I’m a big movie geek, and I have been for a long time. I had a handful of VHS movies in the late 90′s, but when I got my DVD player in 2001 is when my love blossomed.
The advent of DVDs brought special features to the movie loving public, it’s something that couldn’t exist on VHS.
I got lost in special features. Behind the scenes featurettes, commentary tracks, extended and deleted scenes, directors cuts and more. They opened a new world to me, and this lead to pick media production, and editing as my major in college.
Between 2001 and 2006 I bought a LOT of DVDs. I couldn’t even begin to guess a number. Definitely in the hundreds. And I watched them all. And the special features. Many times over. Sometimes I bought multiple versions of the same movie because they released a special edition (one of the many shitty money-grubbing techniques utilized by the movie studios to make more money off of fans).
Now, Ali and I don’t buy a lot of movies. Between having every premium movie channel, countless (free) On Demand movies through our cable subscription, Netflix Instant and renting through Apple TV we don’t see the point. We also don’t re-watch movies over and over like we (or I) used to.
Earlier this year I decided that we were done buying movies on physical DVDs. It’s a dying platform (we only got a Blu-ray player last year on a ridiculous sale) and as I just mentioned, we were buying fewer and fewer DVDs every year (probably less than 5 a year).
Every TV in our house (we have 3 – living room, bedroom, my office) has a DVD player and Apple TV plugged into it. The DVD players are seldom used. The Apple TV? Used daily. Sometimes for hours.
Through the Apple TV we watch Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus, and our iTunes TV shows and movies. Ali and I are deep into the Apple ecosystem. We both have iPhones and iPods, we only have Macs, and I have an iPad (she’s getting one soon) plus all those Apple TVs. Because of this I decided that we should make any further movie purchases through iTunes. Especially with the rollout of iCloud. Now we could pull up any purchased movie or TV show on any device connected to the Internet or cell network and watch it.
Having all of your media in one place? The future!
That was a huge selling point for me. I was all in. We still don’t buy a ton of movies, but we have been buying some through iTunes. There is one thing that is stopping me, though. The price.
Most current releases on iTunes are about $20. Most current releases on Blu-ray are just over $20, some are $30. That pricing seems a bit odd, no?
Take the recently released Amazing Spider-Man. On iTunes (right) I can purchase a digital only version for $18. I can watch that movie on my Apple TV, computer at home, or my iPhone or iPad on the road as long as I have an Internet or data connection.
For a dollar more on Amazon (below), I can get the movie in physical form. This option comes with a Blu-ray version, DVD version, and Sony’s Ultraviolet cloud offering (which I’m assuming would be a pain in the ass to set up and watch the movie on your devices). In addition to the movie, there is another disc filled with special features. Digita; versions don’t get special features, extended scenes or commentary tracks.
That’s 3 discs, for a dollar more. And a lot more bang for that buck (if your into the extras like I am).
The costs add up for physical copies. Paying designers to design the discs, packaging, DVD menus, manufacturing the discs and packaging, shipping them to distribution centers and stores… Lots of costs.
What about for digital copies? No menus, discs or packaging to design. No manufacturing or shipping. Just bandwidth. But that bandwidth isn’t on the movie companies’ shoulders, it’s on the store’s shoulders. Those are costs that belong to Apple, Amazon, Google Play (or whatever that store is called).
That’s a lot of money saved, but the digital copies just almost as much as the physical copies, and sometimes, cost more.
It’s not just movies, though, it’s also the music industry.
For example, Bruce Springsteen’s new album Wrecking Ball on iTunes (below) is $13 for the extended version (contains extra tracks).
On Amazon (right) for the same album (but a physical copy) is almost $15. That’s a savings of $1.65 (don’t spend it all in one place).
That’s a new release. How about for Springsteen’s album The Rising? It was released in 2001. It’s cheaper to buy the physical disc ($9.19 on Amazon) than it is to buy the album digitally from iTunes ($9.99). How does that make any sense?
It doesn’t. At all.
The music and movie industries are desperately clinging to a dying business model. They realize that digital downloads are the future, but are hesitant to give up physical copies. They still see digital copies as an invitation and a gateway to further and expanded piracy.
They are pricing digital downloads at higher rates and closer to physical copies to try and keep the old method alive just a bit longer.
New music releases are reasonable at about $10 for digital downloads. New releases for digital movies at around $20? Not reasonable. They should be around the same $10 price point.
When the iTunes store and other similar stores started to launch over a decade ago, we all talked about how the stores should work and how media distribution should work. The music and movie industry has moved at a glacier’s pace over the course of the decade, and have made some progress in the digital arens but they have a LONG way to go.