Disney has axed its DVD and Blu-ray sales in Australia. From this month, Australians wanting to enjoy Disney’s new hits will need to subscribe to the Disney Plus streaming channel.
Now the home delivery expert ParcelHero says what’s going on Down Under may be just the start. Is physical media in the UK on the verge of being phased out?
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘Digital media such as streaming services look set to make DVDs and Blu-rays defunct. It’s easy to see why. In a bid to free up space, many of us have already got rid of our collections in favour of watching favourite films and shows on streaming services such as Netflix, Prime, Apple TV and Disney Plus.
‘It’s also preferable for many media companies, who will no longer need to pay the middleman for retail sales of Blu-rays and DVDs. Companies are desperate to drive up subscriptions to their streaming channels. Disney is even about to launch a budget channel with adverts here in the UK.
‘Of course, just because Disney has stopped physical media sales in Australia (which has displeased Aussies in rural areas where internet speeds are too slow for streaming), that doesn’t mean it will axe their sales in the UK or US. The supply chain costs involved in distributing physical media to Australia are notably higher.
‘However, we believe it is the start of the slippery slope. How long before other media companies tied-in with streaming channels decide to follow suit in Australia? That could start the ball rolling across the world. For media companies, streaming sales are so much cheaper to fulfil than physical media sales.
‘But the fight for physical media – as Blu-rays, DVDs, vinyls, etc are known – could be about to get physical. There are some strong reasons why consumers may resist the power of Disney and other subscription services.
‘For starters, not every film is available for streaming here in the UK. Try finding “Cocoon” or “The Abyss”. You’ll need your DVD player to see these.
‘It’s also not financially viable to subscribe to every channel. It’s too bad if the show you want to see is on a service you don’t subscribe to. For example, some people who were enjoying Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix had to do their own sleuthing when it suddenly disappeared. It recently popped up again on UK TV Play (a free-with-ads digital channel) and then switched again, this time to Acorn TV (a paid-for subscription channel). Those determined to view all episodes have the choice of buying the DVDs or taking out another subscription and hoping the series stays put.
‘You may also think that, because you purchased a movie on a streaming service, it’s yours to keep. However, that’s not the case. Some purchased movies and shows have been removed from people’s accounts because of licensing issues. It’s only by owning a physical copy you can be sure of watching a show.
‘Of course, how we watch shows is continually evolving. Who remembers the Friday pilgrimage to Blockbusters to hire a video? If you want to see how quickly the demand for discs may disappear, you only need to look at gaming, where digital downloads replaced discs a long time ago. We think the move to dump the DVD will only be reversed if consumers start to protest.
‘Any further switch from physical media to digital will also be bad news for those High Street chains still clinging grimly to DVD and Blu-ray sales. As retail settles to a new equilibrium, it will be those retailers with strong in-store and online sales that will ultimately triumph in a post-Covid world. ParcelHero’s influential report “2030: Death of the High Street” has been discussed in Parliament. It reveals that, unless retailers develop an omnichannel approach, embracing both online and physical store sales, the High Street as we know it will reach a dead-end by 2030.’