Entertainment industry analysts have been steadily predicting the coming demise of physical media formats like DVD and Blu-ray for quite a few years now, but so far, those proclamations of doom have yet to come to pass. While it can’t be argued that sales numbers for both formats aren’t quite what they once were, sales of movies and TV series on disc still generate billions of dollars every year. However, it does seem like a turning point in the battle between physical media and streaming video platforms may have finally been reached.
According to the annual numbers released by industry trade organization the Digital Entertainment Group, streaming video sales in 2016 managed to surpass those generated by physical media formats for the first time ever. That’s a big shift, meaning that 2016 could very well represent the year where the long-predicted downfall of DVD and Blu-ray finally began in earnest.
The aforementioned DEG report estimates that disc sales totaled some $5.4 billion in 2016, which certainly sounds like a lot until one compares it to the estimated $6.2 billion in SVOD sales. That represents a 10 percent drop from 2015 on the disc side and a 23 percent surge from 2015 on the streaming video end.
Unfortunately, the hits to the physical media side just keep on coming, as for whatever reason, the DEG streaming numbers don’t include subscriptions to Amazon Prime, the second biggest streaming subscription provider in the U.S. One assumes this might have something to do with Prime Video only recently being offered as a standalone monthly subscription, independent of the standard $99 per year Prime subscription fee. Thus, that $6.2 billion figure is probably much higher in reality.
While DVD and Blu-ray are unlikely to go anywhere anytime in the foreseeable future, the fall in sales might well begin to point toward a future where physical media becomes more of a niche product targeted at hardcore collectors than the standard home distribution format for movies and TV shows. For some TV series, that is actually already true, as many less popular or prematurely canceled series that haven’t made their way to disc can be purchased digitally on sites like Amazon, Vudu, or iTunes.
Regardless of how fast the streaming eclipsing physical media ball ends up rolling downhill, it’s hard to imagine a circumstance where the tide ever ends up turning back the other way. The streaming genie has long since left the bottle and services like Netflix are likely to just keep packing on new subscribers as the months go on.