There’s been a lot of talk recently about how streaming services are overtaking sales of physical media. Only a few weeks ago, retail giant HMV were bought out of administration by Canadian company Sunrise Records, and many attributed it to the rise in streaming services for television, film, and music. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great things about streaming services. But is this really the end of physical media? I’m not so sure.
See, I have a Netflix account. I buy music from iTunes. I tend to watch more television on catch-up than when it airs. But I’ve also got lots and lots of DVDs. Why? Because streaming isn’t always suitable for me. Our wifi likes to be a bit fussy when we’re streaming television, and I’ve had to abandon a number of episodes part way in because of all the buffering. It once took over an hour to watch one episode of Mock the Week, and it took so long buffering that I missed half the jokes. I have a half-watched Stranger Things episode on Netflix that I haven’t gone back to because every time I try to watch the wifi goes wonky. I bought Brooklyn Nine-Nine on DVD for the exact same reason.
Streaming relies on a solid internet connection, or on the person downloading the film or episode before they want to watch it. But what happens when you lose your internet connection suddenly? What if there’s a power cut? That happened to me recently, and while I was watching on a fully-charged laptop, my show cut out because I was streaming it. If I’d been watching a DVD, I could have simply carried on watching.
And besides all that, there’s something nice about having all your DVDs on the shelf, isn’t there? Being able to see all the movies and TV shows right in front of you rather than scrolling through endless pages on a streaming service to try and find something to watch. Yes, they take up a lot of room, but it’s also a talking point. How many times have you gone to a friend’s house only to spot a DVD on their shelf that you absolutely love, but no one else seems to have seen? It gets you talking. You can’t do that with something like Netflix or Amazon.
I certainly get the appeal of streaming services. I live on my Netflix account most days. I recently re-watched the entirety of How I Met Your Mother. I’m working my way through Gilmore Girls again. Myself and my step-mum are watching The Crown. None of these are necessarily things I would watch enough to justify owning the DVD of, but I still want to watch them. It’s great for binge-watching sessions, where I can just hang out and watch half a dozen episodes without fumbling with DVD cases and waiting for the menu to come up.
But this is the thing; when it works it’s great, but when it doesn’t it’s infuriating. If a DVD breaks, you replace it, or take it back to where you bought it if it’s new. When my Netflix account plays up, I can’t take it back to the shop. I can cancel my account, sure, but that’s not what I want. I want it to connect to the internet connection it supposedly can’t find. The internet connection that it claims is non-existent even though my iPad can find it with zero difficulties. It’s usually at times like that that I break out my DVDs instead. While I do think that streaming is a threat to the sale of physical media, I think I can say with some certainty that it’s not going to take over the world just yet.
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