVD, Blu-ray and digital copies. Out of all the people who stream, 24% now subscribe to three or more services, which backs up my experience of not being able to find everything I want on just one service (and sometimes not even on all three, case in point, my Harry Potter experience above).

Licensing restrictions and original productions means that it’s more and more necessary to hold more than one SVOD subscription. This is why hardware like Roku and Apple TV, and products like Amazon Channels will become more and more necessary, and why even smaller platforms like CBS All Access have found increasing popularity.

Star Trek: Discovery

CBS All Access’s headlining series has helped it gain a lot of new subscribers

How popular? Well, CBS All Access and CBS owned Showtime OTT will have more than 8 million subscribers by 2019, and that’s quite impressive for a platform that only offers limited (ie. CBS, and some Paramount, MGM) content. A large part of CBS All Access’s success has been the release of the show ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, which exclusively streams on the platform and has helped it earn countless number of new subscribers. Content has never been more important, and exclusive, original content is a must for any streaming platform if it’s to survive in an increasingly crowded field. This is good for consumers in that there are lot of money being invested in quality content (such as Amazon’s billion dollar gamble on a Lord of the Rings TV series), but also bad because it means that if they want to watch everything, they have to subscribe to everything. These services may only cost $5-7 per month, but this adds up quickly. On the other hand, it may still end up cheaper than cable, plus you’ll have way more content on demand.

CBS All Access’s success also bodes well for Disney/Fox’s streaming offering, which promises to have even more content, at about the same price point.

And if things worked once, why not try it again? CBS All Access’s Star Trek inspired success has inspired them to try it again with a new Star Trek series by bringing back none other than Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard. The new series, I’m guessing set in the original timeline (and not the Chris Pine Star Trek series timeline), will chronicle the adventures of Picard 20 years after the events of the last Next-Gen movie ‘Nemesis’, with room for plenty of guest stars from the Next Generation era. I can’t wait, although I suspect I’ll have to subscribe to the Australian version of CBS All Access if/when it launches here, as opposed to relying on Netflix Australia, which had the rights to ‘Star Trek: Discovery’.

Money well spent perhaps, and money I once would have spent on DVDs and Blu-rays without a second thought, but still, it’s asking consumers to spend more money when they’ve just started to get used to spending less.

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Well, that’s it for this week’s new. I must say I’m way more excited than I should be about the return of Jean-Luc Picard to Star Trek, something I thought would never happen. We do truly live in the golden age of television! See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (June 10, 2018)

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Sorry about the brief hiatus last week, but in the WNR’s stead, I hope you enjoyed reading the (really really delayed) Blu-ray: The State of Play article. As the preview for the article mentioned, there were no real surprises, with Blu-ray (and DVD) continuing their slide towards VHS.

No need to skip anything this week though, as we do have a bit of news to go through.

High Definition

Netflix Remote

People are threatening to cancel their Netflix subscriptions over politics

Skipping straight to digital video news, streaming and the world of politics intersected this week when a campaign to boycott Netflix sprang up in response to an announcement by the streaming giant that angered the US conservatives community. Netflix announced that a new deal was struck with a production company linked to the Obamas, which along with the recent appointment of former Obama admin advisor Susan Rice to its board of director, had caught the ire of conservatives, now accusing Netflix of having a liberal bias.

Polling conducted by YouGov did find a serious slide (of 16%) in Netflix’s favorability rating among conservatives (unsurprisingly, they also found a 15% rise in favorability among liberals), but Netflix remains one of the most liked networks in the US (second only to the Discovery network), even among self identified Republicans.

Like many critics have concluded, Netflix’s move has very little to do with politics, but very much to do with business (like any good corporation). The Obamas are popular in many of the markets that Netflix are trying to grow, and so business trumps (pun unintended) any real or perceived political bias.

For those that haven’t cancelled their Netflix subscriptions yet, they are increasingly watching Netflix and other media via their streaming media devices such as the Apple TV or Roku, as opposed to using their smart TV to do so, according to new data released by Parks Associates. In fact, 50% of people who have smart TVs also down a streaming media device that probably duplicates many of the functions they already have on their TV.

Amazon Fire TV

People prefer Amazon’s Fire TV over Google’s Chromecast

For anyone who has used both types of devices, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Smart TVs often have cumbersome interfaces that makes little effort to be user friendly, and have apps that aren’t updated frequently enough to take advantage of the latest features of services such as Netflix. There’s nothing “smart” about many of the set ups on these so called smart TVs, with many of the features merely an afterthought and it’s more for marketing reasons than anything else that these features exist.

The Parks data also pointed to a small decline in Google’s share of the streaming media device market, with Amazon filling the void. The Chromecast, as good as it is, is also limited in the number of supported apps and in terms of usability (relying on your smartphone/tablet app in order to provide much of the usability, leading to a lack of a coherent and consistent interface between services).

Other data shows the adoption of 4K/Ultra HD television sets is gathering pace, with 30% of TV purchasers now going for the 4K type over the standard HD ones. Again, not too surprising considering the sometimes small price premium between HD and UHD models.

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And unsurprisingly, we’ve come to the end of another (short) WNR. See you next week!

Blu-ray: The State of Play – 2017

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

Welcome to another edition of our annual Blu-ray sales analysis, where we look at how Blu-ray has performed over the last year.

The data used in this analysis derives from our weekly updates, based on figures released by Media Play News (previously known as Home Media Magazine). Some of the historical figures you’ll see have also been adjusted, due to slight tweaking of the metrics used by MPN to create these sets of data, although the changes have been very subtle and does not change the bigger picture in any way.

The conclusion from last year’s report centered on the fact that while Blu-ray revenue made a slight recovery off the launch of 4K Ultra HD and the better caliber of releases from 2016, Blu-ray revenue’s peak seems to have been reached in 2013.

Read on to find out if this is still true, or if UHD has helped Blu-ray turn a corner!

Blu-ray Market Share

As has been the case with all of our “Blu-ray: The State of Play” reports in the past, we start with the ever wider Blu-ray Market Share graph. Blu-ray market share represents weekly Blu-ray sales as a percentage of total packaged disc sales. So a Blu-ray market share of 45% means that 45% of all disc packages sold in that week contained a Blu-ray disc (inversely, this also means that 55% of disc packages sold only contained the DVD version of the content). With the way sales figures are reported, any edition that includes a Blu-ray version of the film is counted as a Blu-ray package (even if the package also contains a DVD version of the film). Ultra HD Blu-ray sales are also counted in the Blu-ray column. In the graph below, we also point out some of the more obvious milestone releases. 2017’s major releases, at least those that had a significant impact on Blu-ray market share for the week that they were released, were MoanaRogue One, Logan, Beauty and the BeastThe Fate of the FuriousGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Cars 3.

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017 – Click to see larger version

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017 – Click to see larger version

Note that because Blu-ray market share is proportional to DVD market share, any drop in DVD sales will also result in a higher Blu-ray market share, even if Blu-ray sales are steady. With DVD on a steady decline, Blu-ray market share will continue to rise as long as it’s own sales decline is slower than that of DVD’s.

Below is the same data condensed and with a trend line added. The trend line does seem to indicate some kind of flattening for most part of 2017, and certainly the peak recorded in 2016 (for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’) was not bested in 2017, although there were a few smaller peaks that, had it not been for the record breaking week in 2016, would themselves have been record breaking. The standout releases were ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’, both of these did much better on Blu-ray than your typical release, hence the peaks in the graph.

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2017

Blu-ray Revenue

For actual revenue, unfortunately, no records were broken as you can see from the graph below. In fact, none of 2017’s releases managed to beat 2017’s The Force Awakens, and even the important Black Friday/Cyber Monday and holiday sales weeks were lower in 2017 than compared to the same week in 2016. 2017’s peaks were also somewhat lower than even 2015’s, but the record remains with 2013 (and may always be the case). 2013 being the peak Blu-ray year, at least when it comes to revenue, remains a likely fact for the foreseeable future – it’s not so much that disc sales were so much higher, but that discs costs less per unit than they did in 2013 – so more sales could still mean less revenue.

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2017

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2017

2016 vs 2017 Comparison

So let’s take a closer look at how 2017 did compared to 2016, starting with Blu-ray market share as shown in the graph below. Overall, it looks like 2017’s market share was, in most weeks, better than 2016’s. This may have more to do with the decline in DVD revenue being faster than the decline in Blu-ray revenue, which causes Blu-ray market share to naturally rise.

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

Revenue wise, the differences between 2016 and 2017 were less visible. It was mostly an up and down affair, with some weeks being higher, some being lower, although 2017 really failed to hit the peaks that 2016 did, especially towards the important end of the year holiday sales period.

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2016 vs 2017 Comparison

We can get a clearer picture by looking at the raw numbers. Out of the 52 reporting weeks in 2017, 23 of them were better than the same week in 2016, with 29 being worse. This is almost a complete reversal of 2016, and is actually more similar to 2015, when 31 weeks had a weekly revenue worse than the same week in 2014. It appears that without record breaking huge releases, Blu-ray is definitely experiencing a steady decline.

Average Blu-ray market share was 39.6% in 2017 compared to 36.36% in 2016.

As a result, Blu-ray revenue continued the decline first seen in 2014. Total Blu-ray revenue for 2017 was $1.88 billion, compared to $2.02 billion in 2016, a decline of 6.74%.

Conclusion

To sum up:

  • Blu-ray market share grew, but it may largely be due to the decline in DVD than any rise in Blu-ray sales
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the title to beat in 2017
  • Blu-ray revenue continues its decline

These results still seem to confirm that 2013 was the peak for Blu-ray sales, and that the “Rey” of hope for in 2016 may have been just a temporary one. There are some bigger releases in 2018, including The Last Jedi, the latest Avengers movie and surprise mega-hit Black Panther, but even these may not be enough to slow or stop Blu-ray’s decline.