Archive for the ‘DVD’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (December 10, 2017)

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Welcome to another WNR. It’s been a very quiet week, and I expect a few of them going into the holiday break. But as long as there’s a single story to talk about, we’ll be here, even if the WNR, like this one, might be a very short one indeed.

Copyright

Redbox Kiosk

Disney going after Redbox for re-selling digital copy codes

It’s not often that I agree with the premise behind a Hollywood studio’s lawsuit. These types of lawsuits usually tend to exaggerate the scale of the problem, frequently ignore the principles of fair use, and mostly just used by studios for propaganda purposes, with no real effect on piracy.

But Disney’s lawsuit against Redbox, from a common sense point of view, does seem to have merit. Redbox has been buying Disney movies at retail and putting them in their Redbox kiosks. This part I have no problems with, and while I’m sure Disney would prefer a more formalised deal, this isn’t what the lawsuit is about. What it is about is Redbox taking the Digital Copy inserts from these Blu-ray or DVD movies and then selling them to their customers, despite it being made very clear that these Digital Copy codes are not for sale or transfer.

I’m sure individuals have done this before – to sell the Digital Copy codes on at a discount compared to what the movie would normally cost on iTunes. But for a company to do this, on such a scale commercially, they’re just asking for trouble. The fact of the matter is that Disney and other studios offers a “discount” on these digital copies as part of a Blu-ray or DVD combo in order to promote their disc sales, even though they know this will eat in to their digital only business. Redbox actions removes any incentive Disney has for going down this road, and at the same time, takes a chunk out of Disney’s digital sales.

Redbox’s argument seems to be that it’s good for the consumer, and so they should be allowed to do it. They have a point in that, by offering these digital downloads at a discount, it’s doing us consumers a favour. But we all know that if this is Redbox’s only argument, then it will not hold up in court, because there are plenty of “pro-consumer” products and activities that are, at the end of the day, outright illegal.

High Definition

Redbox’s actions are not really a threat to Disney’s disc and digital sales, as the studio is doing roaring business thanks to its major franchises, all of which seem to do well on Blu-ray. But with that said, discs sales are definitely down all around. With Black Friday just out of the way, I’ve managed to have a look and write up the sales results from the week, and things aren’t looking up.

Movies at Walmart

Disc sales are down this Black Friday

In fact, almost everything is down. Both Blu-ray sales and DVD sales are down, but because DVD is falling faster than Blu-ray, weekly Blu-ray market share managed to rise compared to the last Black Friday. That’s little consolation considering overall sales were down $36 million, or roughly 13%.

The only bright spot appears to be Ultra HD Blu-ray sales, which now accounts for nearly 10% of all disc sales for many of the top sellers. That’s not bad considering the number of 4K TVs in people’s homes, and the lack of real discounting on BF.

The arrival of subscription streaming, and to a lesser extent, digital sales, have all had an impact on the popularity of discs.

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That’s all we have for you this week it seems. Told you it wasn’t much. Hoping there’s more next week, so until then …

Weekly News Roundup (November 26, 2017)

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Sorry again for the lack of a WNR last week – I know this is kind of getting ridiculous, but I had a good excuse. I have just moved house and with everything in such a state of mess, I couldn’t even find a proper surface to put my laptop on, let alone do any work (and that’s if I had time, which I didn’t).

You didn’t miss much though, and some of the stuff from then will be covered in this WNR as well. Let’s get going then!

Copyright

HBO Hack

The HBO hacker has been identified as someone who used to work for the Iranian military

I had totally forgotten about it, but apparently the FBI did not, and the identify of the HBO hacker has been revealed. 29 year-old Behzad Mesri is the man the FBI says is responsible for the hack and the leak of confidential information from HBO, which included episode spoilers for ‘Game of Thrones’, as well as actual unaired episodes from other HBO shows.

Mesri had gained access to HBO’s systems, possible through social engineering techniques linked to an executive at the company. He then demanded a ransom payment of $6 million in Bitcoins, but when HBO failed to negotiate, Mesri did what he promised and started leaking content from July through August.

Charges that could carry a maximum of 42 years in prison have been laid, but it’s unlikely Mesri will ever face justice. The reason? Mesri currently live in Iran!

Also noteworthy, but maybe not, was the fact that Mesri used to work for the Iranian military involved in hacking the computer systems of foreign governments and enemies. The HBO hack, then, was probably a stroll in the park for Mesri. There is no suggestion that the Iranian military had any interest in the hack, I mean, why would they unless they too were big fans of ‘Game of Thrones’.

Fair Use

It’s a FU from the MPAA to Australians when it comes to Fair for Australians

Speaking of foreign interference, Hollywood studios are trying to tell us Aussies are not as worthy as Americans when it comes to having fair use protection. The MPAA is lobbying the Australian government to not give us the same rights that citizens of the trade group’s home country, the United States, currently enjoy.

Having fair use rights would enshrine into law the rights that we, as consumers, ought to have when it comes to using content that we’ve already paid for. This would mean things like making a personal copy of a movie ought to be legal, even if it means circumventing copy protection. This would also mean extra protection for educators, and also security researchers when it comes to finding security flaws (as sometimes you need to attempt to break the protection before you can find its weakness). It’s all common sense stuff that kind of falls into a legal grey area at the moment – you’re most likely not going to get sued for it, but even if you do, you’ll most likely win the case in court – fair use exemptions simply make it clearer from a legal point of view what is actually allowed and not allowed.

You would think the creative industry, or everyone really, should embrace injecting this kind of clarity into the copyright laws, but for Hollywood, they are against anything that has the perception of watering down copyright laws, regardless of whether it’s something that’s good for the economy or good for consumers. So I hope the Australian government sees the MPAA’s opinions as exactly what it is – a biased opinion from a group that puts its own self interest above everything, the economy, the rights of its customers, and common sense.

High Definition

With Australian retailers freaking out at the moment about the introduction of Amazon into our market, one thing is for sure, the increased competition should lead to lower prices for a lot of things, and in particular things like DVDs and Blu-rays. This is because a lot of Australians already have experience buying movies from Amazon US or UK (back when the exchange rate was more favourable), so much so, that Amazon has had a local warehouse here for ages now to deal with the ever increasing sales.

Tomorrow Never Dies DVD and Blu-ray

Blu-ray and DVD price drops accelerate due to increasing competition from streaming and digital

It won’t be the only pressure on DVD and Blu-ray pricing though, as the latest data from the UK shows that streaming services such as Netflix and online retailers have had a big effect on when retailers and studios choose to drop prices for the latest films. Retailers are dropping prices sooner and with a great amount than before, according to the latest data, and competition from the likes of Amazon Instant Video and online retailers, as well as supermarkets engaged in loss leading practices, is the main cause.

Adding my own personal anecdotal evidence into the mix, I’ve dramatically cut down on the number of movies I buy on disc since the arrival of Netflix and local streaming options. And so when I buy, it will only be because of a really great price. If other feel the same way as I do, then prices are only going to go down even further. Subscription streaming has definitely, in my opinion, lowered the value of movies to the point where I think it’s ridiculous to pay AUD $30 for one. Buying movies also has other problems that streaming and digital sellthrough does not have – as someone who is in the middle of moving, having endless number of boxes full of Blu-rays and DVDs is a real headache. On the positive side, I’m definitely going to the movies more with the money I’ve saved buying discs (but my overall spending is still way down).

Although with Amazon arriving locally, and if they can give us some great deals on Blu-rays, I might just get back into buying – not as much as before, but more than now. It really is all just about perceived value, isn’t it?

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Well, that’s it for the week. Hope you’ve had a nice Thanksgiving for those in the U.S., a good result from Black Friday (not only in the U.S., it seems to be everywhere now), and hope you grab a bargain on Cyber Monday too. See you next week.

Blu-ray: The State of Play – 2016

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

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 Home Media Magazine. Some of the historical figures you’ll see have also been adjusted, due to slight tweaking of the metrics used by HMM to create these sets of data, although the changes have been very subtle and does not change the bigger picture in any way.

Last year, we concluded that “peak Blu-ray” had been reached in 2013, and that the format’s fortunes were on the decline ever since. 2016 is a particular interesting year to examine because of the introduction of a new Blu-ray format – Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Can these new fancy 4K discs reverse Blu-ray’s fortunes? Read on to find out!

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. 2016’s major releases, at least those that had a significant impact on Blu-ray market share for the week that they were released, were Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, DeadpoolZootopia, Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeCaptain America: Civil WarStar Trek: BeyondFinding Dory, and Suicide Squad.

 

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016 – Click to see larger version

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016 – 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. You might notice a huge peak in the graph during the earlier part of 2016 – this can be explained simply by the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released that week. I mentioned in last year’s report that the new Star Wars movie could break market share records, and it indeed did, by a considerable margin as you can see from the graph below.

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2016

Blu-ray Revenue

For actual revenue, unfortunately, no records were broken as you can see from the graph below. Apart from the smaller peak for The Force Awakens, the other peak, the one that you see almost every year at the same time, is for the important Black Friday/Cyber Monday week, and the pre-Christmas sales period. 2016’s peaks are somewhat higher than 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, overall, which seems to be the case.

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2016

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2016

2015 vs 2016 Comparison

So let’s take a closer look at how 2016 did compared to 2015, starting with Blu-ray market share as shown in the graph below. Unlike in 2015, the big releases came mostly in the first half of the year, as you can see from the series of peaks early on (with ‘The Force Awaken’ being the biggest peak, followed by ‘Deadpool’, ‘Zootopia’, and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’).

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2014 vs 2015 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2015 vs 2016 Comparison

Revenue wise, the differences between 2015 and 2016 were less visible. The start of the year wasn’t particularly impressive, but things start to pick up around March, and then after the big releases start to come in. Overall, 2016 looks to be a better year than 2015.

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2015 vs 2016 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2015 vs 2016 Comparison

We can get a clearer picture by looking at the raw numbers. Out of the 53 reporting weeks in 2016, 29 of them was better than the same week in 2015, with 24 being worse. This compares well to 2015, when 31 of them had a weekly revenue worse than the same week in 2014. The quality of releases may be the bigger driving factor, but it’s hard to ignore the effect of the Ultra HD Blu-ray format, first introduced in early March. If we look at the time period before the introduction of Ultra HD Blu-ray, 6 out of the 11 weeks (55%) were worse than the same weeks in 2015. After, only 19 out of 43 were worse off (44%). If you need further evidence that suggests Ultra HD is having a role in Blu-ray sales, then all you need to do is to follow our weekly sales reports, where you’ll find almost all new major releases now come with Ultra HD editions, some of these editions sell quite well. It’s not only replacing 3D sales, which have severely declined due to lack of consumer interest and the lack of new 3D releases, it also seems to be doing much better than 3D at the same stage of its development (and much better than the original Blu-ray format, during the same period).

But again, just the fact that The Force Awakens was released a couple of weeks after Ultra HD’s launch and continued to chart for most of 2016 could have been enough to help make things better for Blu-ray in 2016. The other major releases, in particular new properties ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Zootopia’, may also have contributed to the better results in 2016.

Whether it’s the Force, or the 4K, either or both helped Blu-ray revenue reverse course for the year and post the first year on year increase since 2014. Total Blu-ray revenue for 2015 was $2.07 billion, compared to $2.095 billion in 2016, a growth of 1.22%.

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
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the title to beat in 2016 (and possibly the best selling Blu-ray ever)
  • Blu-ray revenue reverses declines from previous two years and posts a small gain, possibly due to the better caliber of releases in 2016 as well as the introduction of Ultra HD Blu-ray.

These results still seem to confirm that 2013 was the peak for Blu-ray sales, but there seems to be a “Rey” of hope for Blu-ray, maybe thanks to Ultra HD Blu-ray. Although with that said, the first few weeks of 2017 have not been good ones for Blu-ray sales, and so perhaps the caliber of releases, as opposed to the newness of the format or the clarity of the picture, is a bigger factor when it comes to sales.

Weekly News Roundup (5 June 2016)

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

I’m really enjoying the current season of Game of Thrones. It’s moving along rather quickly, perhaps as a result of not having to follow the books anymore. There’s also the obligatory shocking plot twist, senseless violence, and of course, the nudity (both female and the “in your face” male variety). More on the latter, later in the roundup.

A good amount of stuff to go through today (although technically, all of them are copyright stories), so let’s go for it.

Copyright

Porn. There, I got your attention. Game of Thrones. Bang, you’re now even more interested. Mix the two together and what you have? A lawsuit! HBO is taking on porn video site Pornhub over illegally uploaded clips from Got, and given the nature of Pornhub, you can guess which clips those were.

Game of Thrones - Shae

HBO going after porn sites

Pornhub have nobody but themselves to blame though, because they’re the ones who brought attention to the fact that Game of Thrones related porn searches rise dramatically just before the start of a new GoT season. Pornhub proudly publicized this fact, along with a list of the most popular GoT related keywords, only last month, and with HBO in the mood to take on pirates, the expected has happened. HBO is now taking legal action to get those clips removed.

And in case you’re interested in what the top GoT related keywords were, the top one was ‘Emilia Clarke’ (strange, considering how she doesn’t like to do nude scenes anymore, one episode this season apart), followed by ‘Natalie Dormer’ (who plays Queen Margaery). One name that may not be surprising is ‘Sibel Kekilli’, who played Tyrion Lannister’s one time love interest Shae. It isn’t surprising because not only did Sibel take part in several nude scenes, she is also a former porn actress with her previous works available to view on Pornhub. The Game of Thrones producers often cast porn actors and actresses in roles that require nudity or a sex scene (or a dozen), so the connection to sites like Pornhub seems quite natural to me.

And in case you were wondering, yes, there were also some searches for Jon Snow.

High Definition

Deadpool on Ultra HD Blu-ray

The Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Deadpool failed to make a huge impact

A new study shows that delaying disc releases in overseas markets may be causing piracy and sales losses. That’s not so surprising, but what is surprising is that the study may have been funded by MPAA money, and so the conclusion that studios themselves are sometimes to blame for piracy is indeed surprising.

There is definitely a strong moral component to the decision to pirate or not. And if people feel justified in doing it, because studios, in their infinite greed, decided to put in artificial release windows, then that justification will simply drive piracy. The same applies to outrageous regional based pricing, region control, and all the other things that studios do to squeeze some extra money out of a release.

Speaking of studios squeezing money out of us poor consumers, their latest effort in trying to make us re-buy everything again, Ultra HD Blu-ray, is off to a start. I can’t say it’s off to a great start because there was an opportunity to really lift the format a few weeks ago, and it didn’t really happen. I’m talking about Deadpool and how, being one of the biggest Blu-ray titles of the year, it was also made available on Ultra HD Blu-ray at the same time. Unfortunately, only 3.28% of all disc copies (or when removing DVDs from the equation, 4.6% of all Blu-ray copies) sold were for the 4K version of the film. I guess it’s still early days for the format, and hardly anyone has the TV or the UHD player for the discs, but I think it’s going to take a really long time before UHD discs start to make a real impact.

Gaming

GOG Connect

Get DRM-free copies of some of your Steam games – I managed to only get 3 games myself

Want a free DRM-free copy of some of your Steam games? Then head over to GOG Connect, and you may get just what you want. GOG is giving away free, and DRM-free, copies of selected Steam games, and all you have to do is to import your Steam game list into your GOG account, and the free copies will be added to your account. Your Steam games remain the same as before, except you’ve also got a DRM-free version on GOG that will never expire, and will always be playable.

GOG is making this happen by negotiating with these games’ developers, which means they are the one that may be paying for this transfer. As a result, this is strictly a limited time offer, and there are also only 23 games supported so far (mostly indie hits, but some commercial ones including Saints Row 2 and GOG’s own The Witcher).

This is great, but what I would like to see is game publishers guaranteeing that all who buy the game will get a DRM-free version of it some set time after the game’s release. If you buy something, then you should get to use it for as long as you need, and not as long as the publishers deems necessary (ie. when it cost them too much to maintain the DRM).

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And with that, we come to the end of another issue. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (31 January 2016)

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

With any luck, I’ll have the first part of my epic PC building guide out on my blog this week, the first part will cover picking and buying of the parts needed for a system, sharing some of my own learned experience on the issue (like how to do price comparisons, check for compatibility, reviews …). The actual build was finished earlier in the week (very good fun, if you must know), but I haven’t had time to tweak and tune the system yet, let alone overclock. In the meantime, here’s a couple of PC build porn pics for you to enjoy.

PC Build - Innards

PC Build – Innards

PC Build - Outards

PC Build – Outards

Oh yes, we have news to cover, don’t we?

Copyright

Australia's Internet Filter

EFF warns of new plans to filter everything on the Internet

The EFF is on the warpath again, this time protecting all of us Internet users from the latest short-sighted plans by content-holders to remove piracy from the Internet. Instead of the current DMCA system, rights-holders wants a new one that puts the onus on the likes of Google to keep pirated content from being found.

Under the current take-down system, rights-holders have to specifically provide each and every URL to be removed. This game of copyright whack-a-mole has proven extremely ineffective, and so rights-holders have devised a new plan – get Google to do everything! Instead of providing the URL, rights-holders only want to identify the actual content being pirated (eg. the movie “The Hateful Eight”) and they want Google and others to identify and remove all related piracy links for said content. So Google’s copyright policing role expands to being ongoing, perpetual detectives, in a never ending search for pirated links.

For obvious reasons, Google don’t want to do this, and why should they? A search engine should not be responsible for content that it has no control over, and it should not be tasked with identifying the legality of a piece of content that it has no legal claim on. Only the rights-holders really know what and what doesn’t belong to them, and so it’s their responsibility to identify and submit URLs for removal.

And it’s not as if these same rights-holders have no responsibility when it comes to piracy – in fact, some of their inaction may be directly responsible for the stuff being uploaded online, including most of this and last season’s Oscar nominated movies.

Pirated Movies For Sale

Hollywood has been supplying pirates with the best movies of the year, thanks leaks of DVD screeners

A Variety report has confirmed what we’ve all long suspected, that Hollywood really doesn’t like new technology, specifically digital. This is why they are still using snail mail to send DVD screeners to award voters, the same screeners that habitually get leaked and uploaded online. But Hollywood still doesn’t like to do screeners digitally. Why? Because, apparently, they think that the 1% chance of digital screeners being copied and distributed illegally is not a chance worth taking (they much prefer the 99% chance that DVD screeners have of getting leaked, I guess?).

The other reason they don’t like digital screeners is also symptomatic of Hollywood’s slow embrace of all things digital, at least when compared to tech companies. Hollywood execs don’t like digital screeners because there does not exist a single platform that will support every studio’s digital screeners. It’s actually the same problem we as consumers face, and Hollywood studio greed has been the reason why every studio has their own convoluted way to play UltraViolet content (WB has Flixter, Sony has Sony Pictures Store, Fox and Disney don’t even use UltraViolet), as opposed to just supporting one of the major platforms (like iTunes, Android Play and whatever thing Microsoft uses).

So stuck with the irrational fear of digital piracy, and the slowness in embracing the new, I guess it’s going to be DVD screeners for a while longer still. Come January 2017, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the DVD screener leaks of that year’s award contenders.

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I get most of my new music from Spotify, and if that fails (or if my significant other wants to listen to Taylor Swift … oh alright, if *I* want to listen to Taylor Swift), then it’s a quick hop to YouTube. But what if you could combine the best of both worlds, a Spotify like interface that let’s you listen to music sourced from YouTube music videos? Too good to be true? It is.

At least, it is from a legal point of view. New start-up Wefre‘s dream of turning this to reality has quickly turned into a nightmare, part of it because they underestimated how popular this thing could be, but also mainly because they failed to understand the basics of copyright on the Internet: if music labels aren’t getting big money from it, you’re doing it wrong!

Wefre, now “temporarily” suspended only two weeks after launch, was doomed to fail from the beginning. It’s creators failed to see just how rights-holders, and YouTube, might not like what they were doing with the legally uploaded music videos (what they did probably breaks YouTube’s terms of service anyway), and probably also failed to remember you can’t just copy Spotify’s interface without repercussions. Still, despite Spotify’s existence, there still seems to be a wanting of a way to freely stream music, all the music (I’m looking at you Taylor Swift). So those in the industry will have to constantly battle tools like Wefre, or they do the proper thing and just let Spotify have everything (which is a good thing for everyone involved).

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Gotta get back to watching the tennis now, plus doing more writing on the PC build guide. Have a great week!