So this news greeted me this morning: future seasons of The Simpsons will not be released on DVD (and the article presumes this applies also to Blu-ray). And so it begins: the decline of physical media now approaches an actual death. It won’t be immediate, and I hope the collector’s market will stave off the final demise for some time to come. But I fear the worst now.
As a collector and as an instructor, I find this very depressing news. Yes, all sorts of stuff will be available instantly with a few clicks, but the current situation with streaming gives me little confidence. To take the example of Netflix, its offerings not only vary wildly from country to country (having the Canadian feed is often very frustrating), those offerings are limited, and they are unreliable. Movies appear and disappear from streaming services. What we can watch is perpetually at the mercy of everything from “we lost the rights” to “there isn’t a market for this.” The latter is a particular problem for anything that isn’t mainstream. Cult movies, classics, indies, new voices — everything that is not multiplex material could well become a bit harder to see, or at least with any reliability. Yes, there are plenty of B and off-the-beaten-track options now, but which ones and for how long?
To put it another way, I don’t want to have to rely on the cloud for my viewing options. I grew up when all continents were a single land mass and there was no such thing as home video. The movies I could see were limited to what the networks chose to broadcast. Streaming is not that different except in the number of choices, but they are far from unlimited. Maybe things will improve. But they might not.
I don’t trust the ephemeral cloud and its illusion of unlimited choice. I’m going to make sure I have my own copies of the movies that matter to me. And I’m going to hope that the collector’s market remains strong enough that some manner of continuing to do so will exist in the years ahead.