back to article Netflix flinging out DVDs like frisbees as night comes for legacy business

Would you believe us if we said Netflix is still sending out rental DVDs to people's homes some 25 years later? Not for much longer, mind. It's all too easy to forget this is how the eminent movie and TV streaming biz arrived on the scene, though only in the US, as a harebrained scheme by two colleagues after their software …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    bizarre state of affairs

    That a small group of people have clung to the service to have access to movies that aren't on streaming, or without having to go through a dozen services to find out who owns the rights to something this week.

    To watch a movie in Blueray rather than in the revolutionary compressor blocky format.

    To have directors commentary rather than unskipable ads on a service they are paying for.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: bizarre state of affairs

      Why would anyone want Netflix over a DVD? Really?

      Takes you longer to find something to watch on a streaming service than it does to pick out a DVD - and that's if you find it on the service. You might have to sign up to yet another streaming service just to see it in (sometimes) poorer quality.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: bizarre state of affairs

        We just buy DVDs second hand for a £ or so. Rip HDD to watch on the big screen.

        Only downside is that some older DVDs are at a lower quality.

        1. Test Man

          Re: bizarre state of affairs

          Ha yeah, I remember when DVDs started to become a thing, and the likes of Warner Bros would put out bare minimum on their DVDs in order to fill the shelves. I still have Passenger 57 - a DVD with just the movie (at "acceptable" quality), and a static menu, nothing else.

        2. usbac Silver badge

          Re: bizarre state of affairs

          We do the same thing. The only issue for us is that there isn't really a local place to buy them. We live in a fairly remote small town.

          I buy used DVDs from Amazon (or eBay) sometimes, but everyone gets you with the $3.99 or $4.99 shipping. The actual media mail shipment costs them about $1.30, so sellers are making up with additional profit on the shipping. Box sets are a better deal when it comes to shipping.

          We used the Netflix DVD by mail service until just recently. I won't pay for streaming, especially now with so much fragmentation. I refuse to subscribe to 4 or 5 different services.

          1. Joe Drunk

            Re: bizarre state of affairs

            I won't pay for streaming, especially now with so much fragmentation.

            I was a longtime Netflix subscriber until last year. So much content was pulled that I cancelled after months on non-watching. I agree about the fragmentation which is why I don't subscribe to any streaming services either. I have Prime Video which comes with my Amazon Prime account but most of their offerings require you to pay an additional fee to watch.

            At least there's TubiTV, PlutoTV, FreeVee etc.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: bizarre state of affairs

      Hell, I don't care about Blu-ray;1 I don't even think I have a Blu-ray player.2 Nor do I care about commentary tracks and the like – I can't remember the last time I watched one.

      But DVDs are still superior to streaming for a whole host of reasons. I can watch them when Internet service is down or congested. (On a laptop, I might be able to watch for a while even if the power's out, though I doubt the battery would last long.) I can find what I want to watch in seconds, rather than having to search through streaming-service catalogs. I can find something serendipitously: Oh, here's something I haven't seen in ages! Oh, I'd forgotten I have that! I can loan one to a friend. The UI and remote for the DVD players I have, though certainly crap, is an order of magnitude less crap than Every Fucking UI for the streaming-service apps on our set-top box, and the box's remote is an exercise in irritation and unusability.3 I will always have my DVDs; I'm not beholden to the whims of streaming services, or of the loathsome content companies like Discovery or whatever they're calling themselves now.4

      Streaming is certainly point-and-drool convenient, as long as you don't care what you watch.

      For that matter, I'd much rather have to get up off the couch, find a DVD, and insert it into the player if I want to watch something. At least that's a bit of physical activity.

      1The official spelling, as far as I can tell.

      2I haven't bothered to confirm that my various DVD-playing devices aren't Blu-ray, because I don't care.

      3Which isn't surprising, because it's an Apple device. My wife purchased it. To be fair, that's the only way we would have gotten one; I'd refuse to spend the money and build one myself, except I'd never get around to doing that, because I just don't care about TV and movies enough.

      4I refer, of course, to the HBO Pogrom that Discovery embarked upon after the merger. If there were any moral order to the universe, Discovery execs would be frying in Hell.

  2. tfewster
    Facepalm

    ...streaming rights are expensive and don't offer much of a return

    What happened to the "long tail" theory? It costs virtually nothing to store content and the provider pays royalties to the content owner when movie is streamed by a customer.

    I guess each content owner wants their own subscription model, which would be fine if it was a fraction of the price of e.g. Netflix, to reflect their limited content.

    In a ridiculous related example, Amazon Prime wanted £2 to stream an episode of Firefly, so I bought the Collectors edition series on DVD for £3, watched them all, then gave the DVD to a friend to screw Amazon over again XD

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: ...streaming rights are expensive and don't offer much of a return

      IIRC they are running out of DVDs. Most of their DVD customers now are art film fans who want obscure criterion collection disks that are getting hard to get.

      They other DVD customers are people that live in deeply rural areas with bad internet, and it's hard to profitably monetize people who watch Deliverance every night

      1. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: ...streaming rights are expensive and don't offer much of a return

        IIRC they are running out of DVDs.

        They're not, still a huge selection, although there have been odd gaps in their selection the past few years.

        An ironic one that comes to mind is Longmire. Series 2 is unavailable on DVD, but 1 & 3-6 are there. Guess who owns Longmire? Yes: Netflix.

        There's always the routine small % of discs that get damaged in shipping and need to be replaced.

        Most of their DVD customers now are art film fans who want obscure criterion collection disks

        Unlikely. The most rented film are overwhelmingly new releases:

        https://dvd.netflix.com/Top100

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: ...streaming rights are expensive and don't offer much of a return

          >Unlikely. The most rented film are overwhelmingly new releases:

          Historically, but those people will switch to streaming. Netflix's stated (excuse?) was that the demand was for disks that are out of print and they only had a handful of copies. And that's the top disks but it's not clear what % of total rentals those represent.

          I suspect though that it is no longer profitable if the only users are enthusiast heavy users, it's the old - you don't want gym freaks to sign up for your gym membership.

      2. very angry man

        Re: ...streaming rights are expensive and don't offer much of a return

        If I wanted to watch Deliverance, I just move my chair to the window and pull back the curtains

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: ...streaming rights are expensive and don't offer much of a return

          Is it really Deliverance country if you have curtains? I suppose I might excuse them if they're actually old potato sacks.

    2. Kane
      Joke

      Re: ...streaming rights are expensive and don't offer much of a return

      "so I bought the Collectors edition series on DVD for £3, watched them all, then gave the DVD to a friend to screw Amazon over again XD"

      At last, we can retire and give up this life of crime.

  3. David Austin

    One advantage with DVD's

    Your films and shows don't magically disappear next time two rights holders have a public spat, or someone decides to junk our culture as a tax writeoff.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: One advantage with DVD's

      ... or your film gets magically censored because it contains "problematic" scenes, which aren't in keeping with today's standards of wokery. Dam Busters for instance would be a prime candidate or Gone With the Wind, but there are many other examples. If they don't censor out the bits we are too delicate to watch, they'll put a content warning on the beginning.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: One advantage with DVD's

        Or the film maker doesn't want any revenue going to a rapist and blocks the film themselves

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: One advantage with DVD's

          Not sure why the downvotes. Dogma isn't available on any streaming because director Kevin Smith has said he didn't want any money to go to Harvey Weinstein

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: One advantage with DVD's

        "... or your film gets magically censored because it contains "problematic" scenes,"

        There's a scene in A. C. Clarks "The Ghost from the Grand Banks" where two of the characters are discussing their work, which was editing out the smoke[*], cigarettes and pipes from old films. it was a long time ago when I read that so not sure if they discussed what they did with some bloke moving his empty hand to his lips frequently with no apparent purpose :-)

        This book was published back in 1990, so retro-editing for a modern audience, outside of propaganda or ret-conning history on behalf of the State, ie purely for "modern aesthetics" or "wokeness", was already being considered, at least in fiction

        [*] 'twas also a discussion about the application of fractal mathematics in image editing.

        1. Marty McFly Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: One advantage with DVD's

          E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.... Editing out guns from the theatrical cut and replacing them with walkie-talkies.

          Here comes the 'Trendy-trend-woke-woke bandwagon!' Let's all jump on!

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: One advantage with DVD's

          >which was editing out the smoke[*], cigarettes and pipes from old films.

          There's an engineering textbook cover that has the famous picture of Brunel in front of the chains. But without the cigar.

      3. JT_3K

        Re: One advantage with DVD's

        [DISNEY HAS LEFT THE CHAT, HOPING NOBODY REMEMBERS SONG OF THE SOUTH AGAIN]

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: One advantage with DVD's

          >[DISNEY HAS LEFT THE CHAT, HOPING NOBODY REMEMBERS SONG OF THE SOUTH AGAIN]

          I'm mad at Disney because of attitudes in the 1940s

          Now excuse me I have to drive my VolksWagon to the Hugo Boss store

    2. abend0c4

      Re: One advantage with DVD's

      It's not an intrinsic quality of DVDs, it's simply the rights-holders have been able to use the format-shift as an end-around to redefine ownership.

      The flipside of that is that future generations will increasingly see culture as disposable. I would indeed be ironic if the value of copyright was undermined by an outcome that meant, having watched something when it was fashionable, there was felt to be no point in ever seeing it twice.

  4. tiggity Silver badge

    DVDs beat the film

    .. assuming DVD has any extras

    e.g. Partner is huge Tolkien fan, so we got the Jackson LOTR DVDs back in the day. I'm take it or leave it on LOTR, films were OK but I really enjoyed the special features (e.g. the WETA workshop stuff).

    The additional content is a big plus on a DVD.

    As someone who uses streaming services, have to say I do still buy some physical media as lots of stuff I want not available on services I subscribe to - and there's a limit on how much cash to burn on different streamers (fragmentation is getting worse as new streaming services seem to pop up almost on a monthly basis)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DVDs beat the film

      My partner is also a huge Tolkein fan and got the LOTR box set and then the other LOTR box set.

      Neither in the cinema originally nor at home have I stayed awake through the 2nd film*

      *which I insist on referring to as "The Twin Towers"

      1. JT_3K

        Re: DVDs beat the film

        I can't blame you. Isn't the extended directors special edition megacut* something like 12hrs long and basically an advert for the New Zealand countryside?

        * Title made up but seems fitting

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: DVDs beat the film

          But is at least justified compared to his 3hours of video game levels in the middle of a 12 hour adaptation of a 100page children's book

    2. David Austin

      Re: DVDs beat the film

      I vividly remember being mad when they advertised the extended edition DVD's on the standard edition I rushed out to buy on launch day.

      ...then not being mad when I saw the staggering amount of extras that came with the extended version that kept me glued to the screen for a week.

      I get some people preferring the standard cut of the films, but the extended disks are worth it for all the documentarys, commentaries, and behind the scenes footage.

  5. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Yay for DVDs and BluRay discs

    That is all.

  6. ProjectBlu

    Library of Alexandria for film

    Netflix DVD service used to get new films months before they were available for streaming, and had more titles available than all the streaming services combined. They had obscure things that were available nowhere else, and rarities that to purchase would cost dozens or even hundreds of dollars to buy. It was like the Library of Alexandria of movies, and it's passing is a loss to humanity.

  7. Barry Rueger

    Good old Pirate Bay

    If what I want isn't on a streaming service that I'm currently paying for I have utterly no qualms about using Pirate Bay.

    The greed of the streaming companies has reached the point where they get no sympathy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good old Pirate Bay

      Can you actually find anything on TPB these days? Bonus points if you can find more than 1 seeder or 100% of the download. It seems a mere shell of its former self.

      1. Contrex

        Re: Good old Pirate Bay

        Works OK for me. Also a decent Usenet subscription is a handy thing.

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    The streaming companies have just become the cable/satellite TV providers they were supposed to be an improvement over. Not only do they want us to pay us a monthly subscription to get access to their service, but are also starting to shove in ads as well.

    Although I believe the writers and actors currently on strike in the US deserve to be properly compensated for their work from the streaming companies, i fear that any pay agreements will result in price hikes for subscriptions to cover any extra costs, rather than the company making less profit and not being able to pay huge dividend to the shareholders.

  9. Tron Silver badge

    DVDs are cool.

    I have just about everything I ever enjoyed on DVDs. Plus innumerable Jpop MVs and concerts on DVDs that came with the CDs. They can be cancelled, censored or removed from streaming. I still have them in boxes to watch. I have enough multi-region players to last me the rest of my life. My viewing pleasure is not subject to interference by government, culture wars, sales bans, lawsuits or internet blocks. Just finished watching 'May It Please the Court' tonight on DVD.

    Do not rely on third parties for your storage (the cloud), your apps (online versions of software) or your entertainment (music and video streaming). You are ceding control to others. Physical media has an asset value, and as a collectible that may rise. Or you can pass it on to your kids. Standalone software won't vanish or lose options overnight. Your data is in your control if you hold it in your hands.

    Many in the music, TV and movie industries have handed over the bulk of their present and future profits to tech companies operating as streamers, and become their indentured slaves. When you pay streamers for your products, the creatives get peanuts. AI is not the biggest threat facing US actors and writers - becoming a tech company streaming asset is.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: DVDs are cool.

      "When you pay streamers for your products, the creatives get peanuts."

      This. I have seen an in-depth analysis of what an artist gets for a single release on a variety of formats. The CD single is far better for everyone concerned but listeners have fallen for the convenience of streaming, so the artists get practically nothing.

  10. nightflier

    Limited surveillance

    I'm one of the holdouts. Been getting discs almost since the beginning. I like that all they know is what I rent, not what, or even if, I actually watch. They can't see when I watch a movie, how much of it, or how many times.

  11. brotherelf

    Well that's one way …

    … to save on landfill costs.

  12. IGotOut Silver badge

    DVD are a bargain.

    A friend recently picked up over 1000 for £15.

    A lot were just crap, but even so.

    It's pretty easy to pick up 250 - 500 for a similar price.

  13. matjaggard

    X? Really‽

    It's called Twitter, or something less polite.

    1. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: X? Really‽

      "X (née Twitter)"

      That marriage has been well and truly "consumated" if not exactly "celebrated."

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