Credit Sean Benesh on Unsplash

Death of the DVD

By Claire Thomson

DVDs have become devastatingly underappreciated –  a glimmer of the past growing dimmer by the year.

Losing the DVD slot on my laptop, when I finally decided to upgrade it after putting it off for so long, was quite frankly heartbreaking. Yes, I did quickly resolve this by purchasing an external DVD drive that I could plug into my new laptop, but I would have rather just had the slot for ease. Growing up, my brother and I had portable DVD players instead of iPads or tablets, and rather than online streaming platforms, we would collect the box sets of our favourite series and films. Even now, there is still a DVD player that sits next to our television in the living room at home, ready and waiting for us when we return home from university during the holidays, and frequently used by our parents.

Yet, much to my disappointment, DVDs are on the decline and fast approaching death, with CNBC reporting that “sales have dropped more than 86% in 13 years”, thanks to a combination of the rising cost-of-living, the increase in customers buying on-demand and digital copies of films, and the launch of streaming services. Granted, I do truly understand and appreciate the appeal and convenience of streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, and having a large variety of films on any screen at the touch of a button, but there is something quite novel about opening a box of DVDs and seeing all the spines lined up or the colourful, sometimes beautifully designed, cases. 

On top of that, when I was younger, my dad and I would go to CEX to browse the 50p DVDs and discover hidden gems that could not be found online. DVDs open our eyes to older films, those that are less popular or more niche – there is true variety, with something for everyone. Plus, you can guarantee that the film won’t just disappear after a year, and you won’t have to shell out for yet another streaming platform just to watch the one film that you love. Some of my favourite films are not even available online without having to pay a fee, in addition to an already pricy monthly subscription (and this is where the DVD comes in handy!)

Additionally, discs are useful for those who travel frequently or live in rural areas, since they cannot afford to rely on dodgy internet connections or have limited access to them. In these instances, physical copies will always remain supreme for high-quality content.

For DVDs to undergo a renaissance similar to that experienced by vinyl or cassette tapes, a big shift is required. What was once a sign of identity and personality, with rows and rows of DVDs in a home, rather than books, is now disappearing, supplanted by an online persona and our many media services. Consequently, the revival of the DVD will inevitably have to wait for the generation that controls our aesthetic and utilitarian understanding of “culture” to be one of post-media. We need to wait until the DVD is seen as something other than our old-fashioned way of consuming media so it can become culturally interesting again. 

However, we don’t know how long this change in perspective will take. Therefore, the real question is whether manufacturers will survive long enough for there to be a resurgence, or if we will only be left with a few relics of a time gone by?


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