In Defense of Physical Media

For most of my life, my family has had a huge video collection. When I was growing up, we had such a large collection of VHS tapes that it wouldn’t have been a stretch to invite people over and charge to rent out movies, turning our house into a makeshift video rental store. As the years changed, the media we used to mostly watch movies changed, but the one constant was the size of our home video collection. From VHS to DVD, and now Blu-Ray, we have taken pride in our huge physical media collection.

For years now I’ve heard all over the place that physical media was dying, and in the future everyone would just have movies in the cloud to download and watch at our leisure. I scoffed at this, because I can’t imagine my family’s video collection just vanishing into thin air. I have noticed that some stores home video sections have gotten smaller. Video stores have been disappearing for a while, and I understand how when you haven’t seen a movie before, it is better to just rent it from an online service or watch it on Netflix. But if a movie is good enough that I know that I will want to see it in the future, there is no question in my mind that a physical copy of the movie should be purchased.

I was looking at Netflix listings recently, and while I’m happy at the original content that they provide as a subscriber, I’ve noticed their movie selection is severely lacking. Each month, new movies are added, while others are taken out. Jurassic Park will no longer be available to stream on Netflix next month. This is a high profile movie, but there are more than 30 other movies (lncluding “What About Bob?”) that will no longer be available starting in May as well. Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of contracts and rights to individual movies, but I know that what I feel like watching shouldn’t have to fit the whims of rights holders.

It’s not just movies, in fact the problem is worse with television shows. At the beginning of this month, Netflix dropped a ton of Fox produced television shows including The X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Now, instead of getting rid of a few hours of entertainment, Netflix has gotten rid of shows that run for a hundred or more episodes. What happens if you were in the middle of going through the series and it gets yanked? Tough luck. What if you want to watch a certain episode of the show and it was made unavailable? Too bad.

When your entertainment is decided at the whims of studios looking for a better deal, how can you be sure what you can watch and when? Video services like Netflix and Hulu, and whatever new services will come in the future, have their own movie libraries, so you’re left either subscribing to all services for a certain amount a month, or picking one that you think has the better library of movies. But when the movies themselves are not expected to stay on that service forever, what does it matter? For example, Hulu had an exclusive deal to stream movies from the Criterion Collection, but after five years, Criterion decided to start their own streaming service with Turner Classic Movies called FilmStruck. Just what was needed, another streaming service! Then you have to decide for yourself if you want to stick with Hulu, who have their own selection of movies and TV shows, or go over to their new service, or keep both and spend more money.

The simplicity of a physical collection makes things so much easier. I guess the main drawback would be finding space for the movies/ TV shows in your collection, but in my opinion it is worth the trade back in that you actually own the piece of entertainment you want to watch. The things I own are mine, and Disney or Warner Bros. are not going to be knocking on my door to retrieve my copies of their entertainment because I don’t own it outright. If I feel like watching The Goonies for the 1,000th time, I can go right now and put it into my Blu-Ray player. And that is why I’ll still have my library with me when everyone else’s is in the cloud.

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