The Death of the retail DVD. Now you see them, soon you won’t.

A lot has been written about online video and its bright the future. One thing is for certain, online video has got some maturing to do, but it is here online today. Right now you can watch nearly everything you can see on cable, online in one format for free or for a fee. For the studios that ship thousands of DVD’s of first run films to the stores (and there are less of them) they are shipping less. For the independents, they are shipping even less and to add insult to injury, must take returns back of unsold plastic with DVD’s. And then you’ve got shelf space where less is being devoted and therefore more studio titles occupy that space rather than independent titles. But overall, online is slowly nibbling into these sales. How do we know? Look at the music CD business.

When we moved from cassettes to CD, the music industry reaped those dollars. Finally now, musicians are beginning to understand how to use online to actually make more money with their music than the traditional ways. Ian Rogers, ex-head of Yahoo Music has got it right. He’s dead-on. Using Topspin, he recently pointed out two examples of how this works with two artists at Topspin.

The first example is David Byrne and Brian Eno’s new album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. By distributing digitally and keeping most of the profits themselves, the gross revenues of the album matched what they could have expected to get as an advance from a music label within the first 50 days. The second example is a lesser-known artist in his twenties, Joe Purdy, who has sold 650,000 tracks on iTunes and was able to buy a house from the proceeds.

Ian says:  “Digital sales don’t make up for physical? From the artist perspective they certainly can, and quickly. David and Brian keep the majority of the profits, and (via Topspin at least) are paid within sixty days of the fan purchasing (no wait for recoupment and complex royalty accounting). When your costs are low your royalty rate high and your channel direct, the marginal profitability from the artist perspective can be far different than in the old model, to be sure.”

Look at Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.

So, ultimately DVD’s will go the way of the dinosaur. Just as CD’s have. Where’s the economics of sending these in a truck across the country, including packaging and shipping costs and returns? So how will an independent movies producer/company and or studio survive?  It has to be online. The writing is clearly on the wall. DVD’s simply will not continue to be sold in stores. Take a look at ESD (electronic software disrtibution).

msft-store

Example: Microsoft. They just moved all of their software online, into a MS ‘store’. What’s this mean? The days of buying packaged software loaded onto CD’s are numbered. The online store sells all Microsoft software from Office to Xbox 360 games. Instead of shipping the software in the mail, you download it over the Web. Just like you can download apps directly to your iPhone from the iTunes App Store, the Microsoft Store takes the same approach for its own PC and server software. (It does not distribute mobile apps or software made by other companies).

The obvious fear for most users buying ESD products is not having the software on physical media to re-install the product at a later time. Microsoft Store solves this by letting you re-download the product until mainstream support for the product ends. Typically this is 5 years after the product is released. You always have the option of copying the downloaded products to physical media if you want to have it available longer than the mainstream support lifetime.

And this can also be solved with movies and TV shows. Especially when you allow consumers to ‘own’ a digital copy to watch anytime, on their TV without actually having the digital file. How is this done? That’s my next post. There is a secret stealth company coming in early 2009 that will allow consumers to ‘stream’ anything they want (new or old), with or with out commercials (you can pay for it w/o commercial or watch for free with them) and keep the tv or film forever locked away in their own media vault (not on thier own PC, but remotely).

Its the future. Stay tuned. And its real. Using this, why in the world would anyone have to buy or rent a physical DVD again?

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2 comments on “The Death of the retail DVD. Now you see them, soon you won’t.

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