Take a moment if you will, to mourn the Blu-ray Disc. It died of a broken heart sometime in the last year, and although it is expected to shamble on as a shadow of its former self, it’s lost its position at the top of the heap and isn’t expected to regain it anytime soon.
Blu-ray Disc has been with us, quite surprisingly, for twelve years. It suffered from a rough childhood, as a nasty war with rival HD-DVD meant that customers were afraid to choose either format. By the time the war was over in 2009, the format never really got the breathing room it needed to take off before streaming TV started to become common in 2012.
Blu-ray Disc offers the best picture and sound available for an HDTV, and until 4K TVs take off, you can say it offers the best picture and sound, period. If you have a 60″ or larger TV it’s easy to see the difference between Blu-ray Disc and streaming from Netflix or other sources. It even beats satellite-delivered HD and over-the-air HD due to its high bitrate and advanced compression.
Sadly, though, what killed Blu-ray Disc was completely avoidable. It’s not so much that people hate the format, but there’s one aspect of watching a Blu-ray disc that has never been right, and that’s the loading experience. It may seem like a small thing but that experience of popping in a disc is what killed the format.
Put in your average Blu-ray disc and first expect it to load for 30-45 seconds during which time you’re entertained (if you’re lucky) with a coarsely animated graphic. Then sit through 2-3 minutes of slides and video designed to make you feel like a criminal for even thinking of making some sort of copy. Follow that with a commercial or two for the Blu-ray Disc format itself and maybe 7 minutes of trailers (which you may or may not be able to skip.) Then expect another minute of loading and a fancy animated menu. All this, just so you could get to the first frames of the actual movie (which then have about two minutes of fancy animated studio logos.)
In the meantime, find what you want on Netflix and you’re running in about 10 seconds. Of course that makes NO SENSE, right? It should not take less time to pull a movie down from some remote server than it takes to pop it into your local player. When something is so contrary to any sort of logic, people walk away from it and that’s what’s happening to Blu-ray Disc.
So who is responsible for the death of the physical disc? It’s too easy to blame Netflix for making it convenient, but really it’s the studios themselves who need to fess up. They’re the ones demanding those copyright notices, they’re the ones who think people want fancy menus, and they’re the ones who never seem to get the hint that we want to watch the movie we want, not the movie coming out next month. But then again studios are just as happy to see you ditch the disc so they can take their share of rental fees from iTunes and other providers, so they’re not going to make any steps toward reviving this quickly dying format. It’s a shame too because the quality really is that much better. It’ just hard to remember that while I’m looking at an animated clock on my screen instead of a movie.