Does Physical Media Still Matter?

The way we watch movies and TV shows has changed substantially in recent years. Prior to the 1980s, if you wanted to watch something on television, you had to look at it when it aired. If you wanted to watch a movie, you had to see in theatres or wait until it turned up on television. The VCR changed all that in the 1980s and the PVR made recording and timeshifting even easier. The Internet further revolutionized media consumption through the creation of streaming platforms, such as YouTube.

The latest incarnation of streaming video is personified almost entirely by Netflix. Previously a rental through the mail DVD service, Netflix has gradually been shifting over to streaming and has experienced tremendous growth and success. This led to the collapse of video rental stores around the world and a considerable decline in DVD sales.

However, physical media collectors are still out there. While major movies still get released on disc, smaller outfits are instead concentrating on the cult movie market. True movie aficionados want more than just the film; they want audio commentaries, deleted scenes, documentaries about the making of the picture, and more.

Among the most enthusiastic collectors in this segment are horror and science fiction fans. Companies like Shout! Factory even have specific lines dedicated to this market. While not all the titles are successful, a good number still rack up solid sales figures at a time when fewer and fewer people are worrying about having physical copies of films they love.

This is not so much a problem if your tastes are very mainstream and you prefer newer films. Netflix may indeed have thousands of options, but they offer extremely few older movies. Not surprisingly given their market share and commercial intent, Netflix also concentrates largely on films that tended to land in the Top 50. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but some of us want more selection, and a physical copy of a movie is currently the only way to ensure that we can watch whatever we want, when we want.