Opinion: Why The DVD Player Will Soon Be Extinct

By Mike Wheeler


Why the DVD Player and recorder are destined for the scrapheap.


By Mike Wheeler


A quick history lesson. In 1977 the Video Home System (VHS) became a reality as JVC rolled out the first commercial versions of the recording device, which revolutionised the way consumers watched television. People no longer had to stay in to watch their favourite television programme, they could record it and watch it at a later date, freeing up their time to do other things. Not only could they watch their programme at leisure, but you could fast forward the ads, too. After a brief, but intense, format war whereby JVC (VHS tape) beat Sony (the better quality Betamax tape),  video cassette recorders became a permanent part of the entertainment landscape.


However, not everybody was satisfied with the quality offered by VHS recorders. Tapes getting caught in a video cassette recorder’s (VCR) heads was a particular problem, one that was exacerbated with rental videos, whose condition sometimes depended on the state of the previous hirer’s machine. By 1982 the music industry had adopted the compact disc format, which put paid to vinyl, and it got other developers to thinking that maybe they could apply the same digital principles to moving pictures.


Fast forward 17 years later, and the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD – although some prefer Digital Video Disk) had become a reality in consumer’s home theatre systems. Five years later, in 2004, Sony was this time on the winning side of a format war with its blu-ray outshining Toshiba’s HD offering.


However, in Britain the sale of DVD players and recorders peaked at 7.3 million sales in 2007, but by 2010 they had slipped to 5.7 million, while predictions are that by 2014 they will be under 4.5 million. While the quality of the blu-ray disk is not in doubt, two other recent technological breakthroughs have seen the decline of DVD sales, and vicariously will be the death knell of the DVD and Blu-ray player, with perhaps the recorder not too far behind.


The first is the appearance personal video recorder (PVR) such as the Tivo, and other brands like Beyonwiz, Topfield plus the major consumer electronic players in the market. The second is the smart television.


First to PVRs. Most have a built-in Electronic Programme Guide, which shouldn’t be underestimated in that most will adjust record times to suit if programmes are running late – no more setting a time 15 minutes before or after a programme. While DVD and Blu-ray recorders do have a hard drive, most PVRs do, too, but usually with a lot more storage. They also have more connectivity so you can connect portable hard drives to the device so you can store more programmes.


But even PVRs might be superceded with the advent of smart televisions. Currently none have built-in hard drives, but don’t be too surprised if they are added in the not too distant future, which means they will be an all-in-one unit. There are many reasons these televisions have been labelled smart, not least because they can now be connected to the internet, which in turn offers another feature sure to eat into a DVD player’s traditional role – streaming of content. In other words, consumers will no longer need a DVD player to watch movies. Services such as those provided Foxtel or BigPond Movies will be the method of choice for a growing number of consumers.


And what do vendors think of the speculation that the DVD and Blu-ray player – and even the recorder versions of these devises – are on the way out? None of the major players were interested in being interviewed for this article, which is understandable. After all, they have a vested interest in the format being viable for the foreseeable future, and in the case of Sony, they not only have hardware, but content too with its stablemate Sony Pictures Entertainment producing movies.


Although the funeral bell is yet to toll for the DVD and Blu-ray player, they are both on life support, which will probably be switched off in the next couple of years.  Recorders won’t be too far behind, and if smart televisions start appearing with built-in storage, and the streaming services can keep up the quality stakes, then it’s only a matter of time. But that will be up to the vendor. The only saving grace that might help them last a little longer is how much data a household chews through when downloading content. Yet with the NBN roll out well on its way, and internet providers giving out fantastic monthly deals, it looks like a fait accompli for DVD players in the not too distant future.

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